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Growing Strawberries for Beginners

Growing Strawberries in West Virginia

Strawberries are a member of the rose family and one of the most popular small fruits across the world. Strawberries are one of the first fruits of the season in West Virginia. As perennial plants, strawberries can be grown in the home garden, raised beds, high tunnels, containers or hanging baskets.

Production and Variety Selection

There are two classifications of strawberries, the short-day or June-bearing, and the day-neutral or ever-bearing. June-bearing varieties will flower and produce an abundance of fruit in May through June. Ever-bearing varieties will flower and produce fruit throughout the growing season, reaching peaks in June and again in late summer to fall.

There are countless strawberry varieties to choose from. When selecting a variety to grow, keep in mind your growing conditions and your end goal.

Strawberry Varieties

Variety

Classification

Berry Size

Flavor

Comments

AC Wendy

June-bearing

Large

Firm and excellent flavor

Susceptible to leaf spot; early season producer with nice color; resistant to powdery mildew and red stele; frost damage potential due to very early flowering

Albions

Ever-bearing

Medium

Excellent flavor; firm berry

Produces from June until frost; resistant to verticillium; susceptible to anthracnose

Allstar

June-bearing

Large

Mild, sweet

Vigorous plants and resistant to verticillium and red stele; great for beginners; great for freezing and fresh eating

Chandler

June-bearing

Large

Excellent flavor

High tunnel; consistent performer across environments; very susceptible to fruit anthracnose; mid- to late-season producer

Earliglow

June-bearing

Small/medium

Sweet flavor

Fruit ripens sooner than every other variety; resistant to verticillium and red stele; good for canning

Flavorfest

June-bearing

Large

Bright red and flavorful

Very good disease resistance and vigorous

Jewel

June-bearing

Large

Firm and glossy with excellent flavor

Good for pick-your-own operations; tolerates mold and rots; heavy producer; excellent for freezing

San Andreas

Ever-bearing

Large/very large

Exceptional appearance and flavor

Good disease resistance overall; continuous yield throughout summer; fruits early in the season

Seascape

Ever-bearing

Medium

Bright red berries

Produce from early summer through fall; great for beginners, for use in containers and garden beds; disease resistant

Plugs vs. Bare-root Plants

Strawberries can be purchased as bare-root plants, plugs or established plants. When selecting varieties and purchasing plants, select them from a reputable nursery with disease-free plants. Be sure to place your order early, as many nurseries sell out quickly. For advice on selecting a nursery talk with your local WVU Extension Service agent.

Bare-root plants are dormant and need to be planted shortly after arriving. Keep bare-root plants stored in a cool area until planting and soak roots in water for about a half-hour prior to planting. Plugs are actively growing strawberry plants and are usually only available in the fall. Typically, bare-root plants are planted in the early spring, and plugs are planted in the fall.

Planting

Select a location with well-drained soil, a pH of 5.8 to 6.8 and plenty of sunshine. It is highly recommended to test the soil to provide proper fertilizer recommendations for berries. Apply recommended fertilizer amounts two to three weeks before planting or at least six weeks after planting. This will prevent fertilizer burn and provide for a large harvest.

Raised beds are ideal for strawberries to help promote soil drainage, soil warming, weed control and harvesting of berries. In beds with plastic or mulch (preferably with drip irrigation underneath), set plants 8 to 14 inches apart.

diagram of crown, soil line and roots of strawberry plantIf beds are not used, set the plants 12 to 24 inches apart with 36 to 48 inches between rows. Plant roots downward and with the upper part of the crown (the area between the roots and stem) slightly above or level with the ground.

To establish a healthy plant and strong roots, remove the first set of flower buds and runners. Strawberries need adequate soil moisture throughout the growing season; however, avoid overwatering as berry flavor will become diluted. If manual watering is needed, water only in the early morning or late evening.

Remove weeds on a weekly basis to prevent competition to plants and potentially reduce pests. If mulching to prevent weeds, straw is recommended. Avoid use of grass clippings or leaves as these materials have the potential to cause a pest problem, smother plants or inhibit water infiltration.

As winter approaches, plants will need mulch or row covers to protect from freezing temperatures. This will also encourage early fruit production in the spring. Remove mulch or row covers after threat of frost has passed, typically between March and May.

Harvest

Day-neutral varieties can bear fruit three months after planting in optimal conditions, and June-bearing will fruit the next spring. Berries typically ripen 28 to 30 days after flowering. Harvest red, fully ripe berries after plants have dried in the morning. Berries should be picked about every three days. Harvest will last up to four to six weeks depending on the variety. Refrigerate berries after picking and do not wash until using.

Things to Consider

  • Avoid planting strawberries in locations where tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes and peppers have been grown within the past three years, as they can share diseases.
  • Strawberries have both male and female flower parts and can self-pollinate. Wind can transfer pollen within the flower, but for a complete pollination, pollinator insects, such as bees, are needed. A complete pollination will create a larger berry and longer harvest.
  • Strawberry runners will root and create daughter plants for the following year. For a larger harvest and bigger berries, remove these runners.
  • As fruit production and berry size decreases, plants will need to be replaced. With proper care and pest control, strawberry plants can last up to three years.

Common Insects

Insect

Symptoms and Signs

Control

Sap Beetles

Adult beetles bore holes into ripe, near ripe or overripe fruit, causing rot organisms to be passed from plant to plant. Most holes aren’t noticed until harvest, as they tend to be found on the underside of the berries.

Bait buckets and fruit removal – sap beetles are attracted to overripe fruit. Thorough picking will keep populations under control. Place overripe fruit in buckets out of the field to monitor populations.

Spotted Wing Drosophila

*more problematic for late-fruiting varieties

 

 

 

No visual symptoms. Adults will be observed. The adult female will lay eggs under the skin of soft skinned fruit seven to 10 days prior to harvest. During storage, larva emerge and feed on the interior of the fruit, rendering them unmarketable.

Use bait traps to monitor populations.

Threshold for treatment: first caught fly.

Malathion IRAC 1B (Malathion 57 EC)*


Bifenthrin, IRAC 3A (Brigade WSB)*


Fenpropathrin, IRAC 3A (Danitol 2.4 EC)*


1Spinosad, IRAC 5

(Entrust SC)*

(Entrust 80W)*


1Spinetoram, IRAC 5 (Radiant SC)*


Cyantraniliprole, IRAC 28 (Exirel)*

Strawberry Aphid

Puckering of leaves; vein necrosis; chlorosis. Honeydew (aphid excrement) can be found on fruit, causing sooty mold.

1Spinosad, IRAC 5

(Entrust SC)*

(Entrust 80W)*

*Imidacloprid (Admire Pro) IRAC 4A

Organic: Clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil (Trilogy) OMRI

Tarnished Plant Bugs

Deformed fruit with excessive seediness in localized areas (tips).

Bifenthrin, IRAC 3A (Brigade WSB)*

Fenpropathrin, IRAC 3A (Danitol 2.4 EC)*

Novaluron, IRAC 15 (Rimon 0.83 EC)

Two-spotted Spider Mite

Insect won’t be visible. Tiny yellowish-white flecking (stippling) on leaf undersides; weak/unthrifty plants with low yields. Under high populations, spider-like webs can be seen over the canopy.

Abamectin, IRAC 6 (Agri-Mek SC)*

Apply at high pressure and full leaf coverage.

Threshold for treatment: Five insects per leaflet prior to harvest.

Common Diseases

Disease

Symptoms or Signs

Control

Anthracnose

Brown to black, water-soaked spot on green to ripe fruit. Firm, sunken brown to black lesions may appear depending on relative humidity. Pink, salmon or orange-colored spores can be noticed in humid conditions.

Organic control options are not very effective.

Select resistant varieties and buy disease-free plants from reputable suppliers.

Captan, M4 – Use only as a protective fungicide.

Azoxystrobin +Propiconazole,FRAC 3 & 11, (Quilt Xcel)

Azoxystrobin, FRAC 11 (Abound)


Biological: Actinovate-AG, Streptomyces lydicus strain WYEC 108

Gray Mold (Botrytis rot)

Early infections may first appear as a firm, brown rot developing from the stem end. This brown rot quickly becomes covered with a dusty, gray coating of fungal spores and mycelium.

Sanitation is the best prevention – weed control to promote air movement; removal of overripe and rotting fruit. Mulch to minimize fruit contact with soil.

Majority of infections occur through flowering; fungicide treatment should begin at 10% bloom through 90% bloom. This will be weather-dependent.

Pyraclostrobin + boscalid, IRAC 7 & 11 (Pristine)

Strawberry Leaf Spot

Small, circular purple spots with white or gray centers on leaves and petioles.

Plant resistant varieties.

Use disease-free plants.

Penthiopyrad, IRAC 7 (Fontelis)

Difenoconazole + cyprodinil IRAC 3 & 9 (Inspire Super)

Powdery Mildew

Flowers are deformed and killed;, immature fruit becomes hard and does not ripen normally and mature;, ripe fruit becomes soft and pulpy. In spring, the leaves curl up and undersides of leaves turn reddish and a “frosty” mildew can be seen.

Quinoxyfen, IRAC 13 (Quintec)

Red Stele, Phytophthora Root and Crown Rot

Symptoms usually appear in the second year of growth. Foliage will show lack of vigor and poor runner growth, new leaves will appear bluish green, older leaves usually turn yellow or orangish. Underground symptoms: unbranched roots with little “feeder roots''

Infected crowns will become brown to orange and plants will wilt.

Cultural: Avoid planting in moist poorly drained areas (most economical).


Use disease-free plants.


Prophyt FRAC 33 or Ridomil Gold FRAC 4

Verticillium Wilt and Black Root Rot Complex

Early symptoms: Stunting, delayed development and yellowing of lower leaves. Over time, the leaves turn brown and drop, usually leaving the younger leaves toward the center green.

Chloropicrin (Telone C17), Vapam, Basamid soil fumigants

Biofumigation: Aa mustard crop is most effective.

Rotate crops.

*Can be toxic to bees; don’t apply when bees are foraging. Read the pollinator protection language on labels carefully. Try to avoid applying insecticides during bloom.

1Rotate to another insecticide after two successive applications of Spinosad.

A good weed control program will serve to reduce potential insect populations.

Read all labels, wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and consult your local WVU Extension Service agent or other qualified consultant.

The IRAC Code and FRAC code indicate the product’s mode of action. IRAC stands for Insecticide Resistance Action Committee and FRAC stands for Fungicide Resistance Action Committee. Refer to product labels for information about alternating modes of action.

Sources:

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. (n.d.). 2020 North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual. Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/north-carolina-agricultural-chemicals-manual

Demchak, K., & Bloom. (2020, April 25). Home Fruit Gardens: Table 8.1. Strawberry Variety Descriptions. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://extension.psu.edu/home-fruit-gardens-table-8-1-strawberry-variety-descriptions

(Picture) Growing Strawberries: How to Grow Strawberries from Bareroot Starts. (2020, April 24). Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/planting-and-growing-strawberries/8413.html

Growing Fruit: Strawberries [fact sheet]. (2018, January 29). Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://extension.unh.edu/resource/growing-fruit-strawberries-fact-sheet


Tasha Harris, WVU Extension Service Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent – Upshur County

Jesica Streets, WVU Extension Service Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent – Tucker County

Jody Carpenter, WVU Extension Service Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent – Barbour and Randolph Counties

 

 

 

 

 

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