The Big Red Ones

Since we are creeping closer into spring, lets take a deeper dive into strawberries. We have been growing strawberries on our farm since 1980. We were the first farm in the area to start selling strawberries grown on black plastic. Gary spent those early years perfecting how he wanted his crop and what varieties his customer base liked the best.

Did you know strawberries are planted in the fall for our region? Most people don’t realize this, but strawberries are typically planted between late September and early October in order to have them for harvest in the following spring. Strawberries like a loamy soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. We make rows of raised beds covered with black plastic. The black plastic helps keep the soil warm and also is helpful in limiting disease. It also helps conserve water and underneath the plastic we have a drip irrigation installed. Holes are then punched into the plastic, to allow for the plugs to be dropped in and planted. Now the plugs are planted strategically spaced out, why you may ask? Why not plant twice as many plants? Why leave all of that room? The answer is runners. Each plant will likely have “runners” branch off of it, which is essentially a clone. The runner will also hopefully produce fruit later on.

Strawberries will go dormant through the winter. There is no need to worry about cold weather (unless it gets too low, like in the teens) or snow hurting them, as they have not bloomed yet. Now once they bloom when the warm weather arrives, if there is a frost after the bloom, there is a risk of the bloom dying. Therefore frost protection is important. This could mean covering your crop or even overhead irrigation to freeze and insulate the bloom.

Covering the crop for frost protection several years ago.

Once the bloom is seen over the crop, you will have berries in 4-6 weeks. Typically the harvest starts out slow and then trickles into a peak season of 3-5 weeks of high volume harvest. For us this peak volume is during the month of May. This is all according to the weather of course. The weather impacts everything and could change this. We always pray for the sun to be out and no harsh weather to end the season early.

The stages from bloom to fully grown strawberry.

Big, red, juicy strawberries are what we all like picked. It’s important to look at the berry’s full circumference before picking it. The front of it may be red but the back could very well be green. You also want to hold the stem as you pull the berry off. If you pull the berry itself, you could rip the entire stem off, which will damage the plant. You also never want to step on a plant. If you step on a plant to jump to another row because you see a “big” one, you are killing that plant.

From a nutrition standpoint, strawberries are very healthy! They have a high water content and are low in carbs. Strawberries are good sources of vitamin C, folate, manganese, and potassium. They are sweet, delicious, low calorie treats.

It won’t be long before our season is among us but until then I will leave you with this sweet treat I made my family previously.

Until next time y’all – the farmer’s daughter