Strawberries may be planted at various times. Home gardeners often plant in August, but this is not the best time. Commercial growers, who must obtain high yields, usually plant in early spring, as soon as the soil is workable. Early planting is very important, as the plants then get off to a good start under favorable moisture conditions during the cool weather of early spring and produce early runners, which are more productive than those growing in late summer and fall.
Late fall planting also has something in its favor. For several years I have compared late fall (October 20 to November 10) planting with spring planting, and in most cases the fall-planted beds have outyielded the spring-set beds. Plants set out in the fall get off to an earlier start and produce more early runners that bear the heavier crop a year later.
Fall-set plants must be mulched the first winter. In the spring the mulch is raked off and the planting managed the same as one set in the spring. The blossoms should be picked off and the bed allowed to fruit the following spring.
There are many good varieties of strawberries. Generally speaking, the high-quality sorts do not produce the highest yields, but they do produce enough to be satisfactory for the home garden. Dessert quality and reliability are most important in a home garden variety.
Strawberry plants should be purchased from a specialist, preferably one nearby. Although plants shipped early from growers usually arrive safely, plants ordered late and shipped long distances during a hot spell may overheat, with disastrous results.
If the plants arrive before the ground is ready for planting, the bundle should be opened and the plants heeled-in in a moist, shady place in the garden. Each bundle of plants should be opened and the roots spread out so they are in contact with the soil.
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