Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Loving Strawberries

Strawberries, Fragaria × ananassa, are one of my favorite berries. I love strawberries with angel food cake and whipped cream, strawberry jam cookies, and strawberry ice cream. Strawberries are also one of the easiest fruits to grow in your garden.

Florida has three seasons, autumn, winter, and spring to grow delicious strawberries. They need temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees and shorter daytime conditions. Raised beds are best so that the crowns of the strawberry plant are kept well-drained. The soil pH for good growth should be between 5.5 and 6.8, but will tolerate acidity levels 5.0 through 7.0. Ensure your strawberries have adequate fertilizer by digging a balanced N-P-K into the soil before planting. Then using a slow-release fertilizer once a month. Water one to two times a week in the winter and two to three times depending on the temperatures in the spring.

Protect strawberries with frost blankets when temperatures go below 32 degrees. Recommended varieties for Florida include 'Caramosa', 'Sweet Charlie', and 'Festival.' I found beauiful white flowered 'Camarosa' and hot pink flowers  "Lipstick" at my local nursery.  Lipstick strawberries have long runners spreading to five feet if allowed, and can make a lovely groundcover for edible landscaping.  Strawberries can be used in containers, window boxes, and in rock gardens.

Pest issues include fungus, spider mites, and nematodes. Check leaves for any pest issues before you buy your plants. Using rich organic soils will reduce nematode populations.  Apply a proactive fungicide if you think your plants may be susceptible.  Check labels before using any pesticides or fungicides for use on strawberries.

Camarosa strawberries

Lipstick Strawberries

More Links:

Growing Strawberries in the Florida Home Garden.

Growing Strawberries Hydroponically

Fragraria 'Lipstick' Strawberries

Would you like to read more on Edible Landscaping? Check out my in-depth article on Edilble Landscaping for Green Builder magazine on "Edible Landscaping 02" pages 31 - 37.

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