Strawberries are their sweetest when fully ripened on the plants. For most varieties this means leaving the berries on the plant for a day or two after they are fully colored. The only way to know for sure is a taste test.
Harvesting Your Strawberries
Strawberries bruise easily. Be gentle when pulling them from the plants. Snap the stem directly above the berry rather than pulling on the berry itself. Keep harvested berries in a cool, shady location.
Strawberry plants don't live forever, but some renovation will keep them vigorous for 5 years. After the final harvest, mow the strawberry plants to a height of 2-3 inches, taking care not to damage the crowns. Feed with 5 lb.. of a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer per 100 linear feet of row. Till the area between the rows, mulch and all. Narrow the width of the mat rows to 18 inches by removing one side of the row and leaving the younger plants. Thin the remaining plants in the rows to 6-9 inches apart.
Renovating the June Bearing Strawberry Bed
When yield seems to be falling off or the plants begin declining in vigor, start with new plants in a new area.
Verticillium Wilt, Botrytis (Fruit Rot) and Red Stele (Root Rot): Choose resistant varieties and rotate crops.
Tarnished Plant Bug: Feeding by the tarnished plant bug will result in disfigured, nubby berries
Birds: Birds will inevitably get some of your berries. Plant more than you'll need and cover the area with close bird netting.
As with all plants, new, improved varieties are introduced every year. Call your local Cooperative Extension service for strawberry varieties grown and recommended for your specific area. Below are some popular varieties complied from Cooperative Extension recommendations, that should be available locally or through catalogs.
Recommended Strawberry Varieties
Seascape: Bred in California, seascape is performing well across the country. Large, good quality fruits are produced throughout the season.
Selva: Selva is popular in California and Florida, where it produces extremely large berries. Has shown some success in the midwest, but not hardy enough for the northeast.
- Tribute and Tristar: The standards for day neutral strawberries. Extremely popular in the northeast and cooler climates. Very disease resistant and vigorous with good runner production. Tribute has larger fruit and Tristar wins for flavor.
Fort Laramie: An older variety with good quality fruit that really does everbear. Runner production is good only if the early blossoms are removed.
- Quinault: A quick producer, 4-5 weeks, with good quality fruit. Virtually no runners are produced, making it a good choice for pots.
June bearing varieties are even more numerous and may be more to your liking.