Growing Strawberries in Cold Climates

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Posted by @Joannabanana on
Strawberries are of the rose plant family Rosaceae and genus Fragaria. There are over 20 different species and hundreds of varieties. In addition, there are three different "Types" of strawberries: June-Bearing, Ever-Bearing and Day-Neutral. The different types do require some different growing maintenance to achieve a good size crop in your home garden year after year.

Most of the "Garden Strawberries" are of the species Fragaria x ananassa and include all three types. June-Bearing are mostly x ananassa species and the larger fruit bearing Ever-Bearing and Day-Neutral are also x ananassa species.  Most of the smaller fruit size varieties of Ever-Bearing types are of the Fragaria vesca species, which includes the Wild Strawberry and Alpine Strawberries. 

JUNE-BEARING:  This type produces one crop in the growing season, harvesting the entire crop within two weeks.  The crop will be prolific and the fruit are large.  A typical expectation of 1 quart of strawberries per plant is reasonable, but different varieties do produce different amounts.  Not all June-Bearing varieties produce berries at the same time.  You can get early, mid, and late season varieties.  Planting different varieties will extend your harvest time with an abundance of fruit per plant.

Most develop runners and will form a dense mat if left unchecked. Runners allow for easy propagation and rejuvenation of your patch.  "Kent" is a reliable hardy, high-yield, mid-season variety that ripens in late June or early July. "Cavendish" is a newer hardy variety that has extra large fruit, twice the size of "Kent".

EVER-BEARING: In our area, this type will produce two crops in one growing season (late spring and late summer).  Each crop will produce about half of one June-Bearing crop and the fruit is smaller than that of most of the JB types.  The higher-yield harvest will be in late summer or early fall. 

Most Ever-Bearing varieties develop fewer runners than JB varieties and some EB varieties don't produce runners at all, relying on seed propagation. Alpine "Alexandria" is easy to start from seed, produces berries the first year, and does not produce runners.

"Alexandria" is a great choice for a strawberry pot or border plant in a flower bed, with a mature plant size of 12" high and wide.  The berries are small and have a taste similar to that of the  wild "Woodland Strawberry" that is native to our area. "Fort Laramie" is a hardy EB that bears fairly large fruit and produces some runners.

DAY-NEUTRAL: These are the varieties that produce the most continuous crop -- sort of non-stop from late May until fall's hard frost.  A great choice for small space gardening and containers.  Day-Neutrals are temperature sensitive to develop flowers, and the number of daylight hours does not influence flower development.  Temperatures between 10ºC and 29ºC stimulate flower production and colder or warmer temps will inhibit flower development.  

Most Day-Neutral varieties do not produce runners, and propagation is done by tissue cultures.  However, there are always exceptions, and "Tristar" will produce a few runners.  It is a good choice for hanging baskets because the runners often flower and bear fruit the first year.  "Seascape" is a newer variety and is said to be earlier and healthier than "Tristar".  Both are fairly hardy varieties that produce medium to large size fruit.

Strawberry plants are typically available through mail order or at local garden centres in the spring. The plants are available potted or bare-root. Be sure to water them well when transplanting. 

When you are working with new plants in the spring, it is advisable to snip off the flowers of June-Bearing types and expect a bumper crop the second year.  This will help the plant become well established, and in late summer the plant will form the next year's flower buds within its crown.  Do not de-flower the following years.  This is only advisable when you are planting new plants in the spring. Late summer is the best time to increase your crop, but most plant material is only available in the spring.  Flower removal is not necessary with late season planting.

If you are transplanting the first-year medium to large fruit Ever-Bearing types, it is advisable to de-flower until late June for a prolific later season crop.  Fragaria vesca Ever-Bearing (smaller fruit) types do not need to be de-flowered.

Day-Neutrals do not need to be de-flowered the first year of planting because they continually develop flowers throughout the growing season.  It usually takes about 4 to 5 weeks for the flowers to form fruit.

The planting depth is important.  The crown should be just above the soil level.  Most Garden Strawberries should be planted about 12" to 18" apart and in rows about 3 to 4 feet apart.  This should allow enough room for new runners without creating too much competition for nutrients and water. Choose a sunny site with well drained soil.  Crowns may rot with soggy soil conditions.

2013-11-02/Joannabanana/2e91a4Strawberries are not considered to be actual berries because the seeds are on the outside of the fruit.  The seeds that you see on the fruit are actually seed sacks and contain a number of seeds per sack.

The easiest and most economical way to propagate "Garden Strawberries" x ananassa is by runners.  Many of the varieties may not come true from seed, whereas the runners will produce an identical plant.  If you are adventurous and want to try to start strawberries from seed, stratification may promote a higher germination rate.  I have had great success sowing Alpine Strawberries and a new seed variety called Rainbow Treasure that has red, pink and white flowers.  Most Alpine varieties will develop fruit the first year whereas the "Garden Strawberries" will not flower the first year when started from seed.  I start them in mid-February and they usually have flowers by June.

Many varieties are quite hardy for our Zone 3 area, but all will benefit with a protective cover of mulch for the winter.


Remove the mulch early in spring to prevent the crowns from rotting. Strawberries are perennial plants that live for 5 to 6 years under good conditions.  As the plant ages, crop production will decrease.  Allowing some runners to take root each year will keep your patch productive from year to year. Typically, you want to replace the original plant by year 4.  June-Bearing plants will form a matted row about 3 feet wide.  You may need to thin out some plants to control competition for nutrients and water, and the best time to do this is after you harvest your crop.  Next year's flowers form in late summer, so it is important to keep them hydrated and fed until fall. 

2013-11-02/Joannabanana/9136c7If you have plants in containers and plan to overwinter them, it is best to plant them in the ground by late August, so they will have time to root in.  Plants left in containers until late September should be treated as annuals because they are unlikely to become established before winter.

Birds, mice, and slugs love strawberries so be aware of this.  Netting will keep the birds out, but slugs and mice may be tough to control.  Mulching around the plants will help keep the fruit off the soil and prevent rotting. Choose varieties that are disease resistant to ensure the best success.

Pick str2013-11-02/Joannabanana/8399f9awberries that are ripe and keep the collar on them.  Strawberries do not continue to ripen once picked. They keep for only a few days at room temperature or in the fridge. They should be used as soon as possible after being picked.

Nothing beats the taste of home-grown strawberries.  Herbicides, pesticides, and water treatments greatly affect the taste of strawberries and home-grown crops will always be much tastier than purchased fruit.

2013-11-02/Joannabanana/6ab1ceStrawberries put on a show all growing season.  They are quick to leaf out in the spring and to develop showy flowers and yummy red fruit to enjoy.  Fall colours are spectacular and many varieties' foliage changes to a deep red.

I hope this info has helped and I encourage you to try to grow some strawberries in your garden.  The Ever-Bearing and Day-Neutrals will provide enough fruit to graze all summer and the June-Bearing types will give you one big harvest suitable for pies, jams etc.

Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
New to Strawberry beds by Oberon46 Mar 6, 2014 7:16 PM 1
Thanks for the thumbs up & acorns by Joannabanana Jan 2, 2014 7:24 PM 0
Mice and strawberries by greene Dec 31, 2013 11:49 PM 3

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