Gardening with Gutner: How to grow your own strawberries

Gardening with Gutner: How to grow your own strawberries

Todd talks to a berry expert about how to grow your own strawberries.

MAINE, USA — Strawberries kick off the berry season in Maine. Local farms offer u-pick to the public for those who dream of making strawberry jam and shortcakes. Wouldn’t having your own patch right out your back door be nice? Gardening with Gutner talked with a berry expert to learn how to grow your own strawberries, but first, where did strawberries get their name?

“Actually it’s kind of a mystery cause it’s thought that when strawberries started being marketed over in Europe they were sold in baskets of straw.  So people start associating the two things. Another theory is they that they actually wound the berries around little twigs of straw and sold them that way as a braid. And then finally, another theory is that because the berries are kind of out from the plant itself they were called strewn berries, and that eventually developed into strawberry,” David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension revealed. 

RELATED: Maxwell’s closing strawberry farm in Cape Elizabeth after 51 years

According to Handley, strawberries are a perennial crop that lasts around five years but don’t expect to pick the first year. 

“The flowers that come out that first year we pinch them off because we’re trying to get the plant to establish a big thick group of plants with runners, these daughter plants that come out and root in between those originally planted crowns and form us a nice thick bed that will give us a good crop the following year,” the berry expert instructed. 

Handley says after harvest, the grower will go through and cut back the plants, fertilize, and then for the winter protect the plants with straw.  

Once the patch has grown tired after three or four years of harvesting it will be time to start a new patch. Handley has a word of caution. 

“Critical thing to remember there is when you start your new strawberry bed is to start it someplace else. Never follow strawberries with strawberries because the life of the bed gets shorter and shorter because the soil gets tired of having strawberries,” Handley warned. 

Interestingly Hadley says strawberries actually aren’t a berry anatomically. The seeds are the true fruit. The part we eat is an aggregate or fleshy piece of plant tissue.   

The berry expert downplayed any threats to the plant but did highlight two pests that will attack during the bloom period by eating the buds right off of the plant while the other pest causes the berry to have a really seedy end. 

Winter’s in Maine are harsh and strawberry plants are not that hardy Handley divulged. He says they survive because they are low growing and snow acts as an insulator as well as the grower covering them with a thick coat of straw but they have to be careful when they protect plants. 

“You want to make sure the plants are dormant. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself and put the mulch on too early because fall is when strawberries form their flower buds for next spring.  So if you put the much on too early, you stop that process and you’ll actually reduce your yield for the next year,” he warned.

To watch all the Gardening with Gutner segments click HERE

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