Strawberries for Colorado

Strawberries do well in Colorado gardens when they are protected from hungry critters and watered properly. Did you know strawberries aren’t actually berries but accessory fruit? The juicy deliciousness we eat doesn’t come from the plant’s ovary, as in other berries, but the space the ovary sits inside called the receptacle. A strawberry’s skin is tender and easily torn. Grocery store strawberries are picked and packed without being cleaned to keep the skin intact. Being tender, strawberries can carry all kinds of viruses like norovirus a stomach bug noone wants.

So growing strawberries at home can be a safe and delicious way to get your vitamin C, copper, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. But wait there’s more healthy stuff in strawberries.

Strawberries and blueberries are two of the most commonly consumed berries. Berries, in general, are characterized by their highly nutritive compounds, including minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and dietary fiber, as well as their high content and wide diversity of bioactive compounds, such as phenolic compounds and organic acids. These bioactive compounds have been associated with protective effects against chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other disorders.

Nutrients. 2019 Jul; 11(7): 1510. Published online 2019 Jul 2. doi: 10.3390/nu11071510
PMCID: PMC6683271 PMID: 31269727
Bioactive Compounds of Strawberry and Blueberry and Their Potential Health Effects Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview
Katharina Miller,1 Walter Feucht,2 and Markus Schmid1,*.

Growing at home

This year I decided to try an online retailer to get more plants. Blooming Bulbs offers a number of varieties in bare root 10 packs.

I decided to go with 2 everbearing varieties that will produce fruit two to three times during the growing season. The one caviat is they like a cooler environment so these may not do as well mid-summer in Colorado as Junebearing. Junebearing produces most of its crop in a 2 – 3 week timeframe in late spring to early summer. They say many of these are cold hardy, though their blooms can be hit by late frosts. Here in CO, especially with climate change late frosts can take out spring blooming fruits many years in a row.

Everbearing will produce smaller fruits than Junebearing and their yields will be smaller. But they are less affected by late frosts. They also tend to have less runners than Junebearing. Strawberry plants need replacing one every 3 or 4 years as they stop bearing fruit.

Everbearing Varieties

Quinalt – These arrived moldy. I have requested Blooming Bulbs replace them. Will see how they reply.

Fort Laramie – These starts look quite healthy and can’t wait to get them going. Crown-Root starts, Ft Laramie is works well in hanging baskets. Three weeks bench-time, works best in colder areas of USA and Canada.

Since the bottoms of these grow tubes are open, I am going to remove the Quinalts. I don’t want their mold to spread to the Fort Laramie.

Top – Quinalts show no signs of life. Fort Laramies already producing new leaves.

Propagation and Plant Care

Soil: If you have clay opt for a raised bed or hanging baskets to grow your fruit. Using standard potting soil (well-draining) with a bit of Aluminum sulfate or iron sulfate to bring the PH down to 5.5 – 6.0 will make the strawberries happiest. See the link to Perdue’s recommendations on acidifying soil. Note do not overdue your sulfates – they can burn plant roots. If you are doing a raised bed, prep your soil in early spring so that the sulfate will have time to break down a bit before planting.

If you have sandy soil, a bit of organics and iron sulfate tilled in will do.

Before planting, inspect the plants. The Quinalts bare roots looked moldy so I washed them off as best I could before soaking. Soak the bare roots for a few hours. This will hydrate the roots. If you have them in a tub of water you can also more easily separate the plants by swirling them in the water as you gently pull apart.

If you plan a garden bed for these you will want to plant after the last frost and get them started in pots indoors. I use standard potting soil as its free draining — a must for strawberries.

Everbearing First Year horticulture: Remove the first flowers to allow plants to put energy into their roots. With everbearing you may be able to let the second flowering go and harvest its fruit. You should also remove runners as they will take energy from the fruit bearing crown. To keep consistent moisture you can mulch with grass clippings.

Stop watering in late fall and cover the plants with a light mulch material like straw. I will use some of the extra leaves we have to give them a nice blanket. The mulch can be removed in late spring.

Check CSU’s CMG GardenNotes #763 on growing strawberries.

An amateur gardener who loves to watch the garden grow.