How to Enjoy Tasty Cold Climate Strawberries and Book Giveaway

– Posted in: Fruit
18 comments

If you like strawberries and have tried growing them, then you’ll recognize this scenario. You find a strawberry plant loaded with fruit in the garden center. While your mouth waters and visions of strawberry shortcake dance in your head, you buy the plant and take it home. Snacking on the berries before you plant only makes you want more.

After a few weeks of anticipation, although you’ve located the strawberry plant in a sunny, well-draining spot, fertilized it and even given the plant a good talking to, it’s still not producing any more of the sweet, juicy fruit you sampled and know the plant is capable of producing.

A check for insects and pests shows nothing out of the ordinary, which makes you come to the conclusion that you just aren’t good at growing strawberries, right?

Good June-bearing strawberries for cold climates

The reason your strawberry plant refused to give you more fruit, despite your gardening skills, is most likely that the plant is the wrong strawberry variety for the Northeast climate. All strawberries are not created equal when it comes to cold climates, but unfortunately a wide variety of strawberry types make their way into nurseries and sell to unsuspecting gardeners. The plants are budded up in the greenhouse, because plants with fruit sell, but they’re genetically unfit to produce berries in cold climates.

strawberry pot

Pick the right varieties for a long strawberry harvest. Photo courtesy Bonnie Plants

Good strawberry choices are cold-hardy products of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station that is affiliated with Cornell University, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) breeding program based in Beltsville, Maryland and Canadian breeding programs, especially Nova Scotia. A small handful of strawberries known as day-neutrals that came out of the University of California, Davis Department of Plant Sciences can also be grown with success in cold climates.

Thanks to expert breeding by world-renowned strawberry experts, you can enjoy growing strawberries that are perfectly suited to cold climates. Selections include June-bearing varieties that bear a large crop once a year in the spring or early summer, such as Alllstar, Earliglow, Cabot, Surecrop, L’Amour (named after the author), Northeaster, Sable, Wendy, Clancy (also named after the author) and Valley Sunset.

Day-Neutral Strawberries

lots of strawberries

Combine June-bearing and day-neutral varieties for a longer season of harvest.

Day-neutral strawberries, which are often mistakenly listed as everbearing in plant catalogs, are newer varieties initially developed by University of California strawberry experts Victor Voth and Royce Bringhurst, who used as a parent a wild plant found in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah (Fragaria virginiana subsp. Glauca).

Though they had their start on the West Coast, some day-neutrals, such as Seascape and Albion, are well-suited to growing in cold climates, as are the USDA introductions Tribute and Tristar.

Day-neutral plants allow you to extend your growing season as late as early November. They are able to thrive in cold weather and bear fruit long after June-bearers hunker down for the winter, because they aren’t affected by day-length and are less sensitive to extremes in temperature. These varieties form flower buds between 35 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

Day-neutrals generally set fruit before June-bearers, pause for a time in mid-summer and then begin fruiting again in mid- to late-summer, producing until frost shuts them down.

Extend your day-neutral harvest into early November by protecting the plants with row cover or frost blankets during initial mild frosts, or if they’re planted in containers, by pulling them to a protected spot during cold nights. This little bit of extra effort means you can still enjoy fresh strawberry shortcake when the possibility is just a memory for other gardeners.

Learn more about growing strawberries

Want to know more about growing delicious strawberries in the cold climate garden? In my book, The Strawberry Story: How to grow great berries in the Northeast, discover how to get a prolific berry harvest every year. Learn more about the best varieties for the Northeast, how to extend your strawberry season into fall and how to renovate your strawberry beds for maximum production. Find out about planting, fertilizing and harvesting, eco-friendly, non-toxic treatments for pests and diseases, and recipes give you a delicious way to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Find the book on Amazon.com.

Win a copy of Julie’s book!

Julie is giving away one free copy of her book, which is offered as a Kindle edition only. (A free Kindle app can be downloaded from Amazon; you don’t need to own a Kindle device to read this book.) One commenter will be chosen from among all comments and will be notified by email. Giveaway will end on May 18 at midnight Pacific time.

About the Author

Julie Bawden-Davis developed her green thumb at the same time she started writing. Since graduating from California State University, Long Beach, in 1985 with a BA in journalism, she has authored several gardening books and written over 1,500 articles for a wide variety of publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, Organic Gardening, and the Los Angeles Times. She is a member of the Garden Writer’s Association of America and a University of California Certified Master Gardener.

Every spring offers another chance to undo the damage done by winter and finally get the garden right.

~Laurie Lisle in Four Tenths of an Acre: Reflections on a Gardening Life

18 Comments… add one

Kelly M May 14, 2014, 8:49 am

Would love to get a handle on growing strawberries. I have a bed of them planted but got minimal berries last year. I’m always looking for new ideas on how to grow things ……

Julie Bawden-Davis May 15, 2014, 2:04 pm

You’ve come to the right place to find out how to have an abundant berry crop, Kelly!

Carol Eichler May 13, 2014, 4:12 pm

Another thing to note is that you shouldn’t allow the plants to produce any berries the 1st year they are planted so the energy goes into plant growth and a better crop the following season. So nip off those blossoms. Yes, I know that’s hard to do. Day neutrals are great for enjoying strawberries all summer long.

Julie Bawden-Davis May 15, 2014, 2:08 pm

That’s correct, Carol, regarding pinching off blossoms the first year for an ongoing strawberry bed. But if you want to extend the season into as late as early November, you can do so by growing day-neutrals as annuals. In that case, you would just let them produce.

Erin May 13, 2014, 12:17 pm

What a useful and informative article. It’s posts like this that keep me coming back to Cold Climate Gardening. I’ve bookmarked it so I can look for the varieties you listed, in hopes that I’ll be able to supplement our plentiful alpine berries this summer!

Julie Bawden-Davis May 13, 2014, 1:26 pm

Thanks, Erin! Glad you found the post informative. Sounds like you’ll be having a yummy strawberry summer!

Johan May 13, 2014, 9:41 am

Nothing tastes better then some freshly harvested strawberries. I only have a small type of strawberries growing in my garden. Not sure what they are called. But they do grow like crazy.

Julie Bawden-Davis May 13, 2014, 1:21 pm

Johan, they could be alpines. And agreed–nothing like freshly harvested strawberries. Mother Nature’s candy!

Baydaar Plants May 13, 2014, 4:49 am

The yellow variety is called PineBerry, a combo of pine apple and Strawberry.

Julie Bawden-Davis May 13, 2014, 1:23 pm

Yes, Baydaar. Very tasty. And another yellow alpine variety is ‘Pineapple Crush.’

Louise May 11, 2014, 8:34 pm

I’d love the book. I just looked at my strawberries and need to weed.. and thought about getting more plants. Perfectly timed post!

Julie Bawden-Davis May 11, 2014, 8:56 pm

Glad the timing is good for you, Louise. Yes, get that weeding done. Weeds are one of the worst enemies of strawberries!

Ruth A Stiles May 11, 2014, 3:36 pm

Thanks for the giveaway. I am always excited for strawberry season. I say year after year that I am just going to start my own plants…but each year finds me NOT doing so.

Julie Bawden-Davis May 11, 2014, 8:57 pm

I hope this is the year, Ruth!

Kristin Freeman May 11, 2014, 9:10 am

I have had good success with alpine strawberries, growing two varieties obtained from Cook’s gardens in Vermont and an everbearing plant I picked up at the local market has now gone from 3 plants to well over 30 and provides a great early summer crop…now to find a day=neutral variety to extend the harvesting and canning season here…I would be over the moon to win a copy of this great book

Julie Bawden-Davis May 11, 2014, 8:59 pm

Thanks for your comment, Kristin, and for mentioning alpines. I talk about them in the book, too, including growing the yellow and white varieties. The yellow variety tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a strawberry! And the red are also delish!

Brent May 11, 2014, 2:20 am

Aha, day-neutral strawberries, that’s what I’ve been looking for to extend my strawberry season. Thanks for listing some varieties I can search for.

Julie Bawden-Davis May 11, 2014, 9:01 pm

Thanks for commenting, Brent. Good luck with your search. Day-neutral varieties are terrific. I’d suggest Seascape. They are nearly foolproof.

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