Welcome to Homegrown/Homemade, a video series from FineGardening.com and our sister site FineCooking.com. We’ll be following a gardener (Danielle Sherry) and a cook (Sarah Breckenridge) as they plant, maintain, harvest, store, and prepare food crops. Strawberries are a favorite fruit for the home gardener, and Sarah eagerly awaits the first crop.
Episode 3: How to Harvest Strawberries
Ripening strawberries need protection from birds, bunnies, squirrels, and chipmunks, so cover your beds with a netting as the fruit starts to turn red. For the most flavorful berries, the timing of the harvest is critical. Berries should be a bright red color all over. Once the red color darkens, the berries are overripe and will become mushy. Check your bed every couple of days.
To keep your strawberry bed productive, cut back the foliage in fall and remove any plants that didn’t produce. Replace them with new plants. This method renovates your bed little by little. Alternatively, you can rip up the entire bed after three or four years, and begin again with new plants.
A multi-tiered prefab raised bed filled with topsoil and compost is perfect for raising strawberries. Strawberries love a sunny location and rich, well-drained soil. There are three types of strawberries: June-bearing (fruit only in June), day neutral (a decent crop in June, followed by small crops up until frost), and everbearing (a fair-sized June crop and a second crop later in the summer). See the list below for some commonly offered varieties.
If your plants are mail order and arrive in less than optimum condition, soak their roots in water for at least 30 minutes before planting and remove any dead leaves. Trim the roots to 5 inches. Plant with the midpoint of the crown level with the top of the soil, spread out the roots, and backfill the holes. Strawberry plants should be spaced 10 to 12 inches apart. Mulch the bed after planting to help retain moisture and keep down weeds. Water well after planting.
Common June-bearing strawberries: Earliglow, Jewel, Northeaster, Honeoye, Sparkle
Common day-neutral and everbearing varieties: Albion, Seascape, Tribute, Ozark Beauty, Tristar
The best thing you can do for your newly planted strawberries is to remove all flowers and runners for the first six weeks. That will allow the plants to put their energy into growing strong root systems and generally establishing themselves so they can be productive for years to come. Runners, which are really baby plants in the making, can be replanted elsewhere in the bed.
Sarah shows Danielle how to whip up a batch of fruit leather from puréed fruit sweetened with honey. It’s a wonderful way to preserve the taste and sparkle of strawberries long after the harvest has come to an end.
Recipe: Classic Strawberry Shortcake
For an elegant ending to any summer meal, serve up some strawberry shortcake with berries from your garden. Watch the video demo to see how it’s done.
Get our latest tips, how-to articles, and instructional videos sent to your inbox.