Day Neutral Strawberries

Unlike the common June-bearing strawberries discussed above, day-neutral strawberries flower and produce fruit anytime temperatures are between 35 and 85 degrees F. Instead of a bumper crop in June and July, harvest is spread out through the summer to as late as October, and plants yield well during the planting year. Because they do not send out runners as profusely as June bearers, you need to manage them differently.

Cultivar selection. The most successful day-neutral cultivars for the Northeast are Tribute, Tristar, and Seascape. All three are far more productive than older "everbearing" types such as Ozark Beauty. They produce small-to medium-sized fruit, topping out at about 1 inch in diameter. But their flavor is excellent, particularly Tristar.

Tristar produces a large amount of fruit early in the planting year, but the larger-fruited Tribute surpasses its production by the middle of September. Seascape, from California, has the largest fruit—nearly as big as June-bearing cultivars—and is the most productive of the three.

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Figure 19. You can plant day-neutral strawberries in single rows (a), but staggered double rows (b) are more productive.

Early care. Day-neutral strawberries prefer the same soil and sites as their June-bearing cousins. Plant them in the early spring, at the same time as June-bearing strawberries. They also are ideal for growing as annuals in containers. Day-neutral cultivars do not produce runners profusely, so matted-row management is not practical. Instead, plant them closer together— about 5 to 9 inches apart—in rows about 42 inches apart. Remove runners for the entire first season. This will increase yield significantly without excessive plant costs.

Planting day-neutral strawberries in a staggered double row reduces competition between plants and increases yields (see Figure 19). Space plants 10 to 18 inches apart, alternating them in two narrow rows just 8 inches apart. Space these staggered double rows 42 inches apart on center.

Day-neutral strawberries perform best when mulched with straw immediately after planting. Mulch reduces drought stress and keeps fruit clean. Remove flowers for several weeks after planting so plants can become established without premature fruiting.

If the summer is hot and dry, little fruit will be produced in the fall because day-neutral strawberries are sensitive to extreme heat and have very shallow root systems.

  1. Because of these shallow root systems, keeping day-neutral strawberries well-watered is even more important than it is with June-bearers. Make sure they get at least an inch of water per week from rain and/or irrigation.
  2. During their first year, apply 1 to 2 pounds of ammonium nitrate or 3 to 6 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 feet of row at the beginning of each month from June through September. Thereafter, apply the same amount at the beginning of each month from May through September. Be very careful to sidedress the fertilizer and avoid contact with the leaves, especially when they are damp and the weather is hot. Instead of monthly applications, you can use annual applications of slow-release fertilizer that deliver the same amount of nitrogen.

Flowering and fruiting. Day-neutral plants produce flowers from the time of planting through frost in autumn. Fruits form from open flowers in about 30 days. Because the flowering season is so long, flowers are more susceptible to insect attack than those of June-bearing strawberries.

Many growers till under their day-neutral strawberries at the end of the first year and start over with a new batch of plants the following spring. If you decide to hold your plants over for another year, cover them with mulch, as you would June-bearing strawberries. The following spring, they will produce a crop in June, then another crop in August. They will not fruit as long into the fall as the first-year planting.

Because of their shallow root systems, day-neutral strawberries need more attention to watering than June-bearers.

Weed control. Because they are always fruiting and there is no good time for renovation, controlling weeds can be a challenge with day-neutral strawberries. These cultivars are also more sensitive to herbicides than June-bearing plants. Planting through black plastic mulch aids in weed control and warms the soil early. But this can hurt Tristar and Tribute cultivars in the summer because they are sensitive to heat. The best approach for home gardeners is Control weeds to stay ahead of the weed problem. This can be done with light, frequent with frequent hand pulling, with light cultivation that avoids damaging shallow roots, and hand weeding, by mulching with straw.

light cultivation, Diseases and insects. Tarnished plant bugs are a major insect pest of day-and mulch. neutral strawberries. They can be an even greater problem than they are on

_ June-bearing plants because their populations can soar during the summer months when day-neutral cultivars are struggling to cope with the heat. Gray mold also can be a severe problem with day-neutral cultivars, because the fungus accumulates during the growing season, especially if you do not harvest berries regularly. (For more information, see the section "Diseases and Pests" for June-bearing strawberries, page 59.)

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