Seasonal Eats: The Perfect Strawberry Garden
Did you know that many fruits and vegetables start losing nutritional value the moment they are picked?
It’s called respiration, and it results in the fresh produce that you buy at the store becoming less and less nutritional as the days pass. Strawberries in particular are considered highly perishable, as they contain more quantities of vitamin C than most fruits and veggies – even oranges! Vitamin C is classified as the least stable nutrient, and is used as an indicator for “nutritional quality” of fruits by the time they reach your refrigerator shelf.
So what can you do to ensure you have the most nutrient-packed strawberries on your plate? In the United States, most berries are grown in California – so choosing to pick your own from a farm isn’t an option for those who live in the other 49 states. Frozen or canned strawberries are better able to retain their nutritional value, but freezing doesn’t have the effects on fruits as it does on veggies, so you’re still not getting them 100 percent. Plus, canned strawberries don’t tend to have the same flavor.
That leaves one option: grow your own strawberries.
When you opt for your own garden, you’ll have strawberries abound from spring until fall’s frost, full of delicious sweet flavor and packed with nutrients. Below are some tips on creating and maintaining your own strawberry garden.
Growing Your Strawberry Garden
There are three main strawberry types; each can be grown in certain areas of the country, called zones. Arbor Day Foundation has put together this map to demonstrate the different zones across the country, so when considering growing other fruits or veggies, this will come in handy.
Strawberries can be grown in zones 3-10, and the almanac recommends starting with a strain called Junebearers, as they will begin producing fruit in the spring and continue well into the summer. The steps below for caring and planting are suggested by the almanac.
- Prepare your garden bed with loam, and work in compost a few months before planting. pH levels should be between 5.5 and 7.
- Raised beds are suggested for strawberries, as they need adequate draining.
- Be ready to plant as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.
- Ensure the bed is where the sun directly hits for 6-10 hours a day.
- Buy the recommended strawberry strain for your area of a reputable nursery.
- Create holes deep and wide enough to allow the entire root system without bending, but ensure the crown stays at soil surface.
- Keep roots shorter than 8 inches when plants are set out, and trim it needed.
- Since strawberries are sprawling plants, they need adequate space. Set them around 20 inches apart, with 4 feet between rows.
- After each season, replant with new plants and in a new site.
- You don’t want fruit in the first year of planting, as they need to spend reserves on creating healthy roots. Pick the blossoms in the first year to stop fruiting.
- Eliminate the daughter plants to ensure higher yields.
- Water them with at least 1 inch of water per week spring through fall.
- Mulch the bed frequently
- Weed by hand in the first few months of growth.
- After growing season, mow or cut the foliage down to one inch and mulch the plants in 4 inches of straw, or other organic material, after the first couple of frosts.
- Early in the next spring when danger of frost has passed, remove the mulch.
- Invest in row covers all season long to prevent birds from picking at the plants.
- Look into organic pest control to prevent slugs and other pests from attacking.
- After the first year of not fruiting, the following year it will be ready to harvest 4-6 weeks after you see the first blossoms.
- Choose only fully red strawberries and pick every three days.
- Ensure you cut by the stem and do not pull the berry.
- Harvest will continue for 3 weeks, in which you will have a large amount of berries to enjoy!
- Unwashed berries can be refrigerated for 3-5 days, while frozen strawberries can be kept for 2 months.
At Augusta Active, we’re always looking for ways to enjoy healthy, nutritional food to the fullest – so we can stay active, fit and feeling great from one year to the next. Growing our own strawberries might be a little tough at first, but the rewards are huge! Fresh strawberries are considered a super fruit, packed full of vitamins and nutrients that are so important to maintaining a healthy body and mind.