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To grow strawberries to fit the palm of your hand, you need to use all the energy and resources a plant has and channel them to benefit a selected fruit.
Growing giant strawberries depends partly on genetics and partly on care. A healthy plant in an optimal environment is the starting point for big strawberries. Phase two is channeling the plant’s resources to a select few fruits, eliminating all possible contenders.
Table of Contents
- Strawberry Plant Genetics
- Factors Affecting Strawberry Production
- How to Grow A Giant Strawberry
- FAQs on Secrets to Growing Giant Strawberries
- In Closing
Strawberry Plant Genetics
The complete genome of the million-year-old strawberry plant was only recently (2019) sequenced by a collaborative study of UC Davis and Michigan State.
The team sequenced the Fragaria × ananassa cultivar’ Camarosa,’ one of the most widely grown and historically significant strawberry cultivars worldwide. The study’s paper can be viewed on nature.com.
The commercial strawberry is a complex plant that can adapt to various environments. It is octoploid (seven chromosome sets and eight chromosomes per set, i.e., 56 total). Each cell contains remnants of four separate ancestral diploid subgenomes that underlie the strawberry’s form and function.
Comparatively, humans are diploids—a set from each parent. Is it any wonder that the strawberry plant is so diverse, able to adapt to different seasons, offer other plant and fruit characteristics, and become pest resistant?
Factors Affecting Strawberry Production
Several of the above studies are climate specific, but there are collaborations between different regions and countries. Colder temperatures, for instance, are better able to produce Anthracnose-resistant starter plants.
Strawberries grown in temperate climates are more productive, but the plants are not the only ones that thrive; pathogens do too.
Also, some strawberries have shown a need for 200 to 300 chill hours (temperatures above 28°F/-2.2°C and below 45°F/7°C) to trigger full dormancy and post-dormancy productivity. If your region doesn’t get cold enough, follow the steps below.
Strawberry chilling requirements are divided into two phases. The first phase is the chill the plant accumulates in the field before being harvested, and the second phase is the number of hours a plant is stored at near-freezing temperatures.
There is a distinction between the two. In-field chilling occurs when the plant is still in the soil, out in the open, and has all its leaves.
Extra chilling is given after the plant has been harvested at a constant near-freezing temperature, in the dark, with no (or very few) leaves remaining. They need at least 200 hours of secondary chill in near-freezing refrigeration.
Consistent water supply at anthesis (when strawberry blooms are open for sexual activity) and again when the fruit forms are vital. On hot and windy days, water may be needed in the morning, midday and afternoon to keep the plants hydrated and able to cool themselves.
They like ample water during the fruit-bearing season. Your soil must drain well to avoid wet feet and prevent several strawberry root diseases—check out this comprehensive article on strawberry plant pests and diseases.
Like all plants, cut watering when the plant is in hibernation, but don’t let roots enter a dry state until they are extracted for winter storage. This applies to warmer regions only.
Do not water strawberries using overhead sprayers. Drip irrigation targeting each mother plant is the best option and helps avoid spreading diseases. Do not work with wet plants; wait for them to dry first.
Light Quality and Quantity
Strawberries need full sun, i.e., good light quality and quantity. During the fruit-growing season, strawberry plants need about ten hours a day.
Day-neutral plants refer only to the fact that plants can flower when nights are longer or days are longer—flowering is not influenced by the relative length of day or night.
Regardless, fruit production is a product of photosynthesis efficiency, i.e., light, CO2 and water availability.
Weeds are inevitable, and shallow-rooted strawberry plants compete poorly against the demands of weeds. Weeds are also potential pest and disease carriers and must constantly be controlled.
Cultivating your bed to remove weeds is tedious and can damage plants because strawberry roots are shallow. A better option is to use a weed barrier.
If you’re not opting for weed barriers, you must cultivate weekly, not harming the strawberry plant’s root system or crown.
How to Grow A Giant Strawberry
After Planting in Spring
Pinch off the initial emerging flower buds for the first few weeks after planting. You want your plant to reach the whole root and foliage strength before burdening it with fruit production.
Think of it as birth control. Until your young strawberry plant is sufficiently developed to provide the young strawberries with the best photosynthesis possible and enough water and nutrients to become the best Vitamin C and antioxidant bombs they can be.
How to Grow Strawberries – Summer
As the stolen runners and daughters appear, relocate the stronger ones and remove the less fit contenders.
Press the more robust daughter plants into the soil to encourage them to root. Keep removing weak runners and all flowers. You want the mother and daughter plants to grow stronger before being burdened with developing fruit.
How to Grow Strawberries – Early-Fall
Reduce the spacing between plants to 6 or 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) and keep hydration levels up. Cut down the woodier plants and save the young, vigorous ones for next year.
Use aged compost to introduce new microorganisms and carbon to the soil around your plants.
Day-neutral and everbearing plants will continue producing fruit, so the applied compost will boost drainage and nutrient availability. You can side-dress with micronutrients 8-12-32.
How to Grow Strawberries – Fall
Even after frost has killed the leaves, June strawberries will continue developing. If there is a lot of crowding, keep cutting back the runners.
When the plants have gone dormant, and temperatures are in the sub-forties (freezing), cover the plants with straw mulch to prevent roots from getting freeze damaged (killing the plant).
The plants will survive the harsh winter and return in the spring thanks to the protective layer of mulch.
Northern growers can give it a go, but many gardeners opt to grow strawberries as an annual crop, replanting every spring. It alls crop rotation and better soil management.
How to Grow Strawberries – Winter
During the winter, plants don’t actively produce fruit. When snow accumulates on top of the straw mulch, it creates a protective barrier between the soil and the freezing air, protecting the plants from damage.
Straw mulch is beneficial because it keeps the soil moist, discourages weed growth, and provides a clean surface for berry ripening; after being raked off in the spring, it should be left between and under plants.
How to Grow Strawberries – The Second Year
When the snow and ice melt, you should also remove the straw mulch you put over your plants during the winter to keep them warm.
This mulch is perfect for use in the summer and winter. As the weather warms up, rake the straw from around your plants and leave it in the spaces between them to help retain moisture and prevent weed growth.
FAQs on Secrets to Growing Giant Strawberries
Growing giant strawberries is about selecting a plant with large-fruit solid genetics and strengthening the whole plant to produce a limited number of fruit, and it works the same for crops. And you may want to check out my champion zucchinis as examples.
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