There are 12 or so species of Fragaria and the genus is native to the north temperate regions (Eurasia, North America), and also extends into North Africa and down through tropical American mountains into temperate South America (e.g. Chile). The number of sets of chromosomes varies from species to species ranging from 2 sets in the Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca to 8 sets in the Modern Garden Strawberry Fragaria ananassa.
In a strict botanical sense, the strawberry fruit is not a true fruit, but is termed a pseudocarp. Fragaria belongs to the family Rosaceae in which there are a whole lot of individual female reproductive organs, termed carpels, in the flower. Each carpel consists of a stigma, style and ovary and all the carpels are inserted on to a fleshy receptacle. In Fragaria, the receptacle swells into the red-coloured 'fruit' we know as a strawberry and over its surface are black dots, each dot being an individual true fruit (a true fruit being the ripened ovary). The individual true fruit are termed achenes these being small, dry single seeded fruit that do not split open. It is interesting to contrast the strawberry with the Blackberry (or any other species in the genus Rubus) which is also in the Rosaceae and which also has multiple carpels inserted on a receptacle. Instead of the receptacle swelling to form the fruit, the individual ovaries of the carpels become black and fleshy and in combination they form the Blackberry. So strictly speaking, the Blackberry is also not a true fruit but an aggregation of separate fruit, but in a loose botanical sense, it is OK to call strawberries and blackberries fruit.
Strawberries are eaten by birds which disperse the seeds widely. Strawberry plants also spread vegetatively using runners and this enables them to be easily transplanted and propagated as clones. Strawberry species are generally dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants) but hermaphroditic flowers did occur rarely in the wild and these were selected for in domestication because it simplified crop production and enabled a crop to all be cloned from a single source.
The Wild Strawberry or Wood Strawberry Fragaria vesca is native to the temperate regions of Eurasia and North America. It has become distributed worldwide and is sometimes found naturalised in southern Africa. It is a diploid species (i.e. 2 sets of chromosomes).The finding of strawberry achenes in neolithic archaeological excavations, shows that wild strawberries have been eaten by people since the earliest of times. Fragaria vesca was being cultivated in Europeans gardens by the 1500's (Renaissance) and after about 1530, cultivated strawberries are clearly larger than wild ones, indicating selective breeding. Although Fragaria vesca is still grown in gardens for domestic use, it is not used in commercial strawberry production because of the development of the Modern Garden Strawberry Fragaria ananassa.
The Hautbois or Musk Strawberry Fragaria moschata is native to highland areas from France through to Siberia. It is a hexaploid species (i.e. 6 sets of chromosomes). Like Fragaria vesca, it started being cultivated in European gardens from the 1500's and was still being cultivated widely in the 1600's. However, with the arrival of Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria chiloensis from the New World, growing of this species became severely curtailed in favour of these new, more favourable species and especially the new Modern Garden Strawberry that arose through hybridization of these two species.
The Virginia Strawberry Fragaria virginiana is native to North America and its flavour, size and abundance made it a popular fruit amongst Indian tribes and also amongst European colonists. During the 1620's, it started being cultivated in Europe. It is an octoploid (8 sets of chromosomes).
The Chilean Strawberry Fragaria chiloensis is also an octoploid and native from Alaska to California. It also evidently became dispersed in prehistoric times by birds to Hawaii, Chile and Argentina. It had been domesticated by the Araucanians in Chile before the Spaniards arrived. They selected for large-fruited varieties. The colonists spread it widely within Central and South America but it was evidently only introduced to Europe in the early 1700's.
The Modern Garden Strawberry Fragaria ananassa is also an octoploid. It is a hybrid between the domesticated Fragaria virginiana with its hermaphrodite flowers and tasty fruit, and Fragaria chiloensis with its large fruit. The hybrid arose within Europe and might have done so a number of times, whenever the two parent species were interplanted. It is of such superior size and quality that it has become the main species in commercial strawberry production. Strawberry varieties have been selected to favour particular climates and to be day-length neutral so that they flower and fruit under both short and long day lengths, thus enabling them to be harvested over a long season in frost-free regions.
Strawberry fruit are eaten raw or used in making juice, desserts, jam, syrup and wine. Leaves are used in blended herbal teas. Leaves and roots are believed to have medicinal benefits in terms of easing diarrhoea, digestive upsets and gout. The fruit juice is evidently used externally to counteract sunburn, skin blemishes and discoloured teeth.
One of the most beautiful and most tasty fruits in the entire world would be the strawberry. This red sweet berry is loved and eaten throughout the entire planet. As like most fruits, strawberries taste much better when they are homegrown than they do store-bought. The reason being that many of the fruits and vegetables that are sold in stores are more than likely to be genetically engineered and dusted with pesticides. Organically grown fruits have a much better quality and taste than those that are grown artificially.
Starting a strawberry garden can be a great idea if you are planning on sprucing up your garden this spring. You will have the opportunity to go out and pick fresh ripe strawberries from your own yard to add to your morning cereal or just for a tasty snack.
Strawberries are very easy to grow and unlike most plants, strawberries can yield crop just months after planting.
Let’s get started!!! The first step to starting your strawberry plant is to pick up bare-root strawberries as soon as they are available. You can usually purchases these in most areas as late as April and in a 4-inch container.
Strawberries can live almost anywhere. There are actually three ways which you can plant your strawberries. These three include are in the ground, a hanging plant, or a strawberry pot.
You can purchase your strawberry plants from most nurseries. You can also mail order or purchase them over the Internet. You want to make sure that the mail order is very reliable and reputable. You want to avoid planting strawberries from old plants because these types of plants are more than likely disease infested. If you can’t plant your strawberries right away after they arrive, than you should place them in a plastic bag and place a moist material, like wood shaving or peat moss, around the roots of the plant. You should then store them in the refrigerator. You can safely store them there for up to two weeks. Here is a list of websites where you can order strawberry plants and plugs:
Care and Harvest of Strawberries
by National Gardening Association Editors
You won't be idle until your first harvest. You must not let the new plants set berries in their first year. They will try to fruit, but you must pick off the blossoms as they appear. This way, instead of fruiting, the mother plants will produce vigorous daughters that will yield well the following year.
Keep Weeds Away
Keep the bed weed-free throughout the growing season. Some people use a sheet of black plastic to smother weeds, leaving holes for the strawberry plants, but that's more work than weeding when it comes time to position the runners and the daughter plants.
Training the Runners
After 5 or 6 weeks in the ground, your plants will begin to "run." A first daughter plant will form and root, then the runners will set more daughters. Keep only the first daughter of each runner. It will bear better than a second or third daughter on the same runner. When most mothers have produced daughters that are ready to take root, it's time for you to establish the 9-by-9-inch spaced row system. Although it's more work, it's more berries. Let five strong daughters from each mother plant take root; clip off all others. (If you don't have five daughters on a plant, make do with what you have.) As these daughters grow, space them around the mother at 9-inch intervals. Weigh the runners down with soil, stones, or hairpins to hold the daughters in place; they'll root by themselves.
It will take two or three passes over the course of the summer to arrange the plants correctly and get rid of unwanted runners. While the arrangement may not look quite as tidy in your strawberry patch as it does on paper, you will have created three parallel rows with plants spaced roughly 9 inches apart in each one. Unlike other systems in which all plants are permitted to run freely, this system discourages sibling rivalry and gives each selected plant plenty of room to grow. The result is more and bigger berries. When the first bearing season is over, you'll do best to till in all the plants and start again. Each successive year you prolong their lives will yield fewer berries - and more weeds and disease.
Two Berry Beds
To have strawberries every year, you should maintain two beds: one to bear fruit and one to produce next year's fruit-bearers. After the harvest, plant a short-season vegetable where the berries were, if you like, then a winter cover crop like buckwheat or rye. Crop rotation has many advantages: the roots of the strawberry plants don't have a chance to get bound up, infestations of diseases are less likely, and rotation is an effective method of weed control. The following spring, you'll set new strawberry plants in that bed and begin the cycle again. Many gardeners prefer to renovate their beds, thinning out most of the plants and leaving some strong ones to produce runners and daughter plants for the third year. If you've enjoyed a productive, disease-free season, you may decide to renovate at least part of the bed for another year or two before cleaning out the whole bed entirely:
Renovating the Bed
Here are the basics in renovating an existing strawberry bed.
1. Just after harvest, cut off all the leaves with a scythe, sickle, or lawnmower set high enough not to hit the crowns.
2. Turn under the two daughter plants on either side of each mother row (preferably with a tiller), which should leave a 6-inch- wide row.
3. Add a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 (1/2 pound per 25-foot row) to the bed and get rid of all weeds. Thin the plants to stand 9 inches apart, leaving only the strongest ones.
4. Allow only two runners from each plant; set each runner 9 inches from the mother plant on either side.
5. Side-dress with 2 1/2 pounds of 5-10-10 or its equivalent per 100 feet of row.
6. Apply winter mulch as before. Await spring and your second - and somewhat smaller - harvest.
Harvesting Your Berries
In the second year, the berries will ripen about 1 month after the plants bloom, with the bigger berries developing at the center of each cluster. To harvest, don't squeeze a ripe berry; pinch the stem behind it with your thumbnail. Every 2 or 3 days, pick all the ripe berries. Avoid picking green-tipped berries - they're not fully ripe. They'll taste much better in a day or two. Don't leave berry remnants on the plants because they encourage plant rot. You can expect 2 to 3 weeks of harvesting for each variety. If you find yourself deluged by berries, you can make them into jam or freeze them.
by National Gardening Association Editors
Strawberries will do best in soil that has been thoroughly prepared. If your future strawberry bed was plowed last year, you're ahead of the game. But if you're starting with land that was in sod, allow an extra year or the soil will be tough to cultivate, and you'll really pay later when you are confronted with weeds (especially grass) and grubs. Strawberries do best in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Apply aged manure and a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 (1/2 pound per 25-foot row) before planting in the spring. To further improve the soil, you can plant a winter cover crop. If you have heavy soil, raised beds will provide better drainage and encourage healthy roots.
Planting the Berries
You can usually set out your new plants in the strawberry bed when the trees in your area are just beginning to leaf out. Suppliers try to ship them at the appropriate time for your region. If
you're not ready when the plants arrive, you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Let out any moisture from the shipping bag and wrap the roots in plastic. Do not let the roots dry out. Space your rows 4 feet apart, and leave 18 inches between plants. Cut back the roots of your new plants to not more than 6 inches long; put them in a bucket and soak the roots in water for about an hour just before planting. Make absolutely sure you set them in the ground at the right depth so the roots don't dry out and the crown isn't buried. Pack the soil against the roots, and water each plant with about 1/2 pint of water mixed with a soluble fertilizer; don't overdose.
Getting Ready for Strawberries
by National Gardening Association Editors
Probably nothing beats the taste of a just-picked, sun-ripened strawberry. Strawberries are loaded with natural sugars, but these sugars rapidly convert to starch once the berry is picked. So it is not mere pride that makes a freshly picked home-grown strawberry taste better - it really does. The fresher the berry, the sweeter the taste. Strawberries are high yielders. From a single, well-cared-for 2-year-old plant, you can expect to harvest 1 to 2 quarts of strawberries. That's 50 to 100 quarts of berries from a bed 15 feet long and three plants deep - about 50 plants.
Keep Planting Strawberries
You can maximize yields by continually renewing your strawberry bed with new plants. Many gardeners try to keep old plants producing year after year, but this inevitably leads to decreased yields and increased disease problems. You can start out in the spring with ten plants that will each produce five healthy daughter plants in the first year - and they'll bear an abundant crop of strawberries the second year. Keep two beds in rotation and every year you can count on 50 to 100 quarts of juicy red berries - enough for about thirty strawberry-drenched shortcakes and fifty pints of preserves to enjoy all winter and fifty helpings of Sunday brunch strawberry waffles, not to mention the sweetest possible berries for eating straight out of the garden.