Gardening with Strawberries
Fragaria x ananassa is the most common commercially produced strawberry worldwide. Strawberries prefer well-drained, moist but not wet, sandy soils that have been amended with organic matter and have a slightly acidic pH of 5.5 to 6.5. They require at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
In order for development of fruit and flowers to occur on most strawberry varieties, temperatures must remain between 50 and 80 degrees Farenheight with day lengths of 14 hours or less. We are fortunate to have this combination of temperature and day length throughout much of our fall, winter, and spring, making October and November the ideal months for planting strawberries in our region. Flowering and fruit production begins in November and continues into April or May. Expect to start harvesting strawberries in January.
Because the highest quality fruit tends to be produced on younger plants with a maximum of four to five branched crowns, strawberries are treated as annuals, although they are perennial by nature, with new ones being planted each fall. Another reason for replanting each year is to reduce carrying diseases or nematodes from year to year.
While the climate in northern Florida is mostly ideal for strawberries, the flowers and fruit can be damaged by air temperatures below 32 degrees. It may be necessary to provide plants with a protective polypropylene row cover on certain nights.
“Everbearing” varieties of strawberries are not well suited for Florida, so when selecting your plants make sure to choose ones that do well in our climate. The following varieties are best suited for our region and are capable of producing 1 to 2 pints of fruit per plant throughout the season:
‘Florida Radiance’: Produces large, uniform, moderatley firm, conic fruit with deep- red glossy appearance. Good shipping quality and has flexible skin that is moderately resistance to rain damage.
‘Camarosa’ : A productive early- season short day variety that produces large, flat conic, firm fruit with good flavor and appearance.
‘Sweet Charlie’: Due to soft fruit, it is not grown on large scale commercial productions, but remains a favorite for u-pick operations because of its high early yield and low-acid flavor.
References: Strawberries in the Florida Garden;
Stephens, James M.;HS509
Strawberry Production; Santos, Peres, Whitaker, Dittmar, Smith, and Olson; HS736