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Diggin' It

How to grow and prepare strawberries

A chef and a gardener team up to tell how to grow strawberries and then turn them into a delicious dessert.

By Anne K. Moore and Linda Weiss / February 17, 2011

Chef Linda and I (Anne) spoke about strawberries to the Beech Island Garden Club in North Augusta, S.C., a few weeks ago. We had the most marvelous time talking about gardening and cooking.

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After our talk, Joy Raintree, a garden club member and manager of Redcliffe Plantation for the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation, & Tourism treated us to a private plantation tour. Master Gardeners have installed a vegetable garden on the plantation grounds. Maybe there's a strawberry patch in their future?

Traditional strawberry patches are not the only way to grow. You can use strawberries as ground cover or in a flower border. Just make sure you can reach those succulent ripe berries. Remember, too, when strawberries mingle with flowers, you can use only pesticides safe for food on the flower border.

Strawberries love sandy soil. If, like me, you have thick clay as your soil base, raise the beds so the strawberry roots will have drainage.

Your strawberry choices depend on your seasonal temperatures and whether you want a large crop all at once (called spring or June-bearing) or smaller pickings throughout the spring, summer, and fall (known as everbearing and day-neutral).

How to plant strawberries

The best time to plant strawberries is in early spring on a cloudy, cool day. Before planting, trim the roots to four or five inches in length. Also, cut off old leaves, runners, and flowers.

Dig the planting holes one foot apart, in rows three feet apart and wide enough so that you can spread out the roots. Day-neutral plants can go in closer since they produce fewer runners. After you fill in the soil, water the plants to get rid of any air pockets.

Strawberry plants are finicky about planting depth. If you buy them potted, just slip them out of the pot and plant them at the same depth at which they were growing. Bare-root plants can be tricky. Cover the roots up to the crown, leaving the top of the crown aboveground. (The crown of the plant is the fleshy part where the leaves and stems meet the roots.)

If you grow strawberries in your backyard, you must be patient to ensure a good crop in your second year and for years afterward.

Challenging as it is, remove the flowers precocious enough to grow that first spring. This ensures strong plants that will give you ongoing bountiful crops. If you're growing everbearing or day-neutral varieties, you can allow a crop to develop in the fall.

Soon enough, you will have plenty of homegrown strawberries for Chef Linda’s recipe.

A versatile dessert

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