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Growing Guide Strawberries (Fragaria, Fraises des bois)

Growing Fraises des Bois Strawberries (Fragaria)

Choosing a site. Plant Fraises des bois Alpine Strawberries in full sun or partial shade. Strawberries thrive in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Amending your soil with aged manure or compost will supply all the nutrients the young plants need to get started. Proper drainage is essential, so mound the soil to form raised beds, if necessary. Avoid planting Strawberries where Potatoes, Tomatoes, Eggplants, or Peppers have been grown before. Soils in which these plants have grown may harbor the wilt-causing Verticillium fungus, which can affect your plants.

Spacing. Plant Fraises des bois 1ft apart in the ground. Allow 1cu ft of soil per plant in containers, less in Strawberry jars. Plants grown in containers should be protected from hot sun in the summer and from freezing in the winter.

Planting in the ground. Dig a wide, shallow hole large enough to accommodate the roots comfortably. Then spread the roots evenly inside the hole and cover them with soil, setting the crown (the point where stem and roots meet) at soil level. Firm the soil with your hands and water thoroughly. Placing the crown precisely at soil level—rather than deeper or higher—is very important. It keeps the crown from rotting or from drying out.

Divide Fraises des bois plants every 3 years or so, as needed, just as growth begins to show in the spring. Dig and cut the crowns into 2–4 pieces, making sure that each piece has a good root system. Replant right away.

Planting in a Strawberry jar. Place the soil mix in a plastic tub and slowly add water and stir with your hand until the mix is moist but not soggy. Then fill the pot with mix to the rims of the first three pockets. Push one plant through each pocket, pulling gently on the roots from the inside until the crown (the point where stem and roots meet) is level with the soil mix in the pocket. Firm the plants in place and add soil mix up to the rims of the second set of three pockets. Plant those pockets as you did the first set. Then add more soil mix, stopping 1–2in below the top of the container. Put no more than three plants in the top. Finally, water thoroughly, starting from the top and proceeding to each of the pockets. Place the jar in the shade for a few days to allow the plants to settle in. Then gradually move the jar to its permanent location. Water when the soil mix is dry to the touch. Fertilize with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 2–3 weeks until the end of August. In cold-winter climates, move the jar inside in fall and keep at 30–45°F. Check plants for moisture every week and water just enough to keep plants from drying out completely. Set the jar back outside the following spring.

Watering and fertilizing. Strawberries require 1–2in of water a week. If rain is inadequate, water deeply whenever the top 1in of soil is dry to the touch. To prevent disease, avoid watering in the evening. Heat and drought bring flowering and fruiting to a halt and may kill plants outright. Mulching with 2in of an organic material (such as straw) helps the soil retain moisture and stay cool, prevents weed seed germination, and keeps the fruits off the soil.

Don’t fertilize at planting time. Later, when Fraises des bois begins to form berries, fertilize with a balanced, timed-release fertilizer. In subsequent years, fertilize in early spring, and once again in late June.

Harvesting. Check Fraises des bois frequently for ripe berries and collect them in a bowl or basket as you pick them. Keeping ripe fruit picked will encourage production throughout the summer season. Clean the fragile berries by floating them in ice water and gently rolling them around. Dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Winter protection. Strawberries overwinter well in mild-climate areas, but where winters are cold and snowy, they need protection from frost heaving. After the ground has frozen, apply 4–6in of a light insulating material such as straw, salt marsh hay, oak leaves, or pine needles around the plants (but place it only lightly on top of the plants, to avoid crown rot). Remove the cover gradually in spring, starting about the time Daffodils bloom.

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