When it comes to growing strawberries in Asheville and WNC, it REALLY matters to your success (and sanity) which type of plant you decide to grow. I may be 62% full of it, but believe me on this one.
There are a slew of issues that bother strawberry plants. Once you make it past the red stele, root rot, and leaf spot, and are just about to pluck, with hands shaking like uncle Pete on a bender, that first glistening red berry of the season, in swoops Bambi and chews them all to nubs.
Is that laughter I hear as that white tail bounces off into the woods? Yeah, I’m bitter. Let my tears guide you.
Ever-bearing or June-bearing? Most people think they want ever-bearing. It sounds cool; berries all season long, right? Not really. Technically it’s just two rounds of berries, one in early summer and one in late summer, with maybe a couple random berries popping up in between.
What else is ready in late summer? You guessed it, everything else in the garden. Do you really have the bandwidth to worry about strawberries at the same time you are picking tomatoes by the bucketful, or would it make more sense to get a good solid crop of berries in the beginning of the season and be done with it?
Ever-bearing berries are great if you have kids on the scout for them and/or just want a few berries here and there to munch while you are gardening. They usually bear fruit the same year you plant them and are great for hanging baskets, pots, or small beds near the house.
If you want the best, biggest, baddest berries, have space for a decent patch, and like to stock up with jam, June-bearing is the way to go. The berries tend to be better and the crop bigger. This is the case with most plants that bloom twice in the same year. The second flush of blooms comes at the expense of earlier blooms, and the following fruit.
June-bearing plants take 1 year to produce fruit. Commercial producers in the south- those goood ones in May from South Carolina in the white buckets- are all June-bearing. They might even be plugs treated like annuals and replaced every year, a neat idea but not for us in the mountains.
The number one tip for growing berries in the Asheville area is to pick the right variety, with disease resistance a top priority. If you want ever-bearing, Ozark Beauty is the best I’ve found. For June-bearing, try Earliglow. Once you get the right plants, here are a few tips for growing them.
- Straw makes a great mulch for strawberries, but it can be weedy depending on where you source it. You could try shredded leaves or pine straw as well. The goal is to keep the leaves, blooms, and fruit off the ground and as dry as possible.
- They like well draining soil. Sandy loam is great, but up here I’d do a raised bed or raised row topped with a loose topsoil, 6-8” or so. Or grow them in a pot.
- Feed them well. Ozmocote plus is my go-to for fruit plants when I want a great yield and low maintenance, or you can also use a slow-release lawn fertilizer with high nitrogen, just be careful how you apply it and how often.
- Spray with a fungicide like Captan every week during bloom and fruit set. For maximum protection alternate with a systemic fungicide like Immunox after fruiting.
- Protect from the deers!
- If you want really low maintenance, try them in some big pots and start fresh after a season or two.
For the best crop of strawberries, look for plants that have good disease resistance, I like Ozark Beauty for ever-bearing or Earliglow for June-bearing. Plant them in pots or raised beds with well-draining topsoil (or potting soil), fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, mulch well, and grow them in South Carolina.
That last part is a joke. Kinda.
Want to see what else we are growing this season? Click here!