A. PRODUCING YOUR OWN STRAWBERRIES
It could sound a little bit strange growing straw berries in Nigerian ecology, keep that thought off please, I assure you, it can be grown in your home.
Strawberries have a pleasant flavour that virtually almost all drinks that carry its flavour is so much cherished and consumed. So how interesting do you think if you are able to produce your own for your local juices or consume fresh?
In spite its pleasant flavour, its notable medicinal facts include a Vitamin C content higher than that of common oranges; a cup of strawberries provides about 100 grams of Vit-C per se, which is 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for adults. It also contain creditable amount of folic acid, potassium, riboflavin and iron as well as providing a good dose of fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium.
Interestingly, berries are easy to produce and being it a delicate short season crop, there is all need for close and effective management. Although, strawberry plants grow over a short period of time, some other varieties produce about three flushes of fruits throughout the growing season.
It’s worthy to mention that the taste of home-grown garden strawberries is indisputably a hundred times better than the commercial varieties. For example, a supermarket berries tend to be tart with grainy texture; this is because the natural sugar in the berries begins converting to starch as soon as it is plucked from the plant. Up to scratch, let’s then go to a brief guide on how to produce strawberries locally at home.
First of all where to grow and in what condition is very essential in growing this crop. As a temperate crop it doesn’t require much cold because it makes the plants hardy and slow the overall growth. Fortunately, we are leaving in ecology of higher temperature only that too much heat can make the plants perform not so good, but as a home garden we’ll expect a favourable environment for the crop to thrive even during this period.
The crop should also be positioned in a moderately sunniest position and where there is low wind effect. This is so because too much wind and insect will impair pollination of the plants. More so, avoid planting strawberries where previously, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers were grown, as these crops could pass on a serious strawberry disease like Verticillium wilt.
Similarly, strawberries should be grown not in an area that recently had grass growing on it as it could lead to a large number of wire worms population which will feed on your berries long time before you do.
Also strawberries don’t like a high moisture condition, particularly a water logged condition as it to rot the plants and the fruits inclusive. Where a raised bed is used, the soil can be sprayed with liquid fertilizer after every two weeks.
B. SOIL TYPE AND CONDITION
Strawberry plants grow and produce satisfactorily in a wide range of soil types, from sandy to clay loams. The best soil for strawberry production is a deep, well drained sandy loam, well supplied with humus (over 2% organic matter). Heavy clay soils that are usually poorly drained encourage disease development and impede precisely timed field operations. Coarse textured sandy soils are often infertile and droughty, and require more frequent irrigation and greater attention to fertilization practices.
C. CHOOSING AMONG VARIETIES
Strawberry plants come in three types:
• Day-Neutral: it is insensitive to photo period; these varieties produce buds, fruits and runners continuously if temperature remains favourable. Production is less than that of June-bearers.
• Ever-bearer: These varieties form buds during the long days of summer and the short days of autumn. The summer-formed buds flower and fruit in autumn, and the autumn-formed buds fruit the following spring (a typical of temperate climate).
• June-bearer: Length-of-day sensitive, these varieties produce buds in the autumn, flowers and fruits the following spring, and runners during the long days of summer (also a typical of temperate climate).
It is recommended for home garden, the June bearers. Thought, there is need to wait a full season for harvesting. Furthermore, most straw berries varieties don’t like water on the foliage and the fruits, implying that it’s a more or less irrigated crop. Failure to comply to that can affect the quality of the plants and the fruits as well.
• Buy disease-resistant plants from a reputable nursery, of a variety recommended in your area.
• Strawberries are sprawling plants. Seedlings will send out runners, or ‘daughter’ plants, which in turn will send out their own runners.
• Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. However, don’t plant too deep: The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.
• Provide adequate space for sprawling. Set plants out 20 inches apart, and leave 4 feet between rows.
• Roots shouldn’t be longer than 8 inches when plants are set out. Trim them if necessary.
• pH should be between 5.5 and 7. If necessary, amend your soil in advance.
• Strawberries require 6-10 hours a day of direct sunlight, so choose your planting site accordingly.
• Tolerant of different soil types, although prefer loam. Begin working in aged manure or compost a couple months before planting.
• Planting site must be well-drained. Raised beds are a particularly good option for strawberries.
• Practice crop rotation for the most success. Do not plant in a site that recently had strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant as mentioned earlier.
• Establish new plants each year to keep berry quality high each season.
• It is also possible to grow strawberries from last year’s runners.
• In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage plants from fruiting. If not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots. The yields will be much greater in the second year.
• Eliminate daughter plants as needed. First and second generations produce higher yields. Try to space each plant about 10 inches apart.
• Moisture is incredibly important due to shallow roots. Water adequately, about one inch per week. They need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing and again in the fall when the plants are mature.
• Keep the beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion.
• Be diligent about weeding. Weed by hand, especially in the first months after planting.
• When the growing season is over, mow or cut foliage down to one inch and mulch plants about 4 inches deep with straw, pine needles or other organic material. Remove mulch in early spring, after danger of frost has passed.
• Row covers where possible are a good option for protecting blossoms and fruit from birds.
F. HARVESTING AND STORAGE
• Fruit is ready for harvesting 4–6 weeks after blossoming.
• Harvest only fully red (ripe) berries, and pick every three days.
• Cut by the stem; do not pull the berry.
• Harvest will last up to 3 weeks. You should have an abundance of berries, depending on the variety.
• Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator for 3–5 days.
• Strawberries can be frozen whole for about 2 months.
G. PESTS AND DISEASES
• Grey Mold
• Powdery Mildew
• Japanese Beetles
• Spider Mites
We highly recommend you make further enquiries and meet your local extension officer for the best varieties for your locality.
Straw berries fruits and plants