A couple of years ago, someone gave me a strawberry plant. I had never grown strawberries as I thought it was difficult. However, I was surprised by this plant and enjoyed the ripe berries. Then I added a couple more plants and decided to build a strawberry tower. Someone else gave me more berries last summer so I now have a full five-story tower.
My tower is constructed of planting containers in five different sizes. At the top of the tower is the original plant in a 1-gallon container. Like a tiered cake, it is stacked on top of a 2-gallon, 3-gallon, 5-gallon and 7-gallon container. Each container is sunk halfway into the soil of the slightly larger container underneath it. The berries are planted around the edges and the fruit hangs down as it grows so it is easy to harvest.
My tower is in a garden bed with other plants. I filled the containers with my improved garden soil which has lots of compost in it. I fertilize the strawberries with worm compost. Watering is easy: Twice a week, I water the top pot well and the water drains down to the bottom. The roots have plenty of room to grow, and the container sides are camouflaged with hanging leaves and berries.
To discourage quail from eating the berries, I made a trellis of square tomato supports and draped a floating row cover over the top. Garden snails also like strawberries, so you must be on guard.
Every morning, I go out and graze in the garden. The strawberries are so good, they never make it into the kitchen. I am growing an ever-bearing variety, so even in winter, I harvest an occasional berry.
All strawberry varieties are one of three types: June-bearing, ever-bearing or day-neutral. Before purchasing plants, read up on these different types so you get what you want. June-bearing varieties produce one crop per year and should be planted in the fall. They are usually treated as an annual and replaced each year. Day-neutral varieties have their peak in early summer but continue to produce sporadically through fall. Ever-bearing types ripen a crop in spring and again in fall.
Strawberries belong to the Rosaceae family, so, yes, they are related to roses. The strawberry that we grow today in our gardens and on farms was first hybridized in France in the late 18th century. It is a cross between North American and Chilean species.
Prior to hybridization, people often foraged for strawberries in the wild. In ancient times, people valued them for medicinal uses. Many European paintings from centuries ago have strawberries in them. I also have wild strawberries growing in my garden thanks to birds spreading the seed. However, the fruit from these plants is neither as tasty nor as large as the hybrid strawberries.
The little spots on the surface of the strawberry are actually ovaries; each one has a seed inside.
Strawberries are subject to a number of soil-borne diseases. To minimize the threat, replant them in a different site every four to five years.
Workshop: UC Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Healthy Fall and Winter Vegetables” on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., at UC Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Ave., Napa. From familiar lettuces to exotic Asian greens, from carrots to sugar snap peas, choices abound for fall, winter, and early spring dining. This hands-on workshop provides the essential growing tips that will guide you every step of the way, from planning and planting to harvest.
Online registration (credit card only); Mail-in/walk-in registration (check only or drop off cash payment).