We’re right in the middle of strawberry season, but unfortunately, the situation doesn’t look good. We primarily grow ‘seascape’ strawberries, which are ‘day-neutral‘. Day-neutral strawberry varieties (as opposed to June-bearing) will continue to set fruit as long as temperatures are mild-hot. They usually flush two or sometimes three times: once in late May/early June, once in August, and (hopefully) again in late September/October if the weather doesn’t get too cold. In each flush, the whole patch of seascape berries ripens up pretty quickly, so the window of opportunity to pick and sell the fruit is short. This year, that window has coincided with several heavy rains, which will ruin a good portion of this year’s spring crop.
When picking berries after it’s rained, the crew has to examine each fruit for rotten spots or marks. Lots of berries get thrown out, and the extra inspection makes for a very slow harvest.
All our strawberries are grown on plastic mulch, which adds heat to the soil and ripens the fruit a little early. After a rain, however, plastic mulch will also prevent water from draining into the soil, so the berries are often sitting (and rotting) in little puddles.
The berries that do end up at markets are good ones. They look good, and they taste good. The berries that come on later in the summer, however, will be even better because they’ve seen more sun and hot days to sweeten them up.
The crew recently planted some more ‘seascape’ berries that will hopefully begin to bear fruit in August. A few times per summer, the crew will clean up the rows by cutting strawberry plant runners to encourage more fruit production. We usually harvest off each strawberry field for two years before plowing under the plants and moving on to newer, more productive berry patches. In the fall, the plan is to plant some new June-bearing strawberries (‘Benton’ and ‘Hood’). We purchase all our strawberry plant starts from Lassen Canyon Nursery.
This year, we have two large greenhouses planted with strawberries. In an attempt to get fruit as early as possible, these plants got an extra “tent” layer of floating row cover for added heat.
The strawberries coming out of the greenhouses look great. These plants ripen fruit over a longer span of time, so the yield from any single picking is a little lower than a good harvest of field strawberries, but they’ve certainly pleased many fruit-hungry farmers’ market customers in the past month or so.
Our strawberry offerings in the next few weeks may be somewhat slim, but keep an eye out for more of our berries later in the summer.