Strawberries are fruits produced from small perennial herbaceous plants, widespread in most of the globe; in Europe some species of fragaria occur naturally in the undergrowth, and generally produce very small and aromatic fruits, such as the Fragaria vesca species, the typical wild strawberry, also present in Italy. The garden cultivates mostly hybrid varieties, derived from the crossing of an Americana species, fragaria ananassa, with other species. There are numerous varieties, and every year new hybrids or cultivars are created, selecting plants that produce sweeter and more fragrant fruits, with more fruiting a year or even with flowers of a particular color.
The botanical species of fragaria are deciduous, and dry completely with the arrival of frost, to reappear the following spring. In April-May they produce small white, star-shaped flowers, followed by the typical infructescences, which are called strawberries; it is a thin fleshy stem, white or pink, which supports numerous rigid achen, the typical seeds.
Fruiting generally lasts throughout the spring, and stops when the summer heat arrives.
Vegetable cultivars and hybrids generally contain some particularly interesting features; surely the main quality consists in the size of the fruits, which is decidedly greater than that of the wild strawberries, even if the latter maintain the primacy in the smell and the sweetness of the pulp.
Some cultivars produce fruits in early spring and continue until July; others produce further blooms in September, when the climate returns to be mild.
Among the strawberry plants there are also hybrids with pink or red flowers, very decorative even in a flowerbed.
The cultivation of these perennials is not difficult, and in the right conditions they tend to become weeds; in fact the strawberry plants are perennial stoloniferae: from the collar of the plants to dwelling long ago thin creeping stems branch out, the stolons, that are removed slightly from the mother plant to root and produce new plants. Within a few years some small strawberry plants can fill all the available space, overcrowding the plot.
For this reason we often tend to periodically transplant, both the "old" and the new plants, by thinning them, so as to allow each plant to enjoy a certain amount of open soil.
They prefer bright locations, possibly sheltered from direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day, so that the soil remains fairly cool, and not completely dry. Plants can withstand drought very well, but generally tend, in conditions of water shortage, not to bloom or even lose part of the foliage.
So if we want juicy strawberries it is good that we prepare ourselves to water the seedlings regularly, especially if the climate does not help us.
We place the plants in a good soil rich in organic matter, not particularly calcareous, and in any case fresh and deep, quite well drained.
When the climate becomes warm, we can stop watering the plants, which will stop flowering, and will enter a period of semi-vegetative rest; if the drought is intense we start watering the plants again in the autumn. In areas with a very hot spring climate watering should be particularly regular and abundant.
Strawberries in the shade
The plot of strawberries in the garden must be of the right size, so that the plants can be planted with at least 20-25 cm of space from each other.
If we keep our plants spaced we have the possibility to control any pests that may develop between them, "stealing" water and nourishment.
They are often placed on the mulching sheet; prepare the soil, work it thoroughly, cover it with a mulch sheet and then drill holes in the sheet, where small plants are planted; this type of cultivation allows to frequently control the fruits, which will develop far from the ground, and therefore they will be difficult to go against rotting or just as difficultly they will be ruined by mold or small insects.
This type of cultivation needs to be put back in place at least every 2-3 years, because the seedlings tend to spread, to produce longer stolons if they do not find soil where to root due to the mulching cloth; clear that, this type of set-up makes the thinning of the plants very fast and practical, and helps us to keep the flowerbed completely clean from weeds.
Being ground cover plants, we can instead decide to cultivate them directly in the flowerbed, without mulching, over time they will tend to produce a carpet of leaves.
If we have decided to plant wild strawberries, the natural carpet created by them will guarantee the right humidity and the right shade to make the plants and fruits develop better.
If, on the other hand, we have planted the large strawberries, over time the overcrowding of the flowerbed will lead to ever smaller and lower quality fruits, forcing us to extend the excess plants periodically.
Strawberries - Fragaria sspp .: In the sun and in the shade
Strawberries in the wild are fruits of the undergrowth; small scented strawberries grow in the shade of tall trees, where the soil, rich in decomposed material, is always damp and fresh.
If we decide to plant these wild strawberries, we choose a plot in the shade, not too dark, but away from the direct rays of the hot sun.
If instead we decide to grow large hybrid strawberries, the amount of light to be exposed to depends on the species and the variety: there are cultivars that like full sun, even in summer, while others need half shade. In general, vegetable strawberries tend to enjoy the sun much more than wild strawberries.