Any Strawberry experts or knowledgeable enthusiast help me get up to speed?..

Discussion in 'Edible Gardening' started by Shaun Rimmer, Jul 3, 2019.

  1. Shaun Rimmer

    Shaun Rimmer Apprentice Gardener

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    My 3 y/o lad loves strawberries, so I expanded our little bed and planted one load of Elsanta and another of Gigantia Maxim using those odd looking dry/dormant starts. Got mine from Bakker I think...

    Anyway I cocked that up planting them poorly and failing to remove flowers and such, and I also let them (esp. the Elsanta) get far too carried away and overcrowded and although I am getting good/proper sized fruits, they are seriously lacking in sweetness - this much I have learned so far, BUT! -

    The Gigantea Maxim, which have a fair amount of space betwen them and are producing huge fruits, are making them with intolerably woody cores around the hollow in the middle and also, with very little flavour save for the odd one - anyone give me a hint as to what can cause this?

    Cheers folks - I have a couple more strawberry questions coming up soon I'm sure but I gotta dash now ',;~}~

    Shaun.
     
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    • CarolineL

      CarolineL Super Gardener

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      Maybe lack of water? I would strongly recommend Marshmellow from Marshalls - you can buy out of season crowns that have been refrigerated and will fruit later in the same year as planted. In subsequent years they produce lots of the most fantastic flavoursome and sweet fruit. I used to take masses into work every year, and still have loads for jam!
       
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      • Perki

        Perki Super Gardener

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        I haven't grown either variety but if you want sweet tasting strawberrys the good old favourite - Cambridge favourite - is an excellent one to grow, Honeoye a nice one with large fruits, elsanta is the variety most like bought from the supermarket
         
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        • Janet mahay

          Janet mahay Gardener

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          Hi am no expert on strawberryand not grown that varity
          i am growing a few in a tub Toscana strawberry a low maintenance plant which i understand normally very easy to grow - great for beginner gardeners like me! , i learnt all strawberry love water , during june we had a lot of rain the tomotoes,rasberry and strawberries were the only 3 plants doing so well so make sure the bed dont dry out
          I planted borage by mine as i read it helps the fruit taste juciy wether it does or not i dont know had no strawberrys yet
           
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            Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
          • Mike Allen

            Mike Allen Total Gardener

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            • Verdun

              Verdun Passionate gardener

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              Cambridge Favourite here too......had a regular daily supply for a few weeks now. It’s a balance between watering and not over watering I think. And using straw to keep fruit dry....seems to deter slugs too :)
               
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              • Aldo

                Aldo Gardener

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                I am not an expert, unlike most people here, but but I have grown strawberries for a few years now, including Elsanta.

                The best results I got, which were honestly very good in terms of taste and productivity, relied on the following:
                1) Established Elsanta plants at the second year
                2) Mulching well and give them space if possible, which will keep fruits and plants healthier. I used black horticultural fleece, which many here hate with a passion. If you dislike it as well, you could try with straw.
                3) Fertilizing with diluted molasses (I bought the organic one they sell in bulk for horses). Before I tried with specific fertilizer and this year I experimented with seaweeds extract, and neither work as well I think, seaweed being the second best.
                4) Spraying with aspirine (a 75mg uncoated capsule diluted in 1 liter of water) every few weeks or so (in the evening, to avoid scortching of the leaves due to sunlight). This apparently works by putting a mild stress on the plants, and there is some evidence which is also a mild and safe pesticide too.
                5) Finding a balance in watering. You do not want your plants to wilt but overwatering will dilute the sugar in the fruit.
                6) Ensuring the fruits get a good deal of sun, which helps keeping them pest free and improve the taste, at least in my experience.
                7) The taste peaks in the warmest hours of the day, as the water content will be lower. Storing them in the fridge will impact taste negatively, but leaving them resting for one or two days, at room temperature or slightly cooler, can improve it.
                8) Elsanta are June bearers, so you will not see any fruit past the second week of July. They are also very prolific producing runners. It is a good idea to remove them until fruiting finishes, after which you could let them alone and pot them to make more plants for the next year. It is best to plant those either this year or early in the season in 2020, so they have time to get established, otherwise they will bear very little.
                9) For little ones, it is a good idea to keep several day neutral plants, which will fruit all summer long. I have Toscana mainly, but alpine strawberries are also quite good, albeit very small.

                This year I have been a bit lazy and did not do constantly many of that, and the results are definitely not as good (but of course it is also a very different weather than last year)

                Doing all the above is not expensive, with the exception of buying molasses and/or horticultural fleece, so perhaps you could give a go to some of it and see if things improve at all.
                 
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                • Verdun

                  Verdun Passionate gardener

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                  Useful info Aldo :)
                   
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                  • Nikolaos

                    Nikolaos Gardener

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                    Finding this thread extremely informative considering the fact that I'm a novice allotmenteer. But how much straw should be applied to a strawberry plot as a mulch? About 6 inches (or perhaps even more?) is what I've concluded from what I've read but I'd like more opinions from experienced growers, please. :)

                    Thanks,

                    Nick
                     
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                    • Shaun Rimmer

                      Shaun Rimmer Apprentice Gardener

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                      Thanks folks - I'll try and give a little more info and background (if I don't get hassled away by the lad again!) - 50 years old, fairly good at the sciences/nature/got a good grasp of the sommon things that all p-lants need and how they ineract to create a healthy plant. I only grow 'using organic techniques' (yeah I'm not going for the lable heh), so the plant roots and ground are inoculated with good fungi and bacteria, and then plants fed only on things like rotted nettle and rotted comfrey as favoured by tomato and pepper growers also for healthy flavourful fruits - Janet, this will likely be the reason borage was suggested to you - far as I know all that family (borigaceae or however it's spelled - incl. red dead nettle and comfrey) are 'dynamic accumulators' of useful elements like potassium and nitrogen and co-planting with any of that family should give great results on most fruits. Oh yeah and a bit of horse poo, worm castings, pelleted chicken manure etc. from time to time for most plants

                      My strawberries are in a bed sloping gently from east high to west low, and getting a reasonably full amount of light from the southerly direction throughout the day - I am certain already that the overcrowding (the plants are a mere few inches apart, and under a thick canopy now too!) is why there is no sweeness - Elsanta may be a supermarket favourite, but I got it for it's heavy, reliable, fairly long season fruiting, and because they can be really tasty strawberries especially the organically fed ones I've tried - I was certaing from first search that the overcrowding was the issue, and not the plant selection, although I will happily keep the suggested vars. in mind for the future.

                      The bed has straw under the plants although shamefully, still last years straw, as I just have not been able to replace it this year, and yes some fruits are suffering from slugs, and then milipedes getting in, and also from the occasional brown rot, but the plants are also netted (with a bit of old footy net, against our cats who kept pooing in the beds and then raking the plants up) and fruits mostly lifted up through the nets off the floor.

                      Those of you who've mentioned watering with regard to the woody big fruits - I think you could be right! The gigantia are big and also fast growing, so they maybe get very thirsty very quick as each little fruit decides to take off? If woody cored strawberries is known to be caused by lack of water during fruit growth, thwn I suppose we could call that an almost certain cause in fact as I have neglected them a little occasionally with the watering - they have more room than the other vars for number of plants, but are still way closer together than they should be, too so I a sure that is adding to their lack of sweetness and flavour...

                      Luckily for me they are making excellent low sugar jam (suppose a fruit spread technically with that little sugar?), and going as low as just 20% of fruit weight, has given delicious results and maybe could even hanlde as low as 15 or even 10%, so they will far from be wasted.

                      End of this season I think I will start by removing most of the plants and leave the right kind of spacing and then see how next years' go!

                      Cheers folks,

                      ',;~}~

                      Shaun.
                       
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                      • Graham B

                        Graham B Gardener

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                        Elsanta are possibly the worst tasting strawberry it's possible to find. The only reason they appear in supermarkets is because the fruit isn't very squishy, so more of them survive to be sold. The fact that they taste like sugary cardboard doesn't matter to a supermarket. There's no reason for us to grow them though.

                        Cambridge Favourite are reliable and taste good. You won't go wrong with them.

                        But most garden centres have quite a number of different types of strawberry. It's really fun to buy 2-3 of each type, and do a shoot-out for which ones you prefer. Your son will love that - trying them all to decide.

                        And also buy some wild (alpine) strawberries as well. The fruit are tiny, but the flavour is intense. It's fun to see the difference, and your son might be amused by the difference in sizes of fruit.
                         
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                        • Aldo

                          Aldo Gardener

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                          In principle I agree with that, and I also think, on the lines of James Wong books, that it makes very little sense for the home gardener to grow varieties which can easily be found in supermarket, while there are so many better or at least different ones which cannot be purchased.
                          Based on that, I Initially regretted not knowing better when purchasing my first strawberries plants, which are indeed Elsanta.

                          This said, I came to the conclusion that this is only true to an extent. Last year I spent some effort on my plants and Elsanta fruits tasted way better than then the supermarket equivalent.
                          On the other hand, when I neglected other varieties in principle way better tasting, such as Mara De Bois, the resulting fruits were disappointing.
                          So I am not entirely convinced that Elsanta are incapable of producing excellent fruits. Perhaps they are not the best you can bet on, genetically speaking, but the growing, packaging and preserving tecniques required by supermarkets might be the main culprit.

                          Supermarkets require cheap and large amounts of uniformly large, regular shaped, not too mature and not too red fruits. The berries are also refrigerated all the way from picking to their final destination, which is a sure way to kill flavour.
                          The result, is wet cardboard, as you say. But that is not necessarily a characteristic of the cultivar, in my limited experience.

                          Like you say, alpine strawberries are a very good option. They taste good and they can thrive relatively well in half shade, which is not the case with most regular strawberries.
                          If they were not hard to grow from seed, and if the garden was not overrun with slugs, I would have considered planting a few dozens in soil.
                           
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                          • Graham B

                            Graham B Gardener

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                            Yeah, fresh out of the garden will certainly make a difference!

                            Soil and climate make a difference too, of course, especially to how much fruit you get. Living round Cambridge, it's predictable that Cambridge Favourite will do well. :) If you're in Aberdeen or London, perhaps not so much. It's definitely worth doing a shoot out to see what works.
                             
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                            • Shaun Rimmer

                              Shaun Rimmer Apprentice Gardener

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                              Funnily enough, the actual reason I got Elsanta was because I'd had some 'ogranically grown' shop bought ones that actually tasted fabulous to me my wife and little lad, and all the cultivar advice I could glean from asking, was of course by its nature, entirely subjective. Also I do know what a difference it can make to have a well tended, organically fed plant compared to fruit grown for volume, price and longevity. For instance, my wife's name is Kath, so when she passed her degree with flying colours I bought her a 'Katie' (Katja) apple tree and created the rest of the little garden around it. Now I'm not a huge fan of supermarket/shop-bought Katie apples, but the apples off that tree blow them right out of the water ',;~}~
                               
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                              • Scrungee

                                Scrungee Well known for it

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                                I don't expect strawberries from a commercially grown variety sold in supermarkets to taste the same as those from the same variety grown in one's garden.

                                That would be like expecting eggs from garden free ranging saved ex-battery hens to still taste like the rubbish eggs they previously produced for supermarkets.
                                 
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