Life Cycle of Strawberry Plants
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Tiny strawberry seeds cover the outside of the fruit, and these strawberry seeds will produce plants; however, they will not be like the hybrid berry plants that give us large, juicy red berries.
Strawberries are octoploid, which means that they have eight sets of chromosomes compared to typical diploids with two sets. For this reason, the seeds do not grow true to the parent. Commercial strawberry plants are propagated asexually by runners to assure that plants are identical to the parent.
To grow strawberries, you need to set out plants. For a harvest the same year, plant them very early in the spring, when the soil is still cold. Plant them in full sun and mulch them. The strawberry plants are still dormant, and they look like strings of roots gathered into a ball at the top. The top of the plant is the "crown," which needs to be just at the soil level and not buried or it will rot. The leaves will grow directly from the crown, and so will the blossom stems and berries.
As the spring weather warms, the strawberry plants will send out lots of lush leaves. Blossoms appear in mid to late spring. Usually, several blossoms grow along one stem. New varieties of strawberries have early, midseason and late production times, and many varieties produce again in the fall or in small numbers all summer long. The plants rebloom for each round of berries.
The more completely the blooms are pollinated, the nicer the berries will be. Misshapen or stunted berries are usually due to poor pollination. Never use pesticide when the plants are blooming, or it will kill the bees and insects needed for pollination. Many organic controls such as diatomaceous earth will kill the beneficial insects along with pests.
A strawberry forms from the yellow centre of the pollinated flower. One flower makes one berry. Straw mulch or similar light mulch under the plants will keep the berries off the ground, making them less apt to have fungus or mildew problems.
Mature strawberry plants produce baby plants on runners. This keeps each new plant genetically true to its parent. After the berries, the mature plants will send out long runners that reach out from the parent plant and eventually touch the soil several inches from the crown of the parent. Baby plants develop on the tips of the runners.
When the baby plants touch the soil, they send out roots and become a new plant. Once a strong root system has grown, snip the runner to separate the new plant from the parent. You can then transplant the new plant to begin the cycle again.
Propagating runners can be an ongoing task for the home gardener, since strawberry plants generally produce for three years.
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