By Julie Christensen
The white blossoms, bright berries and glossy, scalloped leaves of strawberry plants look anything but dangerous. Well-maintained strawberries offer no threat to other plants. But strawberries do spread through runners and may overtake your entire garden if neglected. Plant less vigorous varieties and cut them back when necessary to control growth.
Mock strawberry can’t kill plants outright, but its invasive growing habit can eventually harm surrounding plants. As it spreads through runners, or long trailing stems, it competes with other plants for water and nutrients, eventually choking them out. This ground cover resembles strawberry plants, but has smaller leaves, yellow flowers and small, inedible fruit. Grow it in a container or plant it where it can naturalize. Choose barren strawberry instead, especially if you live in an area with moist, rich soil. This plant is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture zone 4 and forms a thick mat of glossy green leaves, but it is not as aggressive as mock strawberry. Plant it in full sun or partial shade.
To control invasive mock strawberry, trim it back occasionally with a weed trimmer or lawn mower. To remove it entirely, dig it by hand or apply a nonselective herbicide in spring when new growth emerges. Follow the package directions carefully and apply the herbicide on a calm day so it doesn’t drift onto desired plants. Another option is solarization, which is the process of killing plants through heat derived from the sun. Stretch clear sheets of thin plastic over the plants in midsummer when the sun is at its hottest. Secure the plastic tightly over the soil by laying rocks around the edges. Remove the plastic after six to eight weeks.
Edible strawberries spread by runners and are mildly invasive. June-bearing types tend to spread the most vigorously. Plant strawberries in containers, such as a raised bed, or give them their own space in the garden. Strawberries benefit from a rejuvenating pruning every fall after harvest. Remove large, old plants so rows are 12 inches wide. This process ensures that strawberries don’t encroach on other plants and also improves fruit quality and yield.
When given adequate space, strawberries are a well-mannered, easy to maintain crop. Fresh strawberries are infinitely tastier than those purchased in the grocery store. Consult a county extension office for varieties well-adapted to your region. June-bearing strawberries produce one heavy crop in early summer. These types are easy to grow and produce excellent fruit. Day-neutral varieties produce high-quality berries throughout the summer, but do not tolerate high heat. Everbearing varieties also produce berries all season, but the berry quality is inferior. Plant strawberries in early spring in full sun. Remove blossoms from June-bearing berries the first year to encourage the plant to develop strong roots. The following year you’ll enjoy a bountiful harvest.