By Megan Shoop
Strawberries not only complement chocolate, kiwi and yogurt, they provide a significant amount of nutrients and vitamins. These sweet, heart-shaped fruits propagate through cloning, though they’re usually started from seed.
Growing and farming strawberries can be tricky, but with the right technique you’ll have a beautiful crop each spring.
Pull the green caps from three or four fresh, ripe strawberries. The strawberries should be firm and free of mold and soft spots.
Toss your strawberries into a blender with a cup of water. Pulse the blender on low until the strawberries are liquefied. Open the blender and skim off all the seeds floating on the top of the water; these seeds are bad and will not germinate.
Pour the remaining mixture through a sieve, salvaging all of the seeds from the bottom of the blender. These seeds are likely good and should germinate. Spread them out on a paper towel to dry overnight.
Place your dry strawberry seeds between layers of paper towels in an airtight container. Slip the container into your freezer for about eight weeks. This simulates a cold winter and signals the seeds to germinate. Remove them from the freezer and let them warm to room temperature.
Mix about 3 cups of peat moss with 1 cup of mature compost. Fill a seed flat about ¾ full using this ratio. Sprinkle the strawberry seeds on top and cover them with ¼ inch of peat and compost mixture. Water with about 3 cups of water; strawberries love moisture but hate standing pools of water. Let the plants grow three true leaves before transplanting.
Wait until the soil in your garden warms in mid-spring to transplant your strawberry seedlings outdoors. Dig a 3-by-3-inch hole for each strawberry seedling. Plant them about 4 inches apart. Mulch around the base of each with about 2 inches of your peat-compost mixture. Water each plant with about 2 cups of water every three days.
Wait for your strawberries to send out red, vine-like runners. These runners have bumps, or nodes, that will grow into clone strawberries. Feed the parent plants heavily, allowing the runners to propagate. When the runners root and sprouts grow to about 3 inches, snip the runner from the parent plant. This ensures your strawberries taste sweet.