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Old March 28, 2007   #1
feldon30
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Default Houston Strawberries

There is a very interesting article written by TAMU about growing strawberries in South Texas. It is written with a smarmy but useful style which nails some of the important issues that hold so many people back.

Most of the strawberry plants one finds at the local stores are Everbearing (some call them Neverbearing). These varieties generally produce just a few small, malformed berries throughout the Houston heat and humidity. I have sought out (unsuccessfully) Junebearing varieties which are supposed to do well in Houston but have rarely seen them at local nurseries.

After growing some of these Quinault "everbearing" strawberry plants in containers with poor results, I got "serious" about it and purchased 25 Chandler strawberry plants over the Internet last fall. I received the bare-root plants in mid-October and after keeping them alive for a couple of days with frequent sprays of water, I carefully planted them in well-amended (4 bags of composted manure, peat, bark, etc.), somewhat acidic soil.

I took great pains to get the crowns at exactly the right height. If the plants are planted too deep, the crown will rot. Too shallow and the crown will dry out. And if the roots are not planted perfectly straight down but instead the roots form a "J" shape at the bottom of the hole, the plants will be stunted. Suffice it to say it took me over an hour to plant these 25 plants. Over the season I only lost 2 plants.

In January, we had a few warm days which triggered blossoming, but I pinched those off. I covered the plants with blankets during some of the worst weather over December and January. It looks like I have been rewarded for my efforts:


Click for Larger Size



Click for Larger Size


Right now I am getting 1-2 strawberries per day, but that should ramp up to enough for making my own strawberry topping for pancakes.

So the question is, will I keep the plants around? Some people let them grow daughter plants and let 1 daughter plant take root to replace each parent plant. Others rip the plants out and order new ones. The shipping cost would make this prohibitive for me. I think it is more likely that I will arrange a trip to Austin and go to a pick-your-own farm for $2.50 a pound and no entry fee.

A fun experiment I may or may not repeat. In the same square footage, blackberries and raspberries are far more productive.
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Old March 28, 2007   #2
tomakers
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Feldon,
It is easy to get the daughter plants to take off and you can let more than one grow from a mother. From your pictures I can see that you could grow them a bit closer together and probably get 35 to 40 plants in there. Will they make it through the Houston summer if you do it? Do you want to devote the space to them? As you can already see they need constant care. I haven't grown them for years now but, we used to till under the mothers after the daughters had set their roots and then let grandaughters take over in the tilled space. If you fertilize (organic or not) you can get a lot of strawberries out of a small space.
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Old March 29, 2007   #3
feldon30
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I did add 4 bags of composted manure, plus a good dosage of 14-14-14 fertilizer to that 4' x 8' area, so it should be pretty rich soil. It is well-draining soil.

Yeah, I could probably plant a bit more intensively. Perhaps 4 rows with some staggering of plants.

Thanks for your advice!
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Old March 29, 2007   #4
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How do the Chandlers taste?
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Old March 31, 2007   #5
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Default $2.50 a pound to pick?

I don't have any advice for growing strawberries in Texas. Sounds like you have done the right things. But honest to goodness, $2.50 a pound to pick 'em yourself at a farm? Wow! Expensive! And do you normally pay an entry fee to pick whatever may be growing?

If you're ever here in western Oregon's Willamette Valley in late May through the rest of the summer, look in the classifieds for berry farms. Strawberries in late May if the spring is warm enough, through June. Then raspberries, tayberries, marionberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc. until the end of season. If the summer works out right, there may be a few strawberries again in September, but they will be expensive.

Quinault was I think developed in Washington State. At least it is a place name in Washington, and I think also a native American tribe name. I had no idea it was so widely distributed.

Have you seen an everbearing called Tri-Star? I understand more people have had good luck with it, although I have had better luck with the June bearing.

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Old March 31, 2007   #6
feldon30
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Kings Orchard is $3.25/lb and are west of Magnolia, TX
The Strawberry Patch is $2/lb in Wharton, TX (35mi S.W. of Sugar Land)
Sweet Berry Farm is $2.25/lb in Marble Falls, TX (50mi W. of Austin)

What I am finding is that Junebearing and Everbearing are interchangeable in Houston, as you will only get 1 good crop out of any strawberry plant grown in Houston. Spring is the wrong time to plant -- try September or early October.

I have to say I am very underwhelmed by the flavor of Chandler. It is giving me roughly the production of Quinault but with much less flavor. Chandler in my garden tastes faintly of a wild raspberry if that can be believed. Certainly not the bold strawberry flavor I've had before both in Texas at the H-E-B when it opened on Fountainview @ Westheimer and also strawberries I've had in France.

My frustration with Quinault is, I believe, because I bought plants when they typically become available -- in March. The plants should be well-established in slightly acidic soil and producing fruit at that point, not being transplanted. My plants desperately tried to produce fruit all summer and fall, but it was just tiny misshapen fruit caused by the intense heat.

Also I have multiple crowns of Quinault right next to each other which is a big no-no. As a result, they are fighting each other rather than producing berries. The few plants that I separated out are the ones giving me production.

I would like to try Tri-Star as I have heard good things about it too, but again I would order bare-root plants in September. I'm pretty sure I'm going to rip the Chandlers out when they are done producing. I am now getting 3-4 strawberries a day out of both Quinaults and Chandlers but one has a good flavor and the other doesn't.

I am seriously thinking of putting something else in that bed other than strawberries or perhaps moving my tomatoes in my 4' x 8' bed to another bed and turning that bed into a blackberry patch. Blackberries that are given good care will produce far more fruit in the same garden space.

Last edited by feldon30; March 31, 2007 at 04:32 PM.
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Old March 31, 2007   #7
maryinoregon
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Default stawberry discussion, continued

I'm no expert on strawberries, but I leave them in the ground year round. And it freezes here in the winter too, but not deeply. It doesn't often get lower than 30 F. I'm not sure what the local farmers do.

Have you called the Cooperative Extension Service and asked them about favored varieties for Houston, or maybe gone to a good garden store? But maybe it isn't cost efficient to offer plants.

I wouldn't blame you if you yank all the strawberries and plant something else. Good luck whatever you decide.

Strawberries almost anywhere they grow them, pick them yourself for maybe $5.00 a bucket. Prices may have gone up for this year. I'll know in a few months.

Last edited by maryinoregon; March 31, 2007 at 04:55 PM. Reason: clarification
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Old March 31, 2007   #8
feldon30
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I might contact my C.E.S. and see what varieties they recommend. I'm sure they'll say Quinault and Sequoia though.
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Old March 31, 2007   #9
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I have found that strawberries like most other berries taste the best grown in poor well drained soil with very little water.
The ones at the store are horrible just like the melons.
We grew all kinds of berries in MO and OK and we never replanted they just froze back and in spring they came back up.
They were the sweetest strawberries I have ever had.
Houston is just to wet for a good berry.
One would do best if they planted them in a strait sandy loam soil so the excess water can drain away.
A good cactus mix might even do well!!!!
The best berries around here are found in rocky lime stone soil on hill sides.
(((Growing right along with the cactus.))))
In Alaska the darn things can take over the whole yard like a weed, so I wouldn’t worry about freezing.

Remember those berry farms grow for productivity not flavor so you wont find the best berries there.
A good strawberry will taste almost like sugar if they are left to ripen on the plant.
The store bought ones are picked green or just blushing for shipment.
They contain no starch so they WILL NOT make any more sugar or get sweeter after picked.
A final note, I would think that the lack of flavor is from too much water not the variety that is grown.

Just like a watermelon or cantaloupe.
As if you can’t tell, I’m real ticked off at the fruit that is in the store, most folks don’t even no what the real thing really tastes like or what it is supposed to be like ripe.

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Old April 17, 2007   #10
feldon30
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Because of the repeated cool spells, both my Chandler (Junebearing) and Quinault (Everbearing) are still cranking out berries. The flavor of the Chandler has improved since we have not had much rain lately. Still, I like the Quinault better between the two. Also, the Chandler is showing susceptibility to fruit Anthracnose, so I should have been spraying with Daconil more often.

I am thinking that I will rip out the Chandler and, this fall, I will plant Quinault in September, mowing down all the leaves, and treat it as a Junebearing variety. Or maybe try another variety like Allstar.
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Old June 30, 2017   #11
HoustonHeat
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Feldon

What is your latest strawberry advice? I am new to gardening and looking into making a strawberry pipe/tower or hanging gutter on fence. The pipe I can move to shaded area during harsh heat. I have read the following varieties are good for our area 'Sunrise,' 'Chandler,' 'Sequoia' and 'Tioga, but did not see Quinault listed probably because its an everbearing. It appears you were not happy with Chandler?
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