Strawberries are easy to grow, even in northeast Oregon, if you follow a few simple rules.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Strawberries are among the plants recommended by both Wallowa county Nursery and Alder Slope Nursery, as a good bet for Wallowa county gardens. Strawberries are a no brainer for both beginning and experienced gardeners and you’ll find our local nurseries stocked with them.

Plants should be put in the ground as soon as possible as long as root systems in the pot are well developed. Strawberries have better yield and larger fruit with increased pollination from bees, so keeping a bee-friendly garden is a good idea.

Before buying plants, considerwhat type of strawberry you want: June-bearing (also known as short day), everbearing or day-neutral. Local nurseries can provide good advice here. As the name implies June-bearing plants produce berries primarily in June; everbearing give two main crops in early summer and fall with few in between; and day-neutral yield all summer except sometimes when temperatures reach 85 degrees to 90 degrees, depending on the cultivar.

Plant in full sun for best production. Build a raised bed 12 inches high by tilling in organic material, preferably compost, but anything is better than nothing.

There are two ways to plant strawberries – the matted-row and hill systems. Matted-row is preferred for June-bearers and hill for day-neutral and everbearers. To make a matted-row planting, place berries 12 to 15 inches apart in 2-foot-wide rows with beds 3 to 4 feet apart. The runners, which root and make new plants, will fill in the rest of the space and result in a dense planting. As the runners grow outside of the bed, push them back into the bed where they’ll make new plants.

In the hill system keep plants 12 to 15 inches apart alternating in double- or triple-wide rows. Aisles should be 1½ to 2 feet wide. Cut off all runners every two to three weeks. It’s best to wait until runners have formed “daughter” plants but have not rooted. This will give you one large plant in each spot instead of the daughters produced in the matted-row system.

Use a balanced fertilizer with the three numbers (percent nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) on the front label equal or close to equal – 16-16-16, for example. Don’t be dismayed if strawberries don’t bear much the first year. Plants will produce a full crop the next year and two to four seasons after that before production dwindles.

To get maximum yield, never let plants be stressed by lack of water. Keep newly set strawberries well irrigated with about 1 to 1½ inches of water a week. Don’t saturate the soil – strawberries dislike wet feet. Let the soil dry out to the touch (up to the first knuckle) before watering down to 6 to 8 inches.

Strawberries are susceptible to verticillium wilt so it’s a good idea to rotate beds periodically, especially for day-neutrals. Spotted wing drosophila can be a pest; the best control is to keep your beds clean. Pick berries regularly, try to avoid a wet environment and keep runners pruned. The natural pesticide spinosad, sold under various brands, is one of the best treatments if they do get started on your fruit.

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