A few weeks ago a friend told me her favorite local strawberry grower, “Sally Strawberry” was going out of business and selling off frozen strawberry crowns bulk-ordered from a commercial nursery. Within minutes I was emailing Sally to place an order. Besides being a great bargain, this was also a unique opportunity to get the popular and very tasty ‘Chandler’ variety that’s difficult to find at the retail level, especially at this time of year.
Around here gardeners usually buy strawberry starters at garden centers in late winter/early spring, but for our Northern California climate, Sally believes this is the worst possible planting strategy. She says plants bought at this time are freshly dug and will grow, but only have limited fruit production. Instead, she recommends using a summer planting system and transplanting in early September.
So last Friday I prepped my berry beds with fresh compost and drove out to Sally’s stand to pick up my order. I had never seen frozen strawberry crowns before, but they reminded me of bare root trees–gnarly, dried up root balls that looked like something to be tossed out with the yard waste. Within days of planting them though all the crowns already had their first set of vibrant green leaves opening and expanding. Nature is so amazing.
According to Sally, in our area the Chandler berries will blossom in
March and ripen in late April or early May. They should produce for
about 5 weeks (until mid June) and then again in August through early September. The question now is how I’m going to wait a seven or eight months to taste the results! I’ve actually had pretty decent crops of strawberries the past few years (using the conventional spring planting method) so I’m very excited to see what I’ll be able to achieve with this new variety and planting system. Looking forward to lots of spring strawberry desserts and more of my delicious sun-dried strawberry preserves.
(Photo taken in July of this summer’s crop.)