Have you considered planting some strawberries in your Calgary garden ?
There are new varieties of strawberries available that are very hardy in Calgary and produce a surprising amount of fruit. My father, CJ Abbott, was the first to have picked your own strawberry fields in Alberta. He started a u-pick farm back in 1975 just outside of Langdon, Alberta. We had success then, but now the new varieties of strawberries make it far easier to farm in Alberta.
Why plant a patch?
Strawberries are one on of the most nutritious fruits you can grow. You can fill your freezer with a small well-kept patch of strawberries and really reduce your grocery bill. Strawberries are a perennial of course so they keep coming back year after year. After about 3 years it is wise to replant your patch and this will increase the strawberry production as older plants don't produce as well.
Cover your patch in winter.
Strawberry plants need to be covered in winter. Sometime around the end of October, you can begin to cover your patch with a weed-free straw, leaves, or mulch. Do not cover them with plastic or anything that will prevent air flow, this could cause mildew and create rot in the springtime.
Let them run...a bit
Strawberry plants multiply by putting out shoots or runners with baby plants on them. The baby plants will root themselves anywhere they find a bit of soil. I like to grow my rows of strawberries about 3 feet wide and I train the runners to fill in the spots in a nice uniform way. After you have reached the size of row you would like, it is advisable to start trimming off the runners at the mother plant location. It is best to remove them as soon as you see them, this way they mother plant won't waste her energy creating plants and will instead create more fruit.
What about pests?
There are some pests that can be bothersome to your Calgary strawberry patch. The most irritating and damaging are birds. Starlings, Robins, and Magpies love to steal a bite or three out of your fruit. The most frustrating thing being the only take a wee peck, just enough to ruin the berry and then move on to another one. The most effective way to keep the birds out is to use netting. You can purchase netting that is so fine it's barely noticeable. Lay the netting over your plant rows and only retract the netting when it is weeding or picking time. It is not a complicated process; you simply lift one side of the netting and pick or weed and then lay it back down when you’re finished. Because birds can be very sneaky, you can consider installing some tent pegs to keep the netting down in case the odd bird sneaks underneath.
Some good strawberry varieties
Kent is a June bearing strawberry that fruits heavily in late June and early July. It bares large fruit and is a heavy producer. The Kent strawberry is very sweet and tasty and it only takes a few of them to make a handful. Tri-Star is an everbearing strawberry that bears fruit all season long. Seascape is another strawberry you should consider for its hardiness and super large fruit. Think about planting some June bearing and everbearing varieties. If you plant both varieties you will have fruit from June to October.
Good luck with your patch!
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