I just published and released a report on two years worth of trials on the potential productivity of selected Fragaria vesca varieties. You can find it on the the shopping cart with an explanation of what is included in the report and other pertinent information. Released 2/1/2011.
On December 26, 2010 Nature Genetics published a monumental research effort. This work is awesome. I can’t say that I have read the whole article yet and have to admit that what I have read is difficult for me to understand. I did take college genetics, biochemistry and lots of biology classes. But, this work goes way beyond what most of us can comprehend. Check it out for yourself using the following link:
It think it’s a great idea to use the now current technology to bring flavor back to the strawberry, even if it sacrifices some of the size. My one hope is that scientists can restrain themselves in creating GMO strawberries and ruining the wild strawberries (another post discusses this.
I get asked this questions almost daily and sometimes more than once a day. I’m going to post a recent reply that I sent a customer when they asked if they have to worry about cross pollination between multiple varieties of alpine strawberries that they purchased and others asked if the alpines will cross pollinate with garden variety hybrids. It also applied to other species of strawberries like musks and virginia strawberries. All strawberries are in the genus Fragaria. Alpines are the species vesca; Musks are species moschata; virginia strawberries are species virginiana. Garden hybrids are species X (mean cross) ananassa.
Alpine strawberries are self pollinating aided by wind and insects. Mixed alpine varieties will cross. There is no getting around that unless each variety is isolated from the other. Isolation can be done with physical isolation (space between beds) or caging of each variety to eliminate cross pollination due to wind and insects. If one is saving seed and wants it to be true to the cultivar (variety) then isolation is a must.
The crossing doesn’t effect the flavor of the current crop of berries. What you will find in a mixed planting over time is that unpicked berries will fall to the ground and reseed. The seed from these berries is a genetic mix and may result in a varieties with new characteristics including runnering, different colored fruit, even different plant growth habits, etc. There is no way to predict what will result.
Many years ago I had a half barrel of ‘Rugen’ and a half barrel of ‘Yellow Wonder’ next to each other. In the third year I started noticing white berries in the barrel that should have had reds. It took a while to figure out what had happened. I initially thought the reds had reverted if there is such a thing. Some scientist, huh?
Usually, by the time this mixing happens the plants are overcrowded and ready for renovation. The soil is exhausted and little organic matter remains in the container. Renovation usually is done by dividing the plants and replanting into the same or other beds. The need for renovation depends largely on how well the bed was maintained. If most fruit is picked then there will be less “genetic contamination”.
As an extra point, crossing between species is not common for most species in nature. You don’t have to worry about alpines crossing with garden hybrids or wild plants of another species. Of course, there is always the chance that this would occur so it’s best to isolate from other species if you want absolutely no crossing. On the plus side, if you like to play the lottery, the cross between species could be the next million dollar variety!
I received great plants.Ã‚Â Was a little worried at first because theÃ‚Â box looked like it’d been dropped and broken open in shipment.Ã‚Â ButÃ‚Â all the plants arrived (the day after you shipped, as it turns out),Ã‚Â and they recovered quickly and now look very healthy.Ã‚Â Most alreadyÃ‚Â have a few blooms.
Customer from Texas
I wanted to make a comment or two about production that one can expect from different sized transplants. A few days ago I posted pictures of starter plants and quick starts. There is a huge difference in size, right? What does this mean for production.
Obviously, if you transplanted a starter plant and a quick start on the same day there would be a big difference in production. The starter plant likely has 1-2 more months before it will produce the first flower. Sometimes, later in the spring season, starter plants are starting to flower. But, a starter plant doesn’t have enough of a base, roots, and plant size to support much fruit.
Quick Starts are usually in bloom or have bloomed already when they are shipped. By have bloomed I mean that quick starts shipped in the fall and winter were blooming the past fall. Once they start growing again they will flower fairly quickly.
So, how much production can one expect from the two sizes. I have “eyeballed” some of the trials I have conducted over the last several years and will make some VERY general observations. If both sizes are planted in the spring, the Quick Start will produce more than twice the number of fruit that the starter plant will produce. And, the size of the fruit from the Quick Start will be substantially larger.
Starter plants are an economical way to get started growing alpines. You will get fruit the first season. If you live in a northern area with a short growing season you won’t get a lot of fruit. Farther south with a longer growing season and the possibility of getting a fall crop, you will get more fruit.
Quick Starts planted in the spring will be in a position the following year to produce nearly a full crop. If planted in the fall, quick starts can produce a fairly decent crop the next spring.
I’m sorry that this is not more clear, but that’s what happens when one is generalizing. Make comments if you need further explanation.
This is a large topic so it may have to be added in a couple of posts. I’ll get as far as I can today.
Let’s be clear right away. What I’m going to talk about here are non-runnering alpine strawberries. These plants are ever-bearing, but one more attribute about them, they are day-neutral. That means that they will bloom when conditions are favorable (correct temperature, moisture, nutrition, etc) irregardless of day length. They do not require a chilling period like the runnering alpine varieties.
First, let’s set aside some misconceptions. I’ve been growing and testing alpine strawberry varieties for over 20 years. There are some that believe that all red alpines are really the same variety. The varieties are actually selections that have been made through the years. They are not hybrids and are not gmo.They are open-pollinated varieties and produce true from seed although division can also be used to propagate them.
Still others believe that the yellows and whites are the same variety. I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that each variety is distinct. I have seen it in production trials. I have seen it in germination tests. Each variety that I carry is unique. Yes, they have similarities but they are NOT the same.
Second, let’s jump into productivity misconceptions. Many references online and even in print tend to say the same thing. They usually start out saying that alpines make good border plants and are cute little things that don’t produce enough fruit to warrant being in the garden. It is usually recommended by these authors that the plants are very cute along the sidewalk planted 6″ apart. They go on to paint the picture that you will be drawn to the plants by the aroma that they produce.
About the only part of this that’s true is about the aroma. It’s unmistakable once you’ve discovered where that strong aroma is coming from. You can then let your nose point you toward the alpine patch. Yes, they are partially correct in saying that they aren’t productive. They won’t produce much if they’re planted that close together. They’re kind of being set up for failure.
My thesis in entomology school was about the innate capacity of the green cloverworm, a very obscure “pest” of soybeans in the midwest. Enough about that. What I want to emphasize is the innate capacity part. What this basically means is that if you remove all the factors that negatively influence a characteristic – in this case productivity – then that’s the innate capacity.
For a number of years I’ve grown alpines in large containers including half barrels. It doesn’t take a plant long to fill a barrel. And, with the right conditions, nutrition, light, moisture, etc you’ll get a lot of fruit. I’m one of those people who has to quantify things. I finally decided about 4 years ago to take a look at the innate capacity for production of alpine strawberries. I laid out the following plan.
- I chose a single plant each of 8 varieties that were grown from seed at about the same date – within a couple of weeks of each other
- These plants were well over a year old when they were transplanted to a large raised bed that had been amended with mushroom soil
- The plants were planted 18 – 20 inches apart in the bed in a single row. The row faced the morning and mid day sun with no shaddows. In the mid afternoon the bed is shaded which is great for strawberries – they don’t like the heat!
- Bird netting was used over the row at all times. The netting was pulled back only when picking
- The trial actually started when the plants were about two years old. They were huge plants that measured 18 or more inches in diameter.
- For the spring only, fruit was picked every two days or so. If adverse weather was predicted the fruit was picked more often. The number of fruit picked was recorded per plant and the fruit was weighed in grams with a fairly accurate portable scale
- since I was looking at the potential for production, no effort was made to grade the fruit. every berry was included in the counts and the weights
The results of this trial have not been published so I’ll give some general information here. ‘Alexandria’ and ‘Yellow Wonder’ were the two top producing varieties. Statistically they produced the “same” amount of fruit. These two varieties produced nearly 450 berries each and the total weight of these berries was 0.9 lb. That’s a LOT of fruit. And, this was the spring season only. Studies setup on 2009 will follow multiple plants for each of 12 varieties for multiple seasons so we’ll try to get a handle on this.
So, don’t believe it if you read that alpines are cute little, unproductive plants. Further proof of this is that fruit is being imported into the U.S. almost daily from Europe. The Europeans don’t make a fuss about it and you don’t hear much about it unless you dine at a top French restaurant. These plants, yes, some of the same varieties that I have worked with all these years, are the same ones being grown overseas and shipped here. European growers wouldn’t be wasting their time picking from unproductive plants, would they?
The next planned post – why should I plant multiple varieties of alpines? See ya then …..
Hi. My name is Mike Wellik. I have several websites including this one for The Strawberry Store. I have to admit that I also have a couple of blogs out there, none of which I followed up on or spent a lot of time on. They kind of get lost out there in the virtual world … partially because the passwords and urls are not easy to remember. I WILL work at this one and spend the time needed to get it going.
There are a lot of forums/blogs/sitesÃ‚Â out there about strawberries. There are a few about gourmet fruit. I haven’t seen one that I liked or trusted about gourmet strawberries. Much of the information is heresay or is based on repeating what someone else said. I want this blog to be different. Here is what I would like to ask.
First, this blog is about gourmet strawberries. To define that I mean any strawberries from the following genus/species – Fragaria vesca, F. moschata (musks) and F. virginiana (virginia strawberry). I will also include F. X ananassa ‘Mara des Bois’. There are more but that’s a good place to start. Please try to limit discussions to this list. It doesn’t hurt to mention other species and hybrids but this is not the place for long discussions about these others.
If you have experience with gourmet strawberries then contribute. If you don’t, listen and ask questions. I don’t want to see misinformation propagated here. I see it often. I was on a garden forum recently. Someone was going on and on about alpines and how difficult they are to grow from seed. The said negative things about the supplier of the seeeds. I hope that others were not discouraged by what this person was saying. It wasn’t easy for that one person but that’s not to say that someone else should just give up before starting.
So, let’s get started. I’m going to start with alpines by staring a couple of discussions. Please join in. Contribute. Ask questions. Let’s go …..