Unlike June-bearing strawberries that produce a burst of fruit for 3 to 4 weeks starting in mid-late June, day-neutral strawberries continue producing new flowers and fruit throughout the season. They will produce fruit as long as temperatures stay between 4 and 30 degrees C, with production tapering off toward the end of the season.
Unlike June-bearing strawberries, day-neutral varieties are meant to be grown as annuals, meaning they are re-planted each year just like vegetable plants. For vegetable gardeners, container gardeners, or those renting community plots, this is a good thing.
How do day-neutrals compare to June-bearing strawberries in terms of yield and flavor?
Day-neutral strawberries typically produce more berries than June-bearing strawberries. University of Minnesota research published in 2016 found that six day-neutral varieties yielded consistently higher than June-bearing strawberries over the season, and added 14 weeks of production.
Growers of day-neutrals may expect between one-half to one pound of fruit per plant over the whole season. However, lower yields can occur, particularly for gardeners new to this crop.
How many plants to grow
The number of plants to grow depends on how many berries you can eat, and how much space you have in your garden. In a 6ft by 4ft raised bed you can fit exactly 12 plants.
If each plant produces one pound of fruit, 25 plants would produce 25 pounds of fruit under ideal growing conditions. Realistic yields may be slightly less when factoring in normal stresses (rabbits, deer, insects, diseases, soil problems).
Assuming your plants produce fruit from mid-July until early October (12-13 weeks) it would be reasonable to expect 1.0-1.5 pound of fruit per week if you purchase 25 plants, with yields decreasing in September. If that sounds like too much fruit, consider splitting a plant order with a fellow gardener.
Caring for your day-neutral strawberries
It is important to plant as early as possible in the spring. Snow or light frost will not hurt the plants. Irrigation will help the plants get off to a good start and establish an excellent stand. Set plants with roots straight down. CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN THAT PLANTS ARE SET WITH THE CROWN EVEN WITH THE TOP OF THE GROUND. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!
Grow day-neutral strawberries on landscape fabric, white or black plastic, or straw. Researchers have found that growing day-neutral strawberries on raised rows with black plastic achieved higher yields and larger berries than when planted on straw mulch.
While gardeners are welcome to replicate the plastic matted row setup used by commercial growers, a more feasible substitute may be landscape fabric. I do not recommend growing strawberries directly on soil, in order to keep the berries clean and reduce disease.
Commercial growers usually grow day-neutrals under clear plastic “low tunnels” to further extend the growing season, but this is an optional step. This setup may keep out deer, but will not prevent small mammals or insects pests unless it is very well sealed on all sides.
Since the berries touch the ground while growing, it is especially important to plant strawberries in an area with good drainage that does not flood. Growing in raised beds or containers helps with water drainage in wet areas.
Plants should be spaced no closer than one foot apart on each side. Therefore, a 6ft by 4ft raised bed can comfortably fit two or three rows, each containing six plants. Planting too closely can cause smaller berries, soil nutrient stress and lower yield per plant.
Removing Flowers and Runners
Blossoms should be removed from the plants for about the first four weeks after planting, or until late June. After that point, stop removing the flowers and allow the fruit to form. Runners are not needed, and they take energy away from fruit production. So remove runners as needed.