Not All Strawberries Are Created Equal
As the years have gone by, we’ve learned so much about gardening and growing a wide variety of produce. Growing your own food is an amazing activity and we continuously research possibilities of what can be grown in an Aerospring. We’ve tried strawberries in Singapore before, both from plant, runners and seed and while they bloomed, they hardly fruited and were always a disappointment. We always boiled it down to the heat; figures of course, strawberries being a cold climate fruit.
As spring nears, nurseries across the temperate climate world will be stocked with strawberry seedlings or plants for the growing season. The varieties on offer can be endless and somewhat confusing. It’s important to note that there are three main types of strawberries: June-bearing, Everbearing and Day-neutral. Generally, the first two types are the main kinds grown for large volume or commercial production of strawberries. They are plump, sweet and typically perfectly “strawberry shaped”. Day-neutral varieties produce smaller fruit, lower yields, and fewer runners than June-bearers.
If you are planting strawberries from seed, it is important not to choose a June-bearing type. These will only vigorously fruit in the second year, and you’re even supposed to remove blooms in the first year to encourage healthy root systems and runners. It is best to buy these plants from a nursery to start your garden but always ensure it is bug free before inserting into an Aerospring Indoor!
Everbearing and Day-neutral types are more suitable to be grown from seed, but it is also important to note that Everbearing types require more than 12 hours of day-length and the right temperatures to be triggered to set fruit. This is probably why we have never been able to get strawberry seeds planted from the supermarket to fruit.
Day-neutral types are not influenced by day length, fruit in the first year after seeding and set fruit throughout the grow. So last year we gave strawberries another whirl and seeded Tarpan F1 strawberries in the new, chilly nursery. There was much chortling in the office about growing “Alpine Strawberries” in the tropics. The seedlings progressed after a few months, were inserted in an Aerospring, and left to grow. It seemed inconceivable but as long as the air conditioner ran 25-26C for 12 hours a day, we had 27 strawberries blooming in the Aerospring Indoor.
Then we had to “be the bee” and pollinate. Unless every single flower was pollinated by hand, there would be no fruit. And while the fruit didn’t resemble the Driscoll’s fat and plump kind of strawberry, it looked and smelled the part all the same, and tasted delicious! The Aerospring strawberry pole provided much delight to customers and staff so we’re bringing it back with a new variety called Elan F1.
For those interested in growing them you shouldn’t expect miracles – there’s been no outdoor grow testing of Alpine strawberries in Singapore. Botanical science generally says strawberries pack up beyond 30C. If they survive, they’ll struggle to flower and fruit in such heat.
While we can all agree that there are more productive plants to grow in the Aerospring, taking a slight deviation and experimenting with other plants is fun. It’s always exciting to see what happens next when you grow a new type of plant for the first time.
Nadine – Nursery Director, Aerospring Hydroponics