How To Grow and Save Seed Of Strawberries
Alpine strawberries are a close relative of wild strawberries. They are a small but flavor-packed fruit. The large grocery store varieties we know today are a cross between two wild varieties, and their flavor pales in comparison. Alpine strawberries are unique in that they can be started from seed and will produce fruit in the first year. For more background, see our blog post.
Strawberries were foraged and used as a medicinal plant in ancient times, and the fruit was also considered a delicacy. By the 1300s, the French had begun digging up a local wild strawberry and transplanting it into their gardens. Europeans dabbled with crossing wild varieties and finally crossed a North American variety found in Virginia with a Chilean variety brought back to Europe by a French explorer. This accidental cross made a large garden strawberry. Through diligent back-crossing and breeding, we have the large hybrids found in the store today. Thomas Jefferson grew Alpine strawberries at Monticello.
- For Alpine strawberries, start the near-microscopic seeds indoors in early spring, about 8 weeks before the last frost.
- Ideal germination temperature is around 65 degrees.
- Make sure they get plenty of sunlight. Let them grow to about four to six inches high before transplanting.
- Set transplants outside, just after the chance of frost has passed.
Direct sowing after last frost is also an option.
Surface sow seeds.
Alpine strawberry seeds germinate in 14-45 days.
Germination temperature is 60-75 F.
- Alpine strawberries prefer a sunny location and soil that is rich in organic matter and nutrients.
- It is important to position the plants with the leaves above the ground and the roots totally covered. If the leaves are buried under soil, or if the roots are exposed, the plants will die.
- Set plants 15 inches apart; apply mulch just after planting.
- Alpine strawberries are ever-bearing, and harvest begins in the first season.
- Garden strawberries should be planted outdoors after the chance of frost has passed in spring. Place plants 14 to 18 inches apart in rows 2-2 1/2 feet apart. Garden strawberries will send out runners and become crowded and require dividing. You will need to dig some up to make room.
- The alpine types do not make runners and do not become crowded. They may be divided periodically to increase the strawberry bed.
- Garden strawberries will not bear fruit in the first year.
- Strawberries are relatively pest free.
- Keep plants mulched to avoid drying out. Drip irrigation is ideal, as damp foliage can lead to fungus.
- Be sure to avoid crowding plants, because they need good airflow.
- To save alpine and garden strawberry seed, allow the fruit to become very ripe, then mash the fruit in a bowl and wash the pulp away through successive rinsing.
- Spread seeds out on a paper plate to dry.
- Strawberries are insect pollinated, so alpine strawberries will cross between varieties. It is wise to grow just one variety at a time or isolate by at least 1⁄2 mile to prevent mixing.
- Strawberry seed will remain viable for 2 or more years when stored properly (cool, dry conditions).