Is there a way to get strawberry plants to produce the biggest berries as possible for that variety?
Does it pay to thin out the berries or is there something I can feed them?
Big vigorous plants lead to big fruit. You need plants that are not crowded with lots of fertilizer and water. But be aware that this is the recipe for big, beautiful, tasteless fruit. At least with some fruits. I'm not sure strawberries are this way, but probably are to some extent. Last yr, due to overwatering, I had the biggest, reddest, most beautiful nectarines you have ever seen. They were totally worthless for eating. No sweetness at all. This yr they are 2/3 the size, kinda russeted, and fabulous tasting. I'll take good taste any day.
But don't let me discouage you. Strawberries may do fine with lots of water and fertilizer. It's worth a try once. I think keeping the plants fairly thin will help without hurting flavor. The system of planting thru plastic will allow you to keep the plants thin and help avoid rot which may increase with lots of water and nitrogen.
Be careful not to use too much fertilizer. My mother did that one year and the plants were huge, I mean HUGE! I thought for sure she would have the biggest strawberries ever, but the result was a very small, disappointing crop. The following year she did not fertilize at all and had a very good crop of strawberries. I later read that if you over fertilize strawberries, the plant will spend too much of its effort growing foilage instead of fruit. I wish we knew that before! Someone I work with said he knew someone who had the same problem when over fertilizing with some things in their garden, but did not specify which plants.
I would never use nitrogen fertilizers on strawberry plants. As Todd observes, that is a recipe for big leafy plants with very few strawberries.
Just let your plants grow up and produce the strawberries they are capable of in your climate. Don't try to push the envelope for larger berries. It won't work.
Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA
The berry plants I had, before the ones I got from you, are the ones I'm looking at.
No fertilizer, but the plants themselves have gotten huge! There's tons of berries, but most of the berries are staying really small. What's odd is that on a given plant, it might have 2 or 3 normal sized berries, but the rest are about the size of a nickel. And because there's so many berries per plant, I was thinking that if I thin the berries, I might get less, but larger berries. I was also thinking that adding something like Potash or Epsom salt might help them grow larger berries. I do know I don't need any more Nitrogen.
You can remove most or all runners. This is supposed to especially work with everbearing varieties that tend to produce small berries.
I think adding a variety of strawberry that produces big berries from genetics alone might be what you need. I've got about 70 plants going right now with plenty of flowers. Just have to protect them from the birds!
It's my everbearers that are really producing small berries now. The others seem to be normal other then all my strawberry plants looking more like bushes because they're all growing like mad.
I got some strawberry plants from Don last year. I can't remember the exact name of them, but they are Gurney's Giants or something. They're in a separate bed and doing really well. The berries on them look to be huge, at least compared to the other strawberries I've been growing.
This summer, when they stop producing, I'm going to take some of the Gurney's plants and mix them into my other everbearing bed. I'm just thinking that, next year, I might think there's something really wrong with my berry patch when I see giant berries hear and there with miniature berries all around. :)
I've got some
The berries you got at my place are Gurney's Whoppers. They are still sold by that nursery. As I explained at the time, they grow very large, especially in the first flush, but have a fair number of misshapen berries. They are also sweet, as in an absence of acidity, but I thought they had a weak, washed-out taste, as did my spouse. We did freeze a few, but they are really too soft for freezing and don't have much character when they are thawed.
Now they are completely gone from my garden, and good riddance as far as I am concerned. But if it turns out you like them, I am very glad they found a good home.
If you mix Gurney's Whopper in with other berries, the Whoppers will quickly overwhelm them. Whopper is an extremely vigorous grower and spreader.
Don Yellman, Great Falls, vA
All my strawberries are now turning on. The berries I thought were mini and getting larger as they ripen and those Whoppers, I got from you, are getting HUGE.
Never have I seen strawberries as large as the Whoppers. They're getting so large, as they ripen, they look like mutant berries. I can't wait to try them.
I couldn't wait to try one of the Whoppers so I pick one a bit early.
You are 100% correct that this berry is not tart, but it wasn't sweet either.
Do I need to make sure that the berries are super ripe for sweetness?
As I told you when you dug those plants out, the Gurney's Whopper strawberry doesn't have much flavor. It is sweet in the sense that it is low acid, and thus not sour, but it was very watery tasting to us. That's why I was getting rid of it.
If you want flavor, plant Earliglow.
While visiting my daughter in Oregon a couple of weeks ago I met a friend of hers who was part of a crew of a commercial strawberry grower that was removing the flowers from the first flush of the plants. In coastal California where there is a large strawberry industry I have never heard of this labor intensive practice and wonder about its purpose. Al
My experiences differ from several of the opinions expressed in this tread and I provide those experiences with no intention challenging those of others, just to indicate that they differ.
First, with respect to berry size, I have grown a variety called Chandlers for 6-8 years and have gotten what I consider to be quite large and very tasty berries that are firm, and freeze very well. These are not the monsters I have seen recently in the grocery store, but many of the berries are very large.
With respect to nitrogen use: When I first planted berries I checked many of the Extension web sites from universities on the East coast. Virtually all had suggestions aimed at commercial producers using a "plasticulture" method of production and all recommended regular application of nitrogen fertilizer from around the first of April (mid-Atlantic) until either blooming or production ended. I do the former with nitrogen delivered in the irrigation in an amount recommended either by NC or VA (I forget) after conversion from an amount they give per acre to my measly 250 or so plants. The result has been good sized and healthy plants to be sure and I admit I would be happier if they ran a lot less. But I also have received what I think, at least, is very reasonable production with the highest recorded of about 1.2 quarts per plant, but with an average more like 0.9 quarts per plant. This may set no records but neither do I think it would fairly labeled as "all plants, no berries".
I am also having a tough time getting the size of berries that I would like. The flavor of the berries is far superior to those hard ones that you buy in stores that are raised for shipping not for the best taste. I tried the Gurney Whoppers but would not recommend them for our area. The plants not only turned yellow, they turned almost white due to our alkaline soil here in SE Idaho. The alkalinity fixes the iron in the soil and iron loving plants do not do well. I put on lots of sulfur but it did not help. The plants died but I did not feel badly about it.