I recently saw something new in the Miller Nursery catalogue, a company in Canandaigua NY that specializes in fruit. In the strawberry section, they had a class of strawberries I hadn’t heard of – day-neutral.
In doing some research I learned that day-neutral strawberries produce three harvests throughout the year: spring, mid-summer and fall. The day-neutral varieties Tristar and Tribute are said to have a high quality berry that maintains its size throughout the season. The thought of picking fresh strawberries in September was something I couldn’t resist so I placed my order for 25 day-neutral strawberry plants.
The term “day-neutral” has to do with a phenomenon called photoperiodism. Photoperiodism is simply a response of a plant to day-length. Actually it’s the number of hours of darkness that really matter but scientists didn’t know this when photoperiodism was discovered. As a result, we have short or long-day plants even though they’re really long and short-night plants!
Long-day plants like black eyed susans (Rudbeckia) only blossom in the summer when the days are long. Chrysanthemums are short-day plants that blossom in the fall when the days are shorter. A day-neutral plant such as the petunia is unaffected by day-length – it blossoms in spring, summer and fall. And sometimes different varieties of the same plant have different photoperiodism reactions. There are long-day, short-day and day-neutral onions and the where you live determines the varieties that you can grow.
Standard June bearing strawberries are short-day plants. While the blossoms appear in the spring, they form within the plant in the fall when the days are short. The blossoming of day-neutral strawberries is not dependent on the length of the day. Because of this, they can produce blossoms anytime during the year which makes three harvests possible.
The day-neutral plants just arrived today. I’m looking forward to planting them this week. While any early blossoms will have to be removed to allow the plants to establish themselves, there should be a summer and fall harvest this year. Here’s to fresh strawberries in September!