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Celebrate National Strawberry Day!

Plant your own crop of this state favorite

Red strawberry on plant
Nothing like growing, picking and eating your own strawberries. Now is the perfect time to plant them. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)




Get ready to celebrate a California favorite: Saturday is National Strawberry Day.

Although the exact origins of this commemoration on this particular date are unclear, Feb. 27 has been tied to strawberries for several years. Why February? In part, because of the strawberry’s red color and heart shape. It’s like a fruity Valentine.

More likely, that late February date coincides with planting time for many California growers – including Sacramento.

According to the California Strawberry Commission, our state grows 88% of the nation’s strawberries on approximately 34,000 acres. Overall, the state has about 300 strawberry farms, divided into five zones: Watsonville/Salinas, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Orange County/San Diego, and the Central Valley.

Statewide, fresh strawberry production averages 50,000 pounds per acre each season, according to the commission. In 2019, California growers harvested more than 1.8 billion pounds of strawberries.

Commercially, California strawberries are available year round. Supply peaks April through August when growers throughout much of the state are harvesting.

Strawberries continue to be immensely popular with California home gardeners, too. More than 600 varieties of strawberries are available, but some do much better in California than others. According to StrawberryPlants.org (which specializes in this crop), the state commission recommends
Albion , Aromas , Camarosa , Camino Real , Chandler , Diamante , Gaviota , Oso Grande, Pacific, Seascape , Selva and Ventana .

For Sacramento’s summer heat, a best bet is Seascape. Disease resistant, this ever-bearing strawberry yields very nice fruit year round, especially in late spring and fall. It’s tolerant of early spring heat as well as Sacramento’s hot summers, and does not need as many chill hours as other varieties.

For more on strawberries: https://strawberryplants.org/ and https://www.calstrawberry.com .

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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