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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 March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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