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Strawberries from seed ... should you try? Have you tried?

You can grow strawberries from seed, but is it worth the effort? To find out, we tried it ourselves.

The only large-fruited variety offered as seed is 'Sweetheart', and its catalog description is tempting: "Great big ever-bearing strawberries with real berry flavor . . . 120 days from sowing to first fruit." Who could resist, especially when a packet of 50 seeds, for less than $2, would result in a whole strawberry bed? Our test seeds were planted in March. After a month, seedlings were spaced evenly in a seed pan to grow into sturdy transplants with several leaves. These wre moved into a wooden planting box (1 foot wide, 5 feet long, and 1 foot deep) containing a commercial planting mix.

With routine watering and feeding, the plants grew rapidly and produced numerous vigorous offsets on long runners. But the few flowers that formed yielded only a few tiny, misshapen fruits.

A year later, we lifted one sturdy, well-rooted runner plantlet of 'Sweetheart' and set it in a similar box alongside six plants of 'Sequoia', purchased at a nursery. The photograph above, taken three months later, shows the striking superiority of 'Sequoia'.

Horticulturists have been breeding strawberries for nearly 200 years; as a result, the genetic makeup of the fruit is complex. Seedlings are almost certain to be a mixed lot. Moreover, breeding has been so finely tuned to specific growing areas that only varieties bred for a given area are likely to thrive and fruit there.

If you want to run your own experiment, plant seeds now in most areas. Where late frosts are common or where the soil is still cold, sow seed indoors and move plants outside at the three- or four-leaf stage.

If any reader has had notable success with 'Sweetheart', we would like to hear about it. Send your success stories to Strawberry Report, Sunset Magazine, 80 Willow Rd., Menlo Park, Calif. 94025. We will be happy to share good news and good advice. In the meantime, if you wish to grow strawberries from seed, try the runnerless alpine kind--a different species entirely. 'Baron Solemacher' is a good choice and sure cropper.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1985
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