HG: Homegrown Column March 28, 2009

We are planning to redo our strawberry bed this spring because we want to replace June-bearing plants with an ever-bearing variety.
Can you recommend a variety that will be ever-bearing in our location (elevation 5,300 feet)? I am of the opinion that altitude, latitude and temperature all have an affect on the ever-bearing qualities of strawberries.
For this or other reasons we have had difficulty finding a good ever-bearing variety.
Thanks for your help.
— Norman

There are three main groups of strawberries available to you: June-bearers, ever-bearers or day-neutrals.

June-bearers fruit over several weeks in the spring, usually in June. June-bearers tend to bear heavier crops than the other types of strawberry and are the best choice for making jams and jellies since they set large crops of berries that ripen at the same time.

However, June-bearing strawberries are not as cold hardy as the other types and are sometimes damaged or lost because of low wintertime temperatures.

Ever-bearers generally produce two main crops (spring and fall), but yield less overall than a single spring crop from a June-bearer. Ever-bearers produce fewer runners and are considered hardier than June-bearers.

The first two groups of strawberries set flower buds in response to a particular day length.
Day-neutral strawberries are able to flower and fruit under any day length conditions.

Theoretically, they will produce fruit from spring through fall with several peaks during the season.

However, temperatures above 70 degrees will inhibit flower bud formation. As it gets hotter around here, production will slow and usually stop for a month or so during the heart of summer. You can increase production in the summer by shading your plants.

Day-neutrals generally form fewer runners than June-bearers but more than ever-bearers.

Being a bit higher in elevation should help with your strawberry production since you’ll be a bit cooler.

Two varieties I’ve seen around are Quinault, an ever-bearer, and Eversweet, a day-neutral.

I am looking for suggestions for a fast-growing shade tree. I have been reading about royal empress and the hybrid poplar. Would either one of those be a good choice?
Thank you!
— Martha

Probably the fastest-growing tree I can give you would be a hybrid poplar. We generally call them cottonwoods.

This group of trees forms an upright oval when they’re young, becoming rounded to spreading with age. You can typically expect them to grow 3–5 feet per year or even more. I saw one cottonwood grow 10 feet in a single growing season

These trees are typically cottonless, but they’re not exactly trouble-free. The price you pay for fast growth is increased insect and disease susceptibility, shallow and aggressive roots, messiness and weak branching.

However, cottonwoods seem to have fewer problems than the other fast guys, so it may be worth the cost.

Empress tree isn’t all that common around here. I’ve been leery of their cold tolerance, but I have seen some nice big trees in Fruita,  so maybe I’m just overly cautious.

They will grow fast, probably not quite as fast as the cottonwood, and they do have beautiful flowers early in the spring that are a bright lavender purple borne at the tips of the branches.

Unfortunately, they often fail to bloom well because they set their flower buds the prior year (the buds look like bunches of olives at the tip of the branches) and those buds can be killed by our cold winters.

Even without the flowers, I think the tree is worth considering. It has huge, fuzzy, heart-shaped leaves that lend a tropical feel to the yard.

This tree can be difficult to find, so call around or you may have to start with a small one you can get online.

Another possible choice is a mulberry. Though it’s not quite as fast-growing as a cottonwood, it still hums along.

It’s more strongly branched than the cottonwood, but it can have problems with borers. To prevent that problem, keep the tree as happy and healthy as you know how to make it. You might also consider some preventative spraying every spring.

Boxelder also grows pretty quickly. A variety called Sensation has a nice red fall color. This variety also is reportedly seedless, so you’ll avoid the nuisance of box elder bugs bugging you.

There are hybrid varieties of elms you might look at. Consider the variety Frontier.

This one actually stays a bit smaller but still grows 2 to 4 feet a year.

There are larger varieties out there, but I like Frontier because it’s supposed to be seedless.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliff
gardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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