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Blackwelder column: Strawberry season in full bloom

One of the great joys of spring is the arrival of fresh, local strawberries.
As unusual as the weather may be, growers have again survived late frosts and excessive heat, producing another beautiful strawberry crop.
Berries are now at their peak, with many available as pick-your-own or already picked. Ripe berries can be found at he local Salisbury Farmer’s Market, local satellite stands or at the growers farms.
Strawberries are a fat-free food high in vitamin C and a significant source of fiber in the diet. A serving of strawberries contains more vitamin C than a medium orange. They are also high in antioxidants, ranking third in these substances out of all fruits and vegetables tested. Frozen strawberries retain all the nutritional benefits of fresh strawberries.
Rowan strawberry producers grow pre-chilled berry plants on black plastic with drip irrigation. Even though strawberries are perennials, these plants are treated as annuals.
Using black plastic and drip irrigation provides cleaner and earlier berries, eliminating waste in irrigation and fertilization practices. After the growing season is over, plants are removed and the raised beds and plastic can be used to grow other crops until the fall.
Some strawberry producers are now using Global Positioning Satellite systems (GPS system) in their strawberry production practices. This system uses satellite technology to correctly apply nutrients in deficient areas, reducing over-fertilization. This system not only saves money from over-application, but helps save our environment.
With all the new innovations available, growers still have to overcome unseasonable temperatures, diseases and insects, not to mention fickle customers.
These are just a few variables growers must conquer before producing an abundant crop. Growers have to muster all the skills and technology available for a crop and may still have a marginal crop. Fortunately, Rowan producers have the skills to produce wonderful crops under less than perfect conditions.
More information about strawberries, including recipes for jam, can be found at http://www.ncstrawberry.com/
Where to find berries
Miller Produce Pick Your Own: Weaver Road, 704-855-3858 or 704-202-5591.
Eagle and Sons Produce Pick Your Own: Old Mocksville Road, 704-647-0063.
Patterson Farms Inc. Pick Your Own: Caldwell Road, 704-797-0013.
Twin Oaks Farm, 704-857-9429.
Wetmore Farms, Woodleaf, 704-278-2028.
Be sure to call ahead to make sure fields are open.

Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at 704-216-8970.

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