Picking the right varieties is a key decision for strawberry growers.
The problem is, while there are many varieties to choose from, only a small
portion of them will meet the needs of an individual farm in terms of hardiness,
yield, disease resistance, berry size, flavor, and appearance.
In northern climates with cold winter temperatures, hardiness is
a priority. Disease resistance is a priority on farms that have grown berries
for many years with limited land for rotation, or on farms that have heavy,
wetter soils. For many pick-your own farms, flavor is at the top of the
list. Wholesale growers need firm fruit. And of course, most growers want
to have berries for as long a possible over the relatively short ‘strawberry
Ultimately, you have to grow a berry variety on your own farm to
see if it has the blend of characteristics that you, and your customers,
want. It makes sense to test varieties on a small scale before making large
following views on varieties were provided by growers on the Vermont
vegetable nd berry listserv in July 2016. Note that local climate, soil
type and production practices can influence the traits described, so
performance from farm to farm may differ.
"We grow matted row. Organic. No renovating on this farm. Our
early berry has been Sable, no longer available after this season’s pick, so trying
Wendy and Galletta for next year. Mid-season is Cavendish; love it. Still
picking second week of July. It can get a bit dark in color and uneven ripening
but yield, flavor and how long you can pick it for are fantastic; great big
berries too! Jewel is next to ripen. Nice color, size and yield. Good flavor.
Some leaf disease. Can be a bit vigorous plant growth during growth year.
Valley Sunset comes after Jewel. Our third year growing it; a tad light in
color, but yield and flavor are excellent for being so late. Holds nice big
size for at least 4 picks. Malawina is last to ripen. Not the best yield, but
super color and flavor and two weeks after anything else is being picked it’s
"We use spaced matted row system on raised beds. Certified
organic production. All the following show some resistance to leaf spot and
root diseases. Wendy- my favorite early with better yield than Earliglow and
excellent flavor. Cavendish- old warhorse, a favorite for quantity of large,
excellent flavored berries. Long harvest season, from early mid to late season.
The irregular ripening (white shoulders and sides) late in the season doesn't
bother PYO customers who taste them. Flavorfest- we've grown these for two
years now. Large, shiny, unusual fruity flavor that many customers love but
causes some to move on; mid-season. Rubicon- low yield, great flavor, large.
Low yield will remove them from our line-up. Sparkle- late mid-season,
comparatively small with short shelf life but incomparably wonderful flavor. If
you prune runners you can get the size up. The only berry PYO customers ask for
by name, we have to keep growing it. What we use for jam and freezing. Jewel- beautiful,
shiny berry, late mid-season. The best, along with early Cavendish, for
wholesale to stores because it has great shelf life and appearance. Also great
flavor. Monterey - my favorite for hoop house production. Best yield and flavor
of the everbearers we have tried. We don't grow any true late varieties because
TPB builds up over the season making very late berries unmarketable. Besides,
after early July, customers seem to want to move on to blueberries and other
"We use organic matted row production.Standards for us last few years...Sable-
early, delicious, size decreases quickly. we pick 2 or 3 times and then allow
PYO. Despite small size later it is very popular because of excellent taste.
Bad news, our supplier will no longer offer it for sale, and we have not found
an alternative nursery. Cavendish- early mid, great taste and yields. Keeps
going and going. Only real drawback is it can be very dark if not picked on
time. Still a great fruit at that stage, but its dark color freaks some
uneducated people out. Too bad for them, it rocks! Jewel- mid. Super good taste
and usually decent yields. We sometimes have trouble with it not holding size
in later pickings. Thin skin has exploded on us in very rainy Junes. Have been
enjoying later varieties Valley Sunset and Malwina. Both have great taste and
seemingly decent yields for such a late fruit. Both really help us get to 4-5
or more weeks total matted row harvest. Will be planting a greater proportion
of these in future seasons. Wendy seems only likely sub for Sable. tasty, but
more susceptible to disease as far as we can tell. Past few years have been
trying ...Flavorfest- just after Cavendish. Powerful tangy taste. Some love it,
some don’t prefer it, but it is beautiful and flavorful and initial yields have
been great. Rubicon- similar time to Flavorfest. like the taste a lot, but it
came off the plants fairly small right from the get go for us. Sonata- good all
around, but nothing special as far as potentially replacing our standards. This
is our first year trying day neutrals under Dubois low tunnels with plastic
mulch beds. So far a lot of work and expense for special hoops and hand planting,
but feedback from growers who have toiled with them has been all positive if
you have direct markets so margins can stay positive. We just started picking
about 10th of July from mid-May planting. Plants look great. Two
biggest challenges will be to manage insects and fertility organically over a
potential 3 month fruiting season."
"We use fall planted plug plug production: Clery and Jewel from Nova
Fruit with drip on 4' plastic, mulched through the winter with straw and pushed
with row cover in the spring. Production
was down on both this year. Both Clery and jewel can be picked on the orange
side without a lot of white tips. Leaf
spot has been an issue when we try and cary them over for a second year."
"May planted bare root on 4' plastic with drip and runners removed
throughout the season. Mulched through winter with straw. All from Nourse Farm.
Galleta had a hard time over the winter. Berry is a little round and seemed to
be hit hard by tarnish plant bug. Production was not good. Clancy also had a
hard time coming out of winter, slow to ripen berries with frustrating white
tips, almost overripe when fully red. Production not good compared to Cabot
which we were trying it instead of. Cavendish may have been the most productive
variety this season with good flavor. Large king berries, lots of medium to
small berries over a two-week period. Weird half white ripening where the berry
sometimes doesn't ripen on a side or shoulder even though the rest of the berry
is ripe to over ripe. Jewel: beautiful, delicious berry with acceptable production.
Okay through the winter. AC Valley: Huge orange king berries, not bad tarnish
plant bug damage this year, have lost a lot of it in the past, very soft skin a
lot of berries got damaged by some heavy rain. Not great flavor. Record: They
all seem to come at once for one great week of picking. Beautiful berries,
acceptable but not remarkable flavor. Malwina: hasn't even ripped yet, 10th
"We grow in conventional matted row." In a good year like this, all the
varieties look good, mostly. But unlike 30 years ago, the market is being
driven by the California berry, for both consumers and produces. Old varieties
with dark color--Sparkle, Bounty, Del Marvel are on the outs. People are
looking for the more orangey large conical fruit like they see in the
clamshells at in February. We have had perfectly good fruit turned away at the
stores because it was off color. So we have moved into varieties that mimic
what people are used to the rest of the year. Leaf spot resistance is also
important for us. Wendy: we tried this Jameson introduction for some years, but
ultimately went back to Annapolis, for the same season. Annapolis is early,
good flavor but a tad soft, like Darroyal (which is a bit more prone to leaf
spot.) Production of both is adequate and dependable but they are in the mix
because they are early. Cavendish is still a workhorse and tasty and we don’t
experience the "ghostberry" ripening as much as other growers have
said. Lamour is a really attractive fruit and can be very aromatic, but in some
years can be a bit of a shy producer. Tried Sonata this year and it was ok, we
will give it a few more years before we decide whether to keep it. We are on
new ground so we are back in the Cabot business. It has great size and flavor
if ripened, fills that post-Cavendish niche and we are having better luck
renovating it. This year they were cranking in the second year bed and really
contributed along with the Valley Sunsets for July 4th sales. Valley Sunset is
currently our late berry. It tends to be a bit soft, but is a handsome berry
with great flavor and productivity in the late season. Have tried Record,
Mayflower- they were dogs- and will have some Malwinas fruiting next year and
am hearing great things about them from a couple of growers who have fruited
"We have been using matted row but last year tried
plasticulture. We tried row cover as winter mulch but most was shredded by deer
and now lives in the trees around the farm. Neighbors not impressed and the
plasticulture yields were really low - especially in spots where the remay
disappeared. We are sticking with matted row for next year but may try
plasticulture in the future using normal mulch over the plants! We also have
never sprayed any fungicide, insecticide or herbicide, this year was our first
success with renovation, and disease pressure was the least we have ever had. I
think the renovation did better since we fertilized well with 8-2-2 Kreher’s.
Weed pressure is unrelenting however. Earliglow - great taste but we have discontinued
due to low productivity. AC Wendy - great flavored early berry, this year they
did great, but in the past the plants have always looked less healthy than
other varieties with more leaf disease. They did better after renovation than
the year after first being planted. Honeyoye -
This is our healthiest, most productive variety. It runners like crazy and we end up spending
a lot of time cutting them back. Flavor is not that great until they are dark,
dark red. and they seem to be as
susceptible to grey mold as any varieties. But they are our best and longest
producing variety and keep the PYO customers happy/busy. Jewel - these taste
great and do almost as good for us as the Honeyoye, not quite as high a yield,
larger king berry, excellent flavor.
They runner a bit less robustly and did not do as well with rennovation.
Sparkle - great flavor, but small and very mushy berries, the green top tends
to pop off when picked. OK for PYO
though lower yielding than other varieties, terrible for us to pick and sell
since they are small and mushy and hard to get to market intact. We have discontinued them as well."
"We grow on matted rows and mulch with straw. Sparkle- tastes
the sweetest, is late, vigorous grower, small berries tend to be soft, customer
favorite. Cavendish- tastes very good, firmer, med. early, white tips, good
yields. Cabot-HUGE berries, taste ok, can get sunscald, easy to pick.
Annapolis- early, good taste, low yields. Jewel-even red color, good taste,
good yields, good size. This has been a low yield and short strawberry season
here in Barnet. I think no snow and a dry spring, as well as heavy cedar
waxwing pressure are to blame. Flash tape and scare eye balloons used to work
"We converted to organic production about 10 years ago. While
we seemed to be managing TPB adequate, this year it really nailed us. I had
gone back to a boom sprayer so as to avoid spreading leaf spot with a mist
blower. I don’t think I am getting great coverage compared to the mist blower. This
was our 23rd picking season and every year I think I know less about growing
strawberries than I use to. The challenges continue. We plant every year with
matted row. For PYO matted row is great. The plasticulture with crowns is
promising but we still don’t match the production of a good matted row. We have
continued with Cavendish, Jewel and Cabot and a bit of Valley Sunset. Cavendish
continues to be incredibly productive and has excellent size over the whole
season. It comes early enough for us that we are not using much Wendy anymore.
Jewel is a great berry The one main drawback is that it seems to be more
susceptible to leafspot. We primarily have Mycospharella leaf spot. We have
been trying to manage it with one or two copper sprays early in the season. A
great berry for PYO and wholesaling.
Jewel seemed to have less issues than our other varieties. My favorite
variety for flavor. Cabot has done well planting it close and on plastic. PYO
customers really like it. It is a bit haphazard in its shape so tend to not
rely on it for wholesaling. Seems to do
well as crowns planted on plastic. Valley Sunset is nice for the late, although
we often don’t manage the TPB well on the late variety. I seem to stop spraying
once the PYO season starts and the TPB finds this variety. It sure is nice to
have large berries late in the season. Not all that wild about the flavor."
"We are conventional growing in matted row. Wendy: early good yield,
size, ok color and flavor. Plants can be a little weak and prone to leaf
diseases. Daroyal is a strong growing plant. It is Honeoye season. Color is
similar to Honeoye but flavor is much more acceptable. Yield and size is good.
Older plantings can get to thick and picking speed is slow. Honeoye is still
our friend; it yields very well and loves our soil. This strawberry makes the
best jam. Customers need to hear this. Market this variety’s zesty flavor. We
all know Honeoye is too dark and if over-ripe has that metallic flavor.
Cavendish: the king berries are beautiful, flavor among the best but after the
second pick the un-even coloring shows us any ugly appearing berry. Galletta:
first year with this one. Seemed like a low yield. Quality was ok, flavor
excellent. Jewel: we grow the most acreage of this variety. It responds well to
good care and the best of conditions. Lots of straw helps keep the berries
clean. When this fruit touches the soil they often rot. Early applications of
the right fungicides are very helpful here in Vermont. Jewel picks with ease.
The color is the best. The flavor is the best if the nights are cool and the
days are sunny. In 2016 we did well with Jewel. In 2015 a heavy shot of rain in
early July turned the Jewel to mush. Valley Sunset ripens after Jewel. It takes
the strong thunderstorms much better than Jewel. Yield is down, berries are
softer. This variety likes space and good conditions. A heavier soil will make
it later. Mayflower: takes wet conditions quite well. Flavor is ok, color is
excellent. Picking speed is moderate because it hides its fruit. Seems like
good disease resistance. Yield is half of Jewel. Malwina: very late. Color is
dark, flavor good, size ok, yields are often low. This variety is so late that
I keep separate from early varieties. It needs to be sprayed to control
tarnished plant bug and maybe SWD. Runner production is slow with Malwina. Lots
of strange things about this variety. I need to learn how to grow it."
"Generally I use plasticulture with spring planted bare root
plants. Certified Organic. #1: Jewel. Pros: Great taste, Firm enough for wholesaling
(but not too firm), strong plants that are not particularly disease prone,
winter hardy, king berry is good size, but not too big. Con: Fruit after the
king berry on the cluster isn't nearly as big, as a result maybe not the
highest yield, but haven't directly measured that. #2 Wendy: Pros: Good taste,
consistently good sized berries on the cluster, good firmness but not too firm.
#3: still working on that."
"We grow in a plasticulture system using organic methods.
Strawberries seem to be more challenging as of late due to our increasingly wet
Junes. Flavorfest was our new mid-season standout. It had consistent size,
minimum leaf spot issues, relatively long fruiting period and as the name
suggests, good flavor. Our dogs this year were Wendy due to the fruits overly
soft skin and susceptibility to anthracnose and Cabot whose cracking, splitting
over all hollowness are problematic for organic production."
"I use organic matted row. Tried Flavorfest for the first
time. and am not impressed. The plants overwintered and filled in the row well.
The problem was that the bloom was scanty. The flower clusters were buried
under dense foliage, making them hard to reach with sprays. Nice flavor, but
poor yield. I had a crummy strawberry year.
The Cabot variety looked like it shrank in the drier. Just a miniature
version of itself. I attribute this to lack of snow cover. I also had Jewel.
This is not a good variety for me, as it blooms late enough that I find it
impossible to keep the TPB off them. I never had a lot, only about 1 nymph per
cluster. This was enough to ruin the crop. Sprayed a lot of Pyganic, which did
nothing. I am going to start over. I have had poor results with fall planting.
This attempt with a spring planting did no better. I have to get a very early
bloom to beat the TPB, as no spray works."
"Sable proved to be the best yielder two years running in
trials Dave Handley did in Maine. I gave it a try when I lived in Maine, and
now in New Hampshire it fills a large portion of our PYO field. Sable has the
best overall flavor of all varieties. It combines the best qualities of
Earliglow and Sparkle. It is sweet, very fruity, and with very little
tartness. Of course, taste favorites are
different among people. Some people like sour, crunchy berries. Sable is an
early berry, but the picking season is pretty long. Sable does drop off in size
quite quickly, but the berries do not get tiny, only small. That could be a
problem for some. Just as Dave found
in his trials, the overall yield for us is among the best of the varieties we
grow (Jewel, Honeyoe, Cavendish, Sparkle, and about a half dozen others). The
problem with Sable is that for some reason none of the nurseries in the US seem
to carry it. Please tell me if you can find it anywhere. We have to get it from
G.W. Allen in Nova Scotia and it is expensive to get the paper work to bring it
across the border."
"I'm a first year grower, so here are my inexperienced
observations. July planted bare-root berries on plastic. Covered through winter
with two layers row cover. Wendy- good yields but I lost a bunch of berries to
frost. Honeoye- great producer, leaf disease resistant. Jewel- sucked. Had
about 50% winter loss. Cabot-strange gnarly un-sellable king berries, but the
rest of the berries were great. Flavor of all was great!"
"I follow organic practices using matted row. I've been
alternating between Cavendish and Sparkle. Putting in about 400 plants per
year, keeping the plantings producing for 2 to 3 years. Not having tried
growing other varieties it's difficult to compare. but yields seem very good,
timing of both seems to be mid-season, color looks nice. Both taste very sweet,
Sparkle more so. But the Sparkle are small, which was fine when I was only
growing them for pick-your-own but we ended up also harvesting them for sale
this year -- of course, everyone loved them. I've twice had cyclamen mites turn
up in plantings of Cavendish -- but I'm not sure if that's anything to do with
the variety itself or just luck of what got shipped to me. The goats are equally
happy to renovate either variety. Plants, in general, have stayed very healthy."
For additional strawberry variety information, see: