Hudson Valley Strawberry Picking + A Lesson in Strawberry Propagation

{early bloomers, 'florence' cultivar}

I’ll be the first to admit I still have a lot to learn about gardening. It would help to read up on the truths learned from the gardeners that have gone before me, but it's much more fun (and memorable) to learn as I go, successes and failures alike well-earned.

My first garden trials began around the age of 6. That was the year that the strawberry plants that crept up under the fence from our neighbor's yard stopped producing fruit. It was one of the great tragedies of my childhood.

I had no idea what caused this misfortune to my budding farmstead, but this I knew, we would have strawberries again. One truth guided me: each fruit has a seed from which it came. So, I started collecting the tiny strawberry seeds from our Saturday shortcakes and planting them —  plus whole berries and bitten off caps for good measure—all over the yard. I guess I was never destined to uncover the great mysteries of science. When they never grew, I cut my losses and started planting peach pits instead.


Last weekend, when I admired our neighbors Cal and Mary's new hanging strawberry plants, they offered us their runners. I accepted enthusiastically. Though, it dawned on me, I still didn’t really know a lick about propagating strawberries. You don't buy strawberry seeds in the stores like radishes and carrots. I did know that once you have an established plant, growing strawberries is pretty easy. One plant quickly sends out runners and multiplies into three or four, proved by my hearty patch of fragaria vesca (alpine strawberries) in our city plot that started with just two tiny plants several years ago. So creating our own prolific patch from a few runners upstate, I assumed, was easy as easy as strawberry pie. Throw those babies into some soil and poof, fresh berries all summer long. 

Before I had a chance to read up on my latest agricultural theory, Cal brought over 10 leggy runners.
I habitually put herb cuttings from my garden, like basil, and chocolate mint, in big Ball jars of water on the counter until they grow roots, then give them or replant the rooted offspring in the soil to great success. I assumed the strawberry runners would work the same way. They looked healthy and robust, so I tossed them into an enamel tub with water to soak while I did some reading.

Imaging my disappointment when I read (on the BBC Gardening Guide, a trusted source) that to propagate a strawberry plant, you must first plant the runners in a pot or the ground while still attached to the mother plant. Then, when the offspring have hearty roots and new growth, cut them from the mother and transplant.


Undeterred, I left the runners in their tub with water over the week while we headed back to the city. When we returned, the runners all had 1/2 to 1-inch roots growing into the water and new, healthy leaves. There's hope for them yet. We planted them in the soil that day, and I promise to report my findings back here (and to the BBC).

Since we won't expect them to fruit until next summer, we were thrilled when G's friend Ruby and her parents invited us to go strawberry picking at Kelder's Farm, part way between our house and theirs.

{josh + ruby, kelder's farm, route 209}

There's plenty of u-pick farms in Duchess and Ulster counties, a perfectly drivable distance from the city for folks who want to taste strawberries straight from the vine. And I highly recommend you do. This four quart bushel below, picked by our budding homesteader (with lots of help from mamma) was mostly gone in a day, piled on top of whole wheat waffles for breakfast, stirred into Greek yogurt with a sprinkling of brown sugar for dessert and eaten up by the handful every hour in between.

{greta, kelder's farm, route 209}

Don't miss out. Go forth, and pick. Here's where: 

Route 209
Kerhonkson, NY 12446
(845) 626-7137
Farm market, U-pick Produce

5100 Rt. 209
Accord, NY 12404
Apple Grower, Roadside Stand, Cider

Oh, and by the way. strawberry plants only produce fruit for about 5 years. If yours stop producing fruit one day, don't go planting peach pits (that doesn't work either). Let those runners run and give new life to your patch.

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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.