The Beatles were wrong: Strawberry fields are not forever. Local strawberry production will be ending in just a few weeks. Strawberries are a cool-season commodity; thus, hot weather will stop production.

April through early June is strawberry season in the Pee Dee and time flies, so don’t miss our strawberry season.

It is a little cooler than normal today, but don’t hold your breath because it will be back in the 90s before you know it. However, these cool days will allow flowers to mature, fruit to set, and maybe extend our strawberry season further into June. Usually it takes about 30 days from a flower to a ripe strawberry, so flowers that set now will be picked in June.

For me, strawberry season brings back memories of Dad’s garden, cool springs, and my youth. Mama loved to make cakes and pies out of the tasty fruit, but after all nine of us kids had visited the patch, not much was left. Dad’s patch produced small but tasty fruit, and it took a lot of work to get a bellyful. Glad I was young and energetic. Today the fruit is large, sometimes bigger than golf balls, but just as tasty as Dad’s.

In those days we were “isolated” in the big city of McBee, so very few pests bothered Dad’s strawberries. Today the world has become a very small place with all sharing the same problems; therefore, strawberries have become more complicated in their production. Like many, I would like to go back to those simpler days where all you had to do is plant a few strawberry plants and pick an abundance of fruit for many years.

Most strawberry production today is what we call an annual culture in which the plants are planted, grown and harvested for only one year. With this system the plants grow quickly, produce a large amount of fruit in one season, and problems (pests) are hopefully kept to a minimum. In fact, my daughter asked me this week if she should plant some strawberries — I told her about some great local strawberry growers.

One of the best parts of my job is helping the local strawberry growers produce their scrumptious crop, and of course sampling the fruit in each field is important to ensure quality fruit. In other words, this time of year I visit about 12 strawberry fields at least every two weeks and fill my belly — but I am not gaining weight. Turns out that strawberries are great for my low-carb diet.

These great fruits are sold at the farms and many satellite locations all over the Pee Dee — too many for me to list in this column. Watch out for those strawberry signs and be sure not to miss out on your share before I eat them all (ha). Also, a bucket or two of Certified S.C. strawberries would make an excellent gift for Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May), and you might get a pie or cake in return.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal-opportunity employer.

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