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HomeTechnology & ScienceHere's why Ontario's strawberry season seems to be getting longer

Here’s why Ontario’s strawberry season seems to be getting longer

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Have you noticed that strawberry season in Ontario is longer than you might remember as a kid? There’s a reason for that, and it has to do with the varieties of strawberries used and the way they’re grown.

Strawberry season has begun in Ontario, and for some farmers, it will continue until October, and in some cases, beyond that. 

“Growers use a combination of early, mid, and late season June-bearing varieties that typically produce berries from early June to mid-July,” Connie Osborne,  a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), said in an email statement, offering some examples of growing methods and varieties used.

“Growers will use row covers in the spring to advance the crop on some fields, by increasing the temperature and protecting the crops from frost, to extend the season.”

“Day-neutral strawberries form flower buds under any day length, and flower and fruit continuously through the season. They are grown on plastic mulch and will produce a crop the year they are planted, beginning from mid-July and continuing until October,” she added.

Osborne explained that growing can continue beyond that when done in greenhouses, and using “vertically farmed strawberries.”

“With technology and research advancements producers can control the environment, such as incorporating misting systems for optimal humidity and temperature as well as using ultraviolet-C (UV-C) lights for management of pests such as powdery mildew,” she said. 

“These advancements allow people to enjoy Ontario strawberries throughout winter as well.”

Strawberry season was once a few weeks long. Now it can last for months. (David Donnelly/CBC)

This expanded strawberry season is something that Will Heeman of Heeman’s strawberry farm in Thorndale, Ont. has noticed, and contributes to.

“When I was as old as my son is now, strawberry season was three weeks in a bad year and five weeks in a good year and now we pick strawberries for about five months.” 

“So we’ve certainly changed and had some things adjusted to be able to kind of have a more consistent crop where people don’t have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it strawberry season.”

They’re using three different varieties in order to produce berries until October or even November. 

“You’re always trying to find a new variety, and so we have some that are early and we have some that are really late,” he said.

Different varieties, same season

Murray Martin of Martin’s Strawberry Farm in Wallenstein, Ont. said that they haven’t extended their strawberry season over the 12 years that he’s been in charge of what was his wife’s family farm. They farm other things so they limit this particular season.

“It is possible to extend it with varieties, but we’re not interested,” he explained, adding their strawberry season is about six weeks long. 

What has changed is the varieties that they farm. Right now, they’re using five kinds in total that help them carry the strawberry season from June through most of July. 

“We’ve been switching varieties,” he said. “We’re kind of trying to find the ones we prefer.”

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