Yes, as Matt noted for me the Earliglow were the taste winner, although Jewel was pretty close as well. I planted them beside my driveway in an area where I had previously had grass, planting Earliglow down one side of the strip and Jewel down the other. I was very careful to get all the grass out and then augmented my clay soil with some peat moss and manure. Both varieties grew great, had some berries the first year and runnered extensively, so my 25X of each became probably 200 plants in a 30x4ish area. The second year (last year) we picked about a 15-20 or more quarts, with my wife doing the majority of the picking. At first a hoard of chipmunks and birds were getting most of them, but eventually the crop exceeded what they could eat. If I had protected them I’m sure we would have gotten a more.
With the runnering they are pretty much intermingled now, although I can tell the earliglow fruit visually since it is a bit longer, often with a taper toward the stem intsead of the flatter, heart shape of the Jewels. My hope was to get a longer harvest from the bed by having both, which seems to be working although I think they really are pretty close in their timing. Maybe next time I’d just go with Earliglow, but overall I’m happy with both.
The nice thing was because I had stripped the grass out carefully and we don’t have a lot of weed seed, they cover the area enough to shade most weeds out so it is pretty low maintenance. I had also put down woodchips, so between that and the dense plants it was pretty much just a nice ground cover. Last summer though, was really dry and I didn’t had any fertilizer so we didn’t have as much runnering and the plants were a bit tired by the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how they do this year. I’m also not actively managing them, so I’m not tracking what are old plants and what are new so I expect at some point I’ll need to just harvest a bunch of runners and strip everything else out and plant the runners to refresh the bed. I have Carmine Jewel and Crimson Passion planted in a row down the middle of this bed and so far they are growing well with the competition from the Strawberries so that is part of the experiment as well. If I was just doing a single bed that wasn’t in my front yard, I might go with black plastic or at least more actively managing them to keep refreshing them.
In another area I have a large patch of Mara, which do have great taste, but they don’t get the big shot of early morning sun, so they stay damper and there is more fungusing and slug issues. That, plus the fact that they don’t have the big harvest all at once like the June bearing, means that they don’t really get past the production level where the chipmunks and birds get most and where they are set out in my front yard would make protecting them difficult and not so attractive. I’ll probably pull them this year and just keep a smaller patch in a raised bed and see how that goes. Overall, for me, I think the June bearing are just a better fit to make the most of my efforts. But having a nice pot of Maras on the patio or growing them in a protected area in the gutters or other ways is probably well worth it for their flavor and having an occasional treat. @Matt_in_Maryland, how did the Maras I gave you do in your garden?
I also have some of the Ozark Beauties, but that was a much smaller patch that gets less sun, so perhaps not a great comparison. I got these before the Maras since I wanted something that gave me fruit beyond June, but they haven’t been very productive were they are and truthfully, the taste has never come close to the others. That might be the result of the sun, but I’ve read some pretty luke warm reviews of them over time so I think I’d suggest skipping them. But location definitely makes a difference for Strawberries, so plan for getting them good sun and keeping them off the ground or at least in an area they want be as likely to fungus up.