Ohio strawberry growers are borrowing a growing method from California and Florida to extend their season from May into late October.

Known as plasticulture, it involves covering the beds with black plastic to raise the soil temperature, according to a news release.

As a result, growers can harvest berries at least a month earlier than if they use traditional matted row production.

Growers begin by planting into the plastic in September, allowing the plants to grow over the winter.

The plastic keeps the soil warm and suppresses weeds.

Not only do the plants bear larger, sweeter berries, but farmers also are able to capture a larger share of the local market because the technique lengthens the growing period to four or five months.

That compares to the typical four- to five-week harvest with matted row production.

“Farmers from Lake Erie to the banks of the Ohio River are harvesting strawberries now,” Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State University Extension horticulture specialist, said in the release. “We made it through the frost and freezes last month, and the fruit quality is fantastic.”

The university is conducting plasticulture trials on a half acre at the OSU South Centers in Piketon as well as on about 100 acres scattered across about 25 farms statewide this season.

The trial includes evalulating new strawberry varieties from Florida, California, and North and South Carolina.

It also involves using row covers to protect the cold-sensitive plants during winter.