Strawberries

By October 24, 2018Cold Weather Crops

Strawberries are actually a hardy perennial herb and one of the easiest small fruits to grow in a home garden. Gardeners have grown these popular berries for centuries, starting in well-tended European gardens. Now, with so many new developments in strawberry breeding, just about anyone can plant, grow and enjoy fresh strawberries.

How to Grow Strawberries

The three main strawberry types to choose for your garden include June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral. To make the most of the strawberry season, plant some of each kind in your garden.

June-bearing

  • Flavorful and fragrant
  • Late spring frost may ruin crop
  • Plant in matted rows

Everbearing

  • Produces a spring and fall crop each season
  • Grows well in sandy soil
  • Plant in hills

Day-neutral

  • Not as hardy, but produces fruit through summer
  • Fewer strawberries overall
  • Plant in hills

Prepare

  • Select your strawberry planting site thoughtfully because it directly affects the production of the strawberry crop. Some gardeners start planning and preparing their strawberry patch the season before they plant it.
  • Make sure the area gets full sun (8 hours) a day, is well-drained (even in winter) and has some protection from the wind. Keep in mind the previous crops that were grown in that same area. To prevent soil fungal problems, avoid planting strawberries where these crops were planted in the previous 3-5 years: raspberries, cherries, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers.
  • Strawberries can be planted in the ground, but raised beds, strawberry pots or other containers also make for good planting sites.
  • Amend the soil with deeply dug organic matter like compost and well-aged manure so it will be well-drained. Strawberries can grow well in a sandy loam soil. Plan ahead for watering with a drip irrigation system or soaker hose set up.

Plant

  • After the danger of frost has passed, and as soon as soil is workable in spring, transplant strawberry plants into the garden. The two most common ways to plant strawberries is either in matted rows or on small hills.
  • For matted rows, space strawberry plants 12-24 inches apart in each row and 43 inches between rows. A solid mat of plants will fill in the space, so be sure to plan for a walkway between rows.
  • For hills, prepare small raised mounds to help with drainage. Space hills about 9-12 inches apart. Runners are typically removed so the garden is made up of separate plants.
  • No matter how you plant, be sure to plant so the roots are spread out and the crown is just above soil level to prevent the plant from either rotting or drying out.
  • Mulching with straw or other organic mulch will help keep roots from drying. Be sure to protect strawberries through the winter with added mulch (at least 1-2 inches thick)

Maintain

  • Strawberries are susceptible to a number of problems that range from root rot to slugs. Work to keep plants healthy by monitoring the amount of water they get. Watch for disease and insect problems and take action quickly.
  • Mid-summer (like early July), fertilize the strawberry crop with a high-nitrogen fertilizer and water it in. Another application of fertilizer in September will also be helpful.
  • To keep the birds from getting to your strawberries before you do, cover with netting.

Harvest

  • It’s best to pinch off flowers the first year so plants will set down roots, instead of fruit. Waiting until the second season to enjoy the fruits is difficult, but the result is healthier plants and a larger amount of strawberries.
  • For the best flavor, let strawberries mature on the plant until they’re red-ripe. Picking them too early results in smaller, less sweet fruits. Depending on the variety, strawberries may be ready to pick about 30 days from when they bloom.
  • Snip berries from the plant, leaving the stem and cap intact. Enjoy right away or store in the refrigerator.

Companion Plants

Plant strawberries with these companions:

  • Bush beans
  • Garlic
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Borage

Avoid planting strawberries near cabbage family crops, other berry crops and alfalfa fields to reduce insect pest problems.

Materials for Success

  • Drip irrigation system or soaker hose
  • High-quality compost and manure
  • Light-weight mulch
  • High-nitrogen fertilizer
  • Netting

To learn more about growing strawberries or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center. 

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