How to Grow Strawberries
There is nothing like eating a strawberry freshly picked from the garden. I knew when I started figuring out what I wanted to grow in my backyard that strawberries had to be on the list. So naturally one of the first things I planted was my strawberries and even though I know I won’t get any this year I am still super excited. This is how I plan to grow buckets full of strawberries in the years to come.
Types Of Strawberries
There are basically 3 different types of strawberries: June-bearing, ever-bearing, and day-neutral.
June-bearers are by far the most common type of strawberry you will see. Over two to three weeks in June they will produce large fruit, hence the name June bearing.
June-bearing strawberries are further classified into Early Season, Midseason, and Late Season. If you end up picking a June-bearing strawberry its nice to select 1 of each sub-classification so you can get strawberries all month long.
Ever-bearing strawberries don’t actually mean ever-bearing, this just refers to setting fruit twice a year. Once in spring and once in fall. They have been known to produce sometimes three times a year but this is rare. Since the plants are busy producing in the fall they will put on fewer runners.
The day-neutral name comes from the fact that they are not dependent on day length. They will continue to produce strawberries until the first frost puts them into dormancy. With that said they do generally still produce best when its a bit cooler and will not produce much during hot weather. Unlike June-bearing strawberries they can produce good yield the first year they are planted. These are great for gardeners who have limited space.
Pick the Right Variety
Since not all strawberry varieties are created equal, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the variety you are looking at. Strawberries, in general, are really easy to grow, when you get a variety that likes your climate.
In the end, it’s important to do a lot of research and ask people around your area. Personally, I ended up calling my local cooperative extension and got a list of 10. I then weeded that list down to one, I will be planting Sequoias.
Choosing Where to Grow Strawberries
To say strawberries love sunlight is an understatement. By far the most important thing you do is pick a location that gets as much sun as you can give them. There are several different factors that need to be considered when selecting a good site for your strawberries but this is by far the most important.
Strawberries much like a majority of vegetables and fruit don’t like to be waterlogged. They want you to give them constant moisture but they don’t want to sit in it. So try and find a spot that has good drainage like a sandy loam soil. If it’s not well draining you can build mounds or amend with a lot of compost.
The history of where you are planting your strawberries is important as well. If other Verticillium-susceptible plants(tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and strawberries) have grown in that spot it’s probably best to pick a different spot. Otherwise, you risk disease in the soil.
So now that you know what variety you want to grow its time to get your soil ready. For my beautiful Sequoia’s strawberries, I wanted to make sure I gave them ample drainage. My soil tends to be more clay, so drainage is always a fear of mine. A few months before I planted my strawberries I tilled the area. I then mixed in 1 cubic yard of compost and some acidifier.
Its import to make sure you have a high ratio of organic matter in the soil around your strawberries. Then I put down some cardboard and mulch to make sure that I snuffed out all the weeds and anything else that might try and compete with my strawberries.
Strawberries like slightly acidic soil, I know my soil is very alkaline. So I added half the recommended dose of acidifier to my soil.
Planting Strawberry Plants
Finally, my bare root strawberries arrived last week and I ran out into the garden and started to plant them. I would have rather planted them in the fall as they would have had more time to generate a root system but spring works.
Planting strawberries are fairly easy, I dug out a hole big enough to spread out the roots. In the bottom of the hole, I threw in some peat moss and some mild all-purpose fertilizer(5-5-5). I then placed the strawberry in the hole so that the crown is at soil level, then backfilled the hole.
Once they were in the ground I put mulch around them and gave them a deep long watering. I used the mulch I had on hand but you can use pine needles or straw. It’s just important to keep the moisture in as much as possible as strawberries hate to dry out. Pine needles would probably be best as they are slightly acidic.
One other note since I will be growing June-bearing strawberry type I will be pinching off any flowers that I see this year. I know it’s hard, trust me I want my STRAWBERRIES but if I delay my gratification now I should get buckets full next year.
Fertilizing Strawberry Plants
For June-bearing strawberries like mine its best to fertilize with a 5-5-5 fertilizer after the last harvest of the season. If you do it before it will cause soft berries. Soft berries are at a higher risk for diseases.
I also like giving cottonseed meal in addition to the 5-5-5. Cottonseed meal is slightly acidic so I find it helps keep my ph lower, while given the plants a punch of much-needed nitrogen. I will generally cut the package recommended dose of the general fertilizer in half and supplement the other half with the cottonseed meal.
Water Requirements for Growing Strawberries
Growing strawberry plants require lots of water regularly and even more when they are setting fruit. It is important however to remember that they don’t like to sit in standing water. Its a thin line to walk, but generally you can simply just check the soil by sticking your finger or other object and checking an inch down, if its dry give them water, if not wait. The most important thing is not to let their roots get to dry. They are not drought resistant. In the summer I will probably be watering every other day.