I am an avid self-taught gardener (I learn as problems arise), bird watcher, and nature lover.
Have you been thinking about growing your own strawberries but are not sure how to develop a strawberry patch of your own? It really is not that hard. Granted, it is time consuming in the beginning, but once established, you will have a ready supply of fruit for your table and freezer. This article will show you how to prepare the soil, plant the strawberries, care for your plants while they are young and after the harvest.
Facts: Belonging to the Rosaceae family, the strawberry is a North American plant. It grew in popularity after the European setters began the strawberry trade with the Native Americans. From its simple beginning of five to six original wild species, we now have over 600 varieties of strawberries today.
The berry comes in all sizes, flavors, and in every shade of red imaginable. The larger the strawberry the more water it contains; the smaller the berry, the more intense the flavor. This fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy choice for anyone’s table. And, by the way, it also makes a great addition to any garden.
How to Prepare Your Soil for Strawberries
Mid-April to early May is the time to prepare your soil and get the strawberry plants ready to plant. Here are some helpful hints in choosing your location and getting your soil ready.
- Choosing where your strawberry bed will be located is very important. The site should have excellent drainage, have full sun exposure, with a location that warms up early in the spring. One note of caution if you live in the midwest: Spring can bring several instances of frost. Since I live In Iowa, I am always concerned about what they call the "Frost Kings." And thus, if I see the strawberries blooming, we cover the blooming flowers to protect them so they will not be destroyed by the frost.
- If your soil drains poorly, you can grow strawberries in raised beds or containers. This is what I have had to do. Since rainwater comes from the woods to the area where we have the strawberries, we have chosen to create a small raised bed. This type of raised bed, give us a workable arrangement so that the strawberries are protected from too much moisture.
- Till the planting bed to a depth of about 12 inches.
- Place plenty of compost in your bed. If you have a farmer nearby, ask for some manure to ensure the soil is rich and fertile. (The soil's pH should be slightly acidic, around 5.5 to 6.5).
- Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the roots. The width of each hole should be around five to six inches wide. Set the plant into the hole, making sure that the crown of the plant is just above the ground. (The crown is the plant’s above ground parts, which includes the stem, leaves, etc.) Cover roots completely.
Matted Method of Planting Strawberries
There are two methods used when planting strawberries. Why two different methods? It depends upon the type of strawberries you are going to plant.
For example, the June bearing strawberry would work best best with the matted method because of the plant's short bearing season.
If you use the matted method you will need to place your plants 18” apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. With this method, you let the runners develop and allow the “daughter plants” to form to about 2 feet wide. Beyond that, the plants should be removed.
Since the plants have a short bearing season, you do not need, nor should you pinch off the flowers after planting.
Watering the Young Plants
When the plants are young, they will need at least an inch of water a week. If nature does not supply this amount, you will have to give your strawberry plants the needed attention.
To help your strawberries maintain moisture, put mulch around the plant. The mulch gives you one addition bonus, it will help to keep the weed population under control.
Hill Method of Planting Strawberries
If you use the hill method you will need to set plants 12 inches apart on all sides. When runners begin to appear you will need to cut them off. Why? This will give the “Mother” plants more energy to produce fruit. Your reward will be an ample harvest for the next six or more years. (The hill method is best for ever-bearing strawberries).
If you are using the hill method for ever-bearing or day neutral plants, you will need to pinch off the flowers for the first 6 weeks after planting.
First Year Rule for Strawberry Plants
The first year rule for June strawberry plants differ from the ever-bearing plant. It comes down to if you can have a first year crop or not. Let me explain.
- First Year Rule for June Bearing Strawberry Plants
If you are planting June bearing strawberries, it is advised not to let any fruit develop during the first year. Why? Letting the strawberries form and ripen the first year can weaken the plant so much that the next year's production will be cut dramatically. Thus, when you see a blossom, you will need to pick it off.
When the second year arrives, you should have strawberries that you can eat, freeze and preserve.
- First Year For Ever-bearing Strawberry Plants
With ever-bearing strawberries you can have an opportunity to see the fruit of your labors in the first year. When you see the ever-bearing plants begin to blossom you will need to pinch off the blossoms. You will have to continue to pinch off the blossoms until midsummer of the first year. Then upon arrival of midsummer allow the plants to flower naturally. When Fall arrives, within the first year, you can begin picking them.
Getting through the first year with healthy strawberry plants takes a lot of time and love. But the thought of going out to your garden or your freezer to have some delicious strawberries will be your reward for the hard labor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What type of fertilizer should I use to plant strawberries?
Answer: Use compost. Spread a thin layer of compost over the bed, and then turn it into the soil about six inches deep.