Growing strawberries is a great way to start producing fruit from your garden. These delicious berries are easy to grow and will produce about a pint of strawberries for every plant. Choose healthy plants with a well developed, light-colored root system that shows no evidence of wilt or fungus.
All varieties of strawberries enjoy full sun and sandy loamy soil on the acidic side. Pick a spot for your bed and thoroughly work the soil by turning it over for about twelve inches with a pitchfork. Rake it out to remove clumps and cover with a good organic mulch. Continue to rake the weeds out for two or three weeks and then work in some compost before planting your strawberries. Don’t plant your strawberries near last year’s crop of tomatoes or peppers since it may expose your plants to Verticillium Wilt.
Before planting any strawberries in your garden be sure to understand that there are three main varieties. The type of strawberry will determine the best way to plant them and care for them. The three main varieties of strawberries are June-bearing, Everbearing and the Day-neutral. The June-bearing strawberry will produce one crop and aggressively send out runners to form a larger patch. The Everbearing strawberries will produce up to three distinct crops from spring through fall with each crop tending to be successively smaller, but usually only produce two crops. The Day-neutral variety will produce fruit continuously through the summer as late as October depending on the climate. June bearing varieties produce larger fruit than the Everbearing or Day-neutral varieties of strawberries. The Everbearing and Day-nuetral variety will not send out runners as aggressively as the June bearers and are more suited to a smaller space in your garden or a pot on your back patio.
Planting Your Strawberries
For your Everbearing and Day-nuetral strawberries, use the hill method to create a 2′ x 2′ mound of fresh well-drained sandy loam at least six inches with sloping sides. Plant the strawberries on top of the raised bed at six to eighteen inch spacing. Each plant should have its own hole. Lay the bare root plants in the hole and cover with soil or simply place the container grown plant in the hole after spreading the roots. Plant in the early spring and nip the buds until summer time to allow the plants root systems to develop before beginning to produce fruit. There are also some commercially available hanging gardens suited for growing strawberries in a tight space.
June bearers will send out runners so plan accordingly by planting in rows spaced about four feet apart. The plants will send out runners and start to bloom. Pinch out the blooms to stimulate the plants natural urge to propagate and spread across the fertile soil. You should encourage runners to take root by burying them and holding down with a small rock as the root forms. The first year of growth will produce no fruit, but your patience will be rewarded the following year as you enjoy a more plentiful crop. June bearers come in different varieties for early to late season, but most commonly in June.
Caring For Your Strawberries
Your strawberries should be planted in a well drained soil and will need between one to two inches of water a week. You can gauge the time between water by checking the top two or three inches of the soil. If its dry then it probably time to water. Don’t over fertilize the plants. Instead, try and use fertile soils and supplement with natural fertilizers in the spring and summer. Strawberry beds are traditionally mulched with straw but you can also use compost, grass clippings or shredded newspaper.
Cover up the strawberries with much to help protect them from harsh winter weather. Trim back the rows after the final harvest to leave some space in between rows before mulching. Once winter has passed, spread the much and uncover the crowns for the spring growing season. You can expect several years of production from your June bearers and around three years of production from the other two varieties.
Harvesting Your Strawberries
You should be able to harvest the fruit in about thirty days once the berry begins to develop. Wait until the berry is red and ripe since it will not continue to ripen once you pick them. Don’t be afraid to let your taste buds tell you when the berry is ready to pick. You’ll soon learn to judge just by looking after a few trial and error taste tests. Refrigerate the berries and leave the green caps on to keep them fresh. The berries should stay fresh for several days after you pick them. You’ll need to harvest every day or two once the plants begin to produce until the season is over.