One of the joys of summer time is the flavor of home grown strawberries. Growing strawberries is very easy as long as you understand the type of plant that you are trying to grow. Of all the fruit plants, strawberries are one of the easiest to grow and so rewarding. The taste of the berries makes for great summer time desserts.
Did you know that May 20 was National Pick Strawberries Day? Making strawberry desserts with berries you have grown yourself if a joy. Imagine the delight of saying “I made and AND I grew it myself” when guests taste your new strawberry cheesecake.
Tips for Growing Strawberries.Growing your own fresh strawberries is easier than you might think~ Click To Tweet
In order to know how to grow strawberries, you have to understand not only the type of plant that you have but how to care for it, where and when to plant it, and when it bears fruit. Controlling weeds and wildlife is also something that needs to be understood.
Types of Strawberry plants.
Strawberry plants come in several types:
- Summer bearing
- Ever bearing
- Day Neutral
Summer bearing strawberries (also known as June bearing) can be either early, mid or late bearing plants. They give you one large supply at one time. Many of the berries at my local farmers market are early bearing summer varieties. We get them in abundance in May but only for a few weeks. These plants are sensitive to the day length. They produce buds in the autumn, flowers in the spring the following year and runners during the summer months.
The ever-bearing plant (also known as the perpetual strawberry) is very popular because it will keep on growing for up to five years or so. They produce fruit throughout the year and can even be grown as an indoor plant in colder climates. These are a good choice if you are looking for a continuous supply of strawberries. This variety forms buds in the hot summer and short days of autumn.
Alpine strawberries have very small berries but the berries are very sweet. This makes them good for making jams and jellies.
Day Neutral strawberries do not depend on day length. They produce buds, fruits and runners all at the same time as long as the temperature is between 35 and 85 degrees. They are not as prolific in their fruit production as summer bearing plants.
Strawberries are like most other perennials. They die back in the winter and then when the soil warms in the spring, they start growing again.
When to plant strawberries.
Deciding when to plant is based on where you live. For colder zones (Zones 6 and North) strawberries are usually planted in the spring.This allows them time to be very well rooted when winter arrives so they have the best chance of doing well next year. Use row covers to protect new plantings from the extreme cold and wind. If you live in the colder zones and plant strawberries in containers, they can be moved to a cool, protect place for the colder months. (A garage works well for this purpose.)
If you live in warmer zones (Zones 7 and South) your strawberry plants can be planted in the fall. Some very southern states even grow them as cool weather annuals!
Strawberry plants will continue to produce fruit each year for about five years and then they will need to be replaced. In temperate zones just clear away mulch and weeds and let them over winter untended. If you live in cold zones, growing strawberries is more of a challenge. Treat them as an annual plant or grow them in containers and bring them inside for the winter.
Growing strawberries in all sorts of containers works well. Strawberry pots with small side areas allow for the runners to cascade over the top and be secured in the small side sections.
Because of the cascading nature of strawberries, they can also be grown in hanging baskets or other types of planters that allow for the fruit and offsets to hang below the plant. Raised garden beds also work great for planting strawberries.
Strawberries need at least 8 hours of sunlight a day to produce well. This means an open garden bed or planters that get a lot of direct sun. They don’t do well planted under trees or in north facing spots that are better suited for shade plants.
A slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8 will grow the best strawberries. If you have a high clay content or alkaline soil, container gardening may be a better choice for you. Adding organic matter is very beneficial to the plants. Raised beds are idea for strawberries. They allow for the cascading nature of the plants and are also easier to pick.
If you look at a strawberry closely, you will see what looks like seeds on the outside of the berry. These are actually the plant’s ovaries. The botanical name for them are achenes. While these seeds can be used to grow new plants, most strawberries are not grown from seeds but from runners.
Runners and Spacing
Most varieties of strawberries produce runners which form new plants at the end of them. For this reason, it is best to plant them about 18 inches apart to give the plant lots of room to spread around the crown area. Be sure to plant so that the crown is exposed to light and air. If you bury the crown, it can easily rot.
Watering and Mulching
Keep the plants watered well and mulch around them to keep the soil moist and the plants clean. Any type of mulch works. Pine straw is often used but shredded leaves and black plastic can also be used. Don’t over water. The shallow roots need moisture but don’t like to sit in a soggy soil. If you water by hand, try to keep the water off the fruit. This can cause them to rot.
The plants will begin blooming in early spring. Pollination by bees and other insects is needed before the will set fruit. Growing nectar plants nearby is a good idea to attract these insects. If you have them in a sunny location with consistently warm weather, the berries will ripen about 30 days after pollination. Pluck off the first few flowers. This will give the strawberry plant a chance to develop a stronger root system and to grow more vigorously. The first signs of fruit are small green strawberries which will grow larger and turn red.
The best times to pick strawberries is in the morning when the fruit is cool. Put the berries into the fridge. Rinse before using with cool water. Strawberries freeze well and can be used in jam. It can also be dried in a food dehydrator.
- Holes in berries. If you see holes in your strawberries as they ripen, check to see if slugs are a problem. In this case, plastic mulch helps, since slugs are attracted by normal organic mulches.
- Dark Spots. If you see these forming on leaves in the summer months, it is an indication of fungal diseases. Remove affected foliage and treat with an anti-fungal product.
- Birds. Anyone who has tried to grow strawberries knows that birds love to eat the berries. There is no easy answer for this, but covering the plants with some lightweight bird netting as the berries are starting to ripen can help.
- Small Fruit. This is often caused by a lack of water, or very hot temperatures. Increase the watering amount to help. Long periods of very high heat just need to be waited out. Once the cooler weather comes the berries will increase in size.
Strawberries can be grown from purchased plants, from seeds and can also be propagated by planting up the offsets. Growing strawberries from the babies is a fun project to do with kids to get them into gardening.
Have you tried growing strawberries? Did you get a lot of fruit?