Strawberries are an easy to grow fruit crop that will reward the home gardener with ample harvests for many years. They bear juicy, red fruit that nearly everyone loves and are pretty easy to manage.
If you don’t have space for a garden, you still have a few options–they can be grown in pots on a balcony, in flower beds and even hanging baskets. They generally produce fruit for two or three years so you can enjoy them again and again. With favorable conditions, each strawberry plant should produce one quart of strawberries.
1. June Bearing:
These produce once a year, typically around the June timeframe. June Bearing are planted this year to enjoy a harvest next year. To help them get established, pinch off all blossoms the first year of growing. June bearing typically produce the largest berries. Matted Row systems work best for this variety.
2. Ever Bearing:
These produce twice a year (Spring & Fall). To help them get established the first year you start them, pinch off the first set of blossoms up until July then allow the blossoms to grow so you can enjoy a Fall harvest. Next year you can enjoy the harvest in both Spring & Fall (no need to pinch off any blossoms). Ever bearing typically produce smaller berries than the June bearing plants. The Hill System works best for this variety.
3. Day Neutral:
These will produce throughout the summer. In the first season, pinch off the first set of blossoms to help them get established then allow the blossoms to grow. Day neutral typically produce smaller (and sweeter) berries than the June bearing plants. The Hill System works best for this variety.
Plant strawberries in the sunniest area of your garden, for they will require full sun for most of the day, although some late afternoon shade is tolerable in midsummer. They can thrive in a vegetable garden, flower beds, raised beds, pots & containers and even hanging baskets.( If you choose containers, make sure the soil is at least 12″ deep so they have room to stretch their feet.) Strawberries generally grow best in raised beds or berms because they appreciate well-drained soil. Transplant container-grown or bare-root strawberries as soon as the soil is workable in early spring. The soil should be rich, well-drained, and acidic. Use Master Nursery’s Acid Planting Mix to help acidify our soils. Below are two common methods of planting that can be used with good results:
Matted Row System
With the matted-row system, set plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row (or raised bed), with 3 to 4 feet between rows. Allow the runners that form from these “mother” plants to develop and root–they’ll form a matted row 18 inches wide. Keep the remaining 1.5 to 2.5 feet between rows clear by sweeping early formed runners into the row or by cutting off late-formed runners that grow into the aisle or off the edge of the raised bed.
The Hill System
This system is ideal for cultivars that produce few runners, such as ever bearers. Set plants 12 to 15 inches apart in double-or triple-wide rows (on raised beds if necessary). Aisles should be 1.5 to 2 feet wide. Remove all runners that develop throughout the growing season before they root.
Help them thrive by keeping the patch free of weeds, strawberries have shallow root systems and the weeds can very much interfere with their growth. Keep the soil moist, well-draining and cool if possible (cover with a layer of mulch). A nice and tidy patch that is well maintained yields the best results.
Watering: They need lots of water to thrive (at least an inch a week) but make sure the soil is well draining and that you don’t over water otherwise you’ll find rot setting in. Water daily during hot weather. To help keep the soil fairly moist, cool and weed-free, spread a layer of straw or mulch a couple inches thick around them.
Strawberries won’t ripen further after they’ve been picked, so be sure to wait until they’re completely red. When harvesting, leave their green “caps” on: using your thumb and fore-finger, pinch the berries off with 1 inch of stem.
Strawberries store best when layered no more than two deep in a shallow tray and covered with plastic; refrigerate for up to five days or leave them at room temperature for a day or two. Wash the berries right before use.
Recommended Planting Amendments:
Master Nursery’s Acid Planting Mix and Dr. Earth #2 Starter Fertilizer