Success With Strawberries
If you add some simple soil tips for planting strawberries with some timely mulching and regeneration along the way, it's simple to maintain a healthy and productive patch of berries year after year.
Strawberries are a great source of vitamin C and fiber and they are full of antioxidants. In fact, a helping of strawberries easily has as much vitamin C as an orange. The best part of growing your own strawberries is not the nutrition, however. The best part is the fact that fresh-picked berries from your own yard just taste better, and you don't have to inspect a container for hidden mold like you do at the store.
Let's take a look at the steps you should take to prepare and maintain a healthy strawberry bed.
Diseases in Garden Soil Impacting Strawberries
When selecting a site for strawberries, it is best to keep them away from a spot where you have previously grown members of the tomato and potato family by practicing a form of crop rotation. This is because strawberries are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a fungi that also is prevalent with these vegetables.
Common vegetables that are in the tomato and potato family, besides tomatoes and potatoes of course, are peppers and eggplant. When selecting a strawberry bed location, choose a site that has not had these plants growing in it for at least one year, and preferably two or three.
Need Cheap Compost?
Consider a compost barrel, and create your own compost year after year. This is a great option for city folks short on space for a traditional compost pile.
Preparing Soil for Strawberries
Strawberries like to spread with runners that take root to form new plants, and they prefer soil that has some sand content. If you have heavy clay, the first consideration is to amend the soil with lighter materials like sand and compost to prevent the soil from being overly compacted during the growing season.
Organic matter is another important ingredient for these red berries. They are demanding fruits since they produce a lot in a small space and yields will improve with plenty of organic matter in the soil. Before planting, amend the soil with such things as leaf compost, composted manure, or other forms of composted materials that will enrich the soil.
Fertilizer is another good idea when preparing the soil. An application of a general 10-10-10 fertilizer will get new plants off to a great start and allow them to set more fruit. Don't overdo it, but do consider offering a bit of help to new plants.
When it's about time to plant, a good till of the area should be done to loosen the soil so that it is easy to work. Most people either plant their strawberries in rows or hills. Either way, tilling the soil before finishing the soil preparation will be worth the time.
How to Grow Strawberries
Now you need to decide how to arrange the berries in your garden. There are two primary ways that will produce the best results. Some people grow berries in a huge patch, but that's not a great way to get results. Instead, choose one of the following options.
Growing Strawberries in Rows
Strawberries grown in long rows are easy to care for and look very neat in the garden. With rows, it becomes very simple to harvest and plant, so this method is usually the preferred choice among gardeners. When planting in rows, rake the soil after tilling so that the beds for strawberry plants are raised at least a few inches or more above the aisles. These raised row beds will allow for proper drainage of water and let berries get some sun. If possible, plant rows from north to south so that sun hits both sides of the row.
Growing Strawberries in Hills
Raised hills are another popular way to grow berries. Soil preparation is done in the same way as rows, but this time raised hills are created instead of raised rows. Again, this leaves the berries elevated so that their roots don't sit in water and makes harvest easier, since you can walk completely around the hill. For small gardens, or where a hill is to be planted here and there, this mound system works quite well. For large spaces, rows are generally preferred because higher yields are possible and harvest can be just a bit easier.
When to Plant a Strawberry Patch
Strawberries are tough plants and can be planted in early spring well ahead of your average last frost date. As soon as the soil can be worked without still being wet from winter, it is acceptable to create your raised beds and think about planting.
The goal with berry planting is to get them into the ground and let them create a strong root system before the heat of summer comes along. Strawberries are one of the first things you can plant in your garden.
No Room for a Garden?
You can still grow strawberries. With a strawberry planter, any patio or deck becomes a strawberry garden.
When it's time to plant, consider the weather. Like other plants, transplanting on a day where there is no excessive heat or sun will help the new plants adapt to their now home. Consider a cloudy day if possible. The soil should be well-drained and easy to work, but not wet.
Plant the young plants so that the roots are just covered. Notice that a strawberry plant has stems, a crown, and roots. The crown is the part of the plant between the stems and roots, and looks like a big stem. This crown should not be covered with soil. Instead, cover just the roots, leaving most of the crown above ground.
Setting plants about 12 inches apart is acceptable for any strawberry. Summer bearing plants can be spaced slightly farther apart, up to 24 inches, if desired. Everbearing plants can be planted a few inches closer together, but 12 inches is still a good bet for these.
Press the soil gently to secure the plant and move on to the next one.
Why Mulch is Important
You can grow strawberries without mulch, but a layer consisting of a good 2-3 inches of straw mulch is a wonderful addition to any garden bed filled with berries. There are three primary reasons for this.
Mulch helps to prevent weeds from growing and competing with your berries for nutrients. It also retains moisture that helps plants produce good fruit, and water is very important for production on healthy strawberries. Finally, a layer of mulch means that low-hanging fruit will rest on this bed of straw instead of mud, which makes harvesting and eating much easier.
Fertilizing a Strawberry Patch
Aside from an all-purpose fertilizer that you applied at planting time, an annual application is helpful after renovation, a process that we will discuss next. It's important not to over fertilize these fruits, but adding some nutrients during renovation will allow the plants to grow and build up strength, helping them to be productive year after year.
Like the fertilizer recommended when the strawberry soil was prepared, a general 10-10-10 fertilizer will do the trick.
How to Renovate Strawberry Beds
Renovation describes a practice that should be done to strawberries each season to keep the plants going strong. The best time to renovate a strawberry bed is soon after the harvest. Once the plants are done bearing fruit, it's time.
First, get out the lawn mower and mow the plants down nearly to the ground. Set your mower so that the blade remains at least an inch or so above the crowns, as you don't want to damage those. Remove excess leaves or any that show signs of disease from the garden.
Next, remove any weeds and thin the plants so that they are at least 6 inches apart in rows. This is the time to remove any runner plants that are outside of your preferred raised bed as well.
Fertilize the beds with a 10-10-10 fertilizer and make sure the plants get enough water. If nature is not helping in the form or rain, use a sprinkler to give the garden an inch of water per week, especially at first, so that the fertilizer will reach the roots and the regenerating plants will have the water they need to grow.
Add These Nutritious Fruits to Your Garden
Why not try to grow some berries this year? They will produce the first season, so you don't have to wait, and with a bit of attention you can enjoy delicous strawberries for years to come.
Athlyn Green from West Kootenays on August 27, 2016:
I am adding more strawberries and this info will prove very helpful. It is exciting to watch as yield goes up.
Alison Graham from UK on April 30, 2013:
Great information here, we have just added some new plants that we bought from the garden center to our established strawberry bed. Most years we get some plants to give away to family by rooting some of the runners and potting these little plants up. It's a very easy way to get new ones and earns lots of goodwill from friends and neighbors!
KA Hanna from America's Finest City on April 24, 2013:
A very timely hub; I am in process of renovating my strawberry bed!
Sheri Dusseault from Chemainus. BC, Canada on April 16, 2013:
This is great information. I grow strawberries but the deer eat most of them!