strawberry
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4 Tips for Growing the Best Strawberries

Cultivated fruit
Classic | Perpetual | Everbearing | Alpine
• Hardiness Zones 5 to 8
• Full sun
• Soil: well-draining and fertile
• Propagation: allow runners to root
• Self-fertile with help from wind and insects

One big difference between homegrown strawberries and the ones at the grocery store is the flavorful taste and tender texture you get at home.

Unlike strawberries that must have tough exteriors to withstand long-distance travels, the only thing we have to worry about at home is which way we want to devour them. And what’s better than growing for taste?

One thing I wish I’d known when I started growing strawberries over twenty years ago is that they can be fairly short-lived and do require upkeep. One plant may live a few years—not longer, the soil will need feeding to keep the plants nourished, and it pays to root the runners for free, new plants.

1 Know Which Type of Strawberry You Are Growing

The 3 Basic Types of Strawberries

This one throws off a lot of gardeners: depending on which type you are growing, you will get fruit at different points in the growing season.

If you do not know the type of plants you have, time will tell: pay attention to fruiting times.

  • Classic strawberries produce an abundance of fruit in early summer.
  • Perpetual or everbearing strawberries usually have two harvests: one in early summer and the other in late summer or early fall. The first harvest is often more abundant than the second. Some also produce a small mid-summer harvest.
  • Alpine strawberries grow as ground cover, producing tiny berries from early summer to fall. It takes a lot of plants to produce a meager harvest. I have masses of them in my back garden and, unlike the other strawberries, they are largely ignored by wildlife, so they are not really anyone’s first choice.

Whatever you choose, plant same varieties together so the care and harvests are aligned.

All of them need a cold winter to ensure future fruiting.

Tips for Buying Strawberry Plants

  • Start at your local plant nurseries to see what is available and recommended in your growing conditions.
  • Strawberry plants are prone to some diseases, so ensure the ones you purchase are guaranteed to be disease-free.
  • If you belong to a horticultural society or local garden club, there may also be members willing to share their experience and trade plants. But do beware of any diseases present.

2 Provide Optimum Growing Conditions

Where to Plant Strawberries

Strawberries enjoy a sunny location, sheltered from strong winds so insects can assist with pollination.

Use fertile, well-drained soil. I plant mine in (very) well-rotted (composted) manure.

3 Decide if You’re Growing in Containers or In-Ground

  • Most strawberry plants produce fruit for 3 years or a bit longer.
  • Growing strawberries in the ground is easiest for long-term, perennial growing.
  • While you can grow in containers, it may shorten the lifespan of the plant.
  • Window boxes, flower bags, and hanging baskets are fine for a single growing season.
  • You can also overwinter containers to continue growing in spring.

Strawberry Planting Tips

  1. Follow the directions on the plant tag to ensure you plant the strawberries properly (the root crowns like to be at an exact depth) and they have room to grow.
  2. Plant your strawberries in a weed-free zone and be vigilant about keeping other plants from creeping in. Grass lawn is terrible for invading a strawberry patch and depriving the plants of water and nutrients.
  3. I keep mine about 14 to 18 inches apart. The runners will soon take over so you will need to keep on top of them, removing and/or propagating them (there is more on this in the FAQ section, below).

Pollination

  •  The edible fruits form when the flowers have been pollinated. While strawberries are self-pollinating, they do get assistance from insects and gentle winds that help things along.
  •  Because of this, you don’t want to cover the plants with netting (which keeps birds out) or shield them with a screen (like this squirrel screen I use), until pollination has occurred and the fruit is forming.
  •  I can tell pollination has taken place when the flowers suddenly start wilting although the plant otherwise looks healthy and happy.

4 Provide Proper Care

Straw Mulch

  • Straw is an ideal mulch for strawberries. Place it around plants to suppress weeds, and, when the berries have formed, place it underneath to provide a safe resting place until they are ready for picking.
  • Zone 5 or Colder | In colder climates, strawberry plants do best if covered in straw mulch during the winter months to prevent a deep freeze.

Watch the Heat

  • While strawberries do nicely with full sun with nice, even water, heat can cause some problems. A temperature of 16C/61F or lower is best. Adding straw mulch or some shade can prevent this problem. One heatwave in early summer can wipe out the crop.
  • Once the fruit has formed, more heat is fine so long as the plants never dry out.

Fertilizer

  • If your soil is not so fertile—rich in organic material, you may need to amend it with a slow-release, organic fertilizer, safe for food crops.

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