There is something almost magical about the sweet taste and attractive shape of strawberries. From desserts to salads, smoothies and simply on their own, strawberries are a favorite for people of all ages. They can be preserved and frozen, but have a fuller, juicier flavor when eaten fresh.
Strawberries are also incredibly easy to grow once established. They work in patios pots, in the garden and even in hanging baskets. Look for ever bearing varieties that produce fruit all summer long or wild strawberries with tiny fruit. Plant your favorite type of this delicious fruit in your backyard and enjoy the sweetness like never before.
Best Soil for Growing Strawberries
Plant your strawberries in full sun with soil that is light and well drained, even on the dry side. Mix a generous amount of coir into the soil to help with the moisture level and be sure to use a proper potting mix in any patio pots you use for strawberries. Add organics like compost into the mix as well. They thrive in soil with a pH level between 5.8 and 6.5. For the optimum crop, donít plant strawberries in the same bed where youíve harvested tomatoes, eggplant, peppers or potatoes in the last few years. This soil is likely host to a variety of pests and diseases that will damage the strawberry plant.
When to Plant Strawberries
Strawberry plants can be planted outside when the soil has warmed up, usually 1 to 2 weeks after the last frost. If youíre holding onto them waiting for warmer weather be sure to keep the roots moistened and a dark, cool location.
How to Plant Strawberries
Since strawberries send out runners every year and can be difficult to grow from seed, itís easiest to find a seedling or runner plant from the garden center. You can also borrow from an existing strawberry plant Ė yours or a friendís.
Start by digging a shallow trench and making small mounds inside it every 12Ē. Soak the roots well with water and trim to about 5Ē long. Spread each plant gently over a mound with the stem of the plant at the center of the mound and the roots spread out from there. Cover the roots and mound with soil and fill up the crown of the strawberry. Tamp down and water well.
You can plant rows of strawberries at 4 feet apart using this method.
If you're planting strawberries in a container or strawberry pot, make sure to use an everbearing variety of strawberries. These are day neutral plants, meaning flowering is not determined by the length of the day. These varieties will produce a crop the first year planted and are perfect for strawberry container gardening.
Proper Care of Strawberries
Strawberries are perennials and wonít produce a large crop until the second year after planting. In the first year youíll need to pinch the white flowers off, pushing energy back into the plant for next yearís crop. Mulch the strawberries well over that first winter to protect from any temperature swings. Straw works well as a mulch, but anything thatís free from weeds will be fine. Remove the mulch after the last frost has disappeared.
Keep the strawberries well fed with a side-dressing along each row about one month after planting. Continue to feed throughout that first year. Once the plants wake up in the spring they will begin to thrive, sending out more runners and producing plenty of juicy, sweet berries. Remove the runners and replant them in another bed for the healthiest plants.
When to Harvest Strawberries
Strawberries are ready to be harvested once the white or light green berries have turned their trademark red. They will start small and grow as they mature. There will likely be a variety of sizes produced from the plant, but all are ready once they turn red.
Donít leave the strawberries on the plant. Overripe berries are a magnet for wasps and hornets of all kinds.
How to Harvest Strawberries
You can pick strawberries with your fingers, pinching the thin stems just above the crown of the fruit. Collect them in a basket or bowl to avoid being bruised or squished. It doesnít hurt to eat them as youíre picking for a quick and sweet treat. Just make sure you used organic pest control and fertilizer around your strawberry plants.
Common Strawberry Pests and Diseases
Strawberries are very susceptible to spider mites and slugs. Place slug traps around the area and pick off any that you spot. For spider mites, a spray consisting of water and rosemary oil might work as will planting aromatic herbs such as rosemary nearby. Keep your strawberry plants consistently wet as well, since spider mites prefer a drier, hotter environment.
Gardening Tips and Tricks for Growing Strawberries
The trick to growing fabulous strawberries is usually the overwintering process. If your plants thrive in the first year and are well protected over the long months of winter you can expect a great crop in the second year. Keep the pests away as best you can and weed the bed regularly to give the plants lots of space and little competition.
Your family will love having fresh strawberries on hand for desserts, a healthy snack and even in salads. You will appreciate how well they grow with a little attention and patience. An ideal fruit for any sized yard or patio, strawberries are always a sweet treat.