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Growing Strawberries: a Complete Guide to Planting and Caring for a Bountiful Harvest (2023)

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how to grow strawberriesHow have those plump, juicy strawberries at the farmers’ market got you dreaming of filling your kitchen with sweet, homemade jam? Did you know tending your own patch of ruby red berries is easier than you think—even for beginners?

Follow our complete guide to raise a bountiful harvest right in your backyard. We’ll walk you through site selection, expert planting techniques, and tips for nurturing your plants from seed to fruit. With just a bit of effort, you’ll be sinking your teeth into sun-warmed berries fresh off the vine in no time.

Bask in the pride and satisfaction of biting into a berry grown with your own two hands.

Table Of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil.
  • Space plants 18 inches apart for runners and 6 inches for other varieties.
  • Provide a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight daily.
  • Harvest ripe strawberries in the morning.

Site Selection and Preparation

Site Selection and Preparation
When choosing where to plant your strawberry patch, opt for a sunny spot with well-draining soil. To set your crop up for success, you’ll want to test the soil’s pH, use raised beds to improve drainage if needed, and mix in compost or organic matter to amend the soil.

Sunny Location With Well-draining Soil

You’ll want to choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil for your strawberries to really thrive.

  1. Test drainage by digging a hole and filling it with water – it should empty in under an hour.
  2. The ideal pH is between 5.5-7.
  3. Test the soil and amend if needed.
  4. Add compost or rotted manure annually for nutrient-rich soil.

With the sun’s energy, well-drained and slightly acidic soil, your strawberries will flourish.

Testing Soil PH

After inspecting the soil’s acidity, ensure it’s within the sweet spot for strawberries’ liking, between 5.5 and 7 pH. Grab a soil test kit or send a sample to your local extension office for an accurate reading.

If needed, add soil amendments like elemental sulfur to lower pH or limestone to raise it. Regularly monitor and tweak as the seasons change. Strawberries thrive in properly balanced earth, so keep their home’s pH in the berry-bearing zone.

Raised Beds for Improved Drainage

Consider building raised beds to boost drainage and soil quality when growing your strawberries. Strawberry plants thrive in well-draining soil, so build raised beds at least 6 inches high. Ramps allow for airflow to reduce fungal issues like leaf blight and gray mold. Bigger beds give plants room for healthy growth and abundant fruit.

Amending Soil With Compost or Organic Matter

Enrich the soil with natural goodness to nurture your strawberry patch. Amend sandy or clay soils with several inches of compost or well-rotted manure before planting. This organic matter boosts moisture and nutrient retention for robust growth. Test and adjust pH to 5.

Planting and Spacing

Planting and Spacing
Let’s talk planting and spacing for strawberry success. Select young, vigorous starter plants suited to your region, then put them in the ground in spring or fall depending on your climate. Space runners 18 inches apart and other varieties 6 inches apart to allow ample room for healthy growth and abundant fruit production.

Selecting Robust Young Strawberry Plants

You’ll want to choose hardy strawberry plants that are suited to your growing zone for optimal growth and yield.

  1. Select June-bearing, everbearing, or day-neutral strawberry varieties based on your climate and desired harvest duration.
  2. Seek out disease-resistant cultivars to minimize fungal infections.
  3. Choose certified organic and heirloom plants when possible for superior nutrition.
  4. Match the planting site conditions to the strawberry plants’ soil, sunlight, and drainage needs.

Robust young strawberry plants matched to your growing zone and site will thrive, producing abundant juicy berries.

Spring or Fall Planting Based on Climate

Plant strawberries in spring if you live in a cool climate or fall if you reside in a warmer region. The ideal planting time hinges on your local climate and growing zone. Those in cooler zones should plant in spring once the threat of frost has passed.

Warmer areas will want to plant in fall so plants can establish roots before summer’s heat arrives. Give them a sunny spot with well-drained, fertile soil to ensure robust growth when it’s time to fruit.

Proper Spacing for Healthy Growth and Fruit Production

Give strawberries adequate breathing room for maximizing yield. Space runner plants 18 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet wide. This allows runners to spread while preventing overcrowding. For matted rows, space plants 12 inches apart in rows 3 feet wide.

Closer 9-inch spacing works for some compact alpine varieties. Proper spacing ensures good air circulation, ease of harvesting, and sufficient nutrition and sunlight for productive plants.

Sunlight and Watering

Sunlight and Watering
When cultivating strawberries, you must carefully attend to sunlight and watering needs. Give plants at least 8 hours of direct sun per day for optimal fruit production, and irrigate them with 1-1.5 inches of water weekly, avoiding wetting the leaves; consider using drip irrigation or early morning sprinkling to prevent fungal diseases.

Providing at Least 8 Hours of Sunlight Daily

Ensure those strawberries soak up sun for 8+ hours daily. Select a south-facing site and monitor sunlight hours. Prune excess leaves if needed, as ample sunlight powers photosynthesis, creating sweeter fruits.

Morning sun prevents moisture-induced diseases. Let the rays shine directly on your lush strawberry patch, fueling robust growth and abundant fruit production.

Proper Watering Techniques to Avoid Wetting Leaves

You’re wise to water strawberries at their base, lest droplets on leaves invite fungus and blight. Skillfully aim the nozzle low, saturating the soil while keeping foliage dry. Leaves stay healthy when water touches only the earth.

With morning moisture for roots and midday sunlight for photosynthesis, your crop will flourish.

Considerations for Irrigation Methods

You’ll want to consider setting up drip irrigation or using timed sprinklers for your strawberry patch to provide consistent moisture without wetting the leaves and increasing disease risk.

  1. Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the roots and avoids wetting the foliage.
  2. Misting systems provide light, frequent watering ideal for strawberry plants.
  3. Soaker hoses release water slowly along their length and help maintain ideal soil moisture.

Consider investing in water-efficient irrigation to keep your strawberries happy while minimizing disease risks.

Fertilization and Mulching

Fertilization and Mulching
Wonderful, let’s dive into fertilizing and mulching those strawberry beds! Applying a continuous-release fertilizer will promote robust fruit production from your plants. Then you’ll want to mulch the beds with straw, which helps conserve moisture, control weeds that compete for nutrients, and keep berries clean as they develop.

Applying Continuous-release Fertilizer

Apply a continuous-release fertilizer at planting to keep those strawberries nourished and producing all season long. Look for organic options like alfalfa meal or fish emulsion to feed the soil. Apply again halfway through summer and just before runners form.

This promotes vigorous growth for your daughter plants. Time applications before rain or irrigate after to activate the fertilizer. Follow label instructions to get the balance right. Excess nitrogen leads to leafy plants with poor fruit.

Mulching Beds With Straw for Moisture Conservation and Weed Control

Spread straw mulch on the beds after planting to help keep the soil moist, prevent weeds from germinating, and keep berries clean as they ripen near the ground. For example, a 2-3 inch layer of straw mulch applied after planting can reduce water needs by up to 50% and minimize time spent weeding.

Here are 3 key benefits of using straw as mulch for your strawberry beds:

  1. Conserves moisture and reduces watering needs.
  2. Suppresses weed growth and cuts down on hand weeding.
  3. Keeps fruit clean and free of soil contact.

Alternative organic mulches like pine needles, leaves, or compost also work well. Just ensure any mulch used is free of herbicides. Proper mulching is invaluable for growing robust, high-yielding strawberry plants.

Varieties and Planting Techniques

Varieties and Planting Techniques
Selecting the right strawberry varieties and planting techniques is vital for a bountiful and continuous harvest. Choose June-bearing types for a concentrated fruiting period from mid-June to early July, or opt for day-neutral strawberries if you want berries throughout the season.

Differentiating Between June-bearing, Everbearing, and Day-neutral Varieties

Pick your preferred yield by choosing between June-bearers for a concentrated harvest, everbearers for two crops, or day-neutrals for continuous fruiting. June-bearing strawberries produce one bountiful harvest in early summer, then send out runners for next year’s crop.

Everbearers yield fruit in early and late summer, requiring runners to be promptly removed. Day-neutrals fruit from June until fall, producing sweet berries all season long with proper care. Timing your planting and selecting the right varieties ensure a successful strawberry harvest.

Choosing Appropriate Types for Desired Harvest Time

You’ll get a concentrated mid-June to early July harvest by choosing June-bearing varieties. For maximum yields, select recommended cultivars like Jewel, Sparkle, or Kent. Day-neutral types allow season extension through continuous bloom development and harvesting windows.

Incorporating Day-neutral Strawberries for Continuous Fruiting

Add some everbearing strawberries to your patch for a never-ending supply of sweet, juicy berries. These day-neutral wonders keep producing through summer into fall, unlike June-bearers. Just give them rich soil, consistent moisture, and prune runners to maximize harvests.

With proper fertilizing, winter preparation, and pest control, they’ll reward you with bountiful berries.

Runners and Flowers

Runners and Flowers
Tending to runners and blossoms is crucial for the vigor and yield of your strawberry patch. To optimize plant health and fruit production, regularly remove runners to prevent overgrowth and pinch off flowers in the first weeks after planting.

Regularly Removing Runners to Maintain Plant Health

Remove those runners promptly to keep your strawberries robust. Prune runners weekly to direct energy toward fruiting. Snip runners near the mother plant using sterile scissors. Compost excess runners as nutritious green material.

Focus first on older runners to favor new growth. Keeping strawberry plants tidy curbs overcrowding and pests. Use the runners you pinch to fill gaps or start new beds, spreading vigorous genetics.

Removing Flowers for Enhanced Fruit Production

By plucking blossoms in early summer, ripe red berries burst bountifully at summer’s peak. As strawberry plants expend energy forming fruit, pinch off the initial wave of flowers. This redirects the plant’s efforts into establishing robust runners and leaves rather than underdeveloped berries.

Once firmly rooted, let subsequent blooms flourish for a concentrated harvest when warm temperatures maximize sweetness. Employing this natural cycle of growth regulation promotes soil fertility, deters disease, and yields a bounty of luscious berries in time for jam-making and pie-baking.

Disease Management

Disease Management
When caring for your strawberries, you must take careful measures to prevent fungal diseases. Be vigilant in scouting for gray mold, leaf blight, and other infections, practice proper site rotation and air circulation, and select disease-resistant varieties to keep your crop healthy.

Vigilance Against Common Fungal Diseases

Keep a careful watch for gray mold, leaf blight, and other fungal diseases that can damage your berries. Monitor plants daily, especially after rain or heavy watering. Promote good airflow and avoid overcrowding.

Use proper site rotation, mulching, and irrigation practices. Select resistant varieties, time plantings carefully, and nurture young plants. With vigilance and preventative care, you can minimize disease impacts for a bountiful strawberry harvest.

Practicing Proper Site Rotation and Air Circulation

Rotate your strawberry patch to a new site each year and allow plenty of airflow between plants to reduce disease problems.

  • Relocate beds annually to disrupt disease cycles and replenish soil nutrients.
  • Space plants appropriately to promote air movement and evaporate excess moisture.
  • Remove weeds, mulch, and dead leaves regularly to minimize humidity and fungal growth.

By implementing these simple practices, you can create an environment less hospitable to the agents of decay, resulting in healthier, more bountiful strawberry plants.

Choosing Disease-resistant Varieties

You’ll ward off fungal infections if you pick resistant types. Selecting varieties bred to resist common strawberry diseases like grey mold, red stele, and leather rot boosts your odds of growing bountiful, healthy berries.

Seek out cultivars rated highly resistant, plant them properly, and tend your patch diligently to reap nature’s candy – freshly picked, juicy berries bursting with sweetness.

Harvesting and Storage

Harvesting and Storage
When those luscious red strawberries start peeking out from under the leaves, it’s time to start harvesting. Pick them when they’re fully ripe in the morning, then store unwashed berries in the fridge for a few days or freeze them whole for long-term storage.

Timing and Techniques for Harvesting Ripe Strawberries

Pick the juicy ripe strawberries early in the morning when they’re red and developed. Harvest every two to three days once fruits start ripening. Target the largest, deepest red berries first, leaving smaller ones to reach peak ripeness.

Refrigerate promptly, unwashed in a single layer, for two to three days max. For longer storage, slice off caps, freeze on trays, then transfer to bags.

Proper Storage Methods for Short-term and Long-term Storage

After getting your hands on those sweet, juicy strawberries, aren’t you wondering how long they’ll stay fresh for?

To maximize the shelf life, wash and dry the berries gently. Then, store them in an airtight container or zipper bag in the fridge.

For long-term storage, lay the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them solid. Then, transfer them to freezer bags or airtight containers, squeezing out excess air. Label them with the date and use the frozen berries within 8-12 months for smoothies, jams, or baked goods.

Enjoy your harvest all year round!

Pest Control

Pest Control
Securing your strawberry patch with bird netting and scare-eye balloons helps deter hungry birds and other critters from feasting on your ripe, juicy berries. You can also sprinkle sand, pine needles, or garlic-neem oil in the beds to create a natural protective barrier that deters pests without chemicals.

Protecting Strawberries From Pests Using Netting and Deterrents

Safeguard your berries from critters by draping bird netting over the beds and sprinkling natural repellents like sand and garlic spray between the rows.

Set up physical barriers with netting and floating row covers to exclude birds and insects.

Interplant aromatic herbs like mint or thyme to deter pests with strong scents.

Use harmless materials like diatomaceous earth, crushed shells, and pine needles as abrasive deterrents.

Employ scare tactics with flashing eyes, aluminum pans, and wind chimes to frighten off animals.

By taking proactive measures against common berry pests, you can protect your precious strawberry crop and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Consistent monitoring and gentle pest management will lead to a bountiful harvest.

Natural Deterrent Options

You can fend off pests using natural deterrents such as spreading pine needles or sand around the plants, or spraying garlic-neem oil to repel insects and other critters. To safeguard your strawberry patch without chemicals, make a perimeter with pine needles, which deters slugs and snails.

Use bird scarecrows or reflective tape to frighten away feathered thieves. For insect pests, mix garlic, neem oil, and water in a spray bottle. Mist the plants, as this natural spray’s scent drives away aphids, beetles, leafhoppers, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take for strawberry plants to produce fruit?

You’ll be picking juicy, sun-kissed strawberries before you know it! Just a few short weeks after those first flowers appear, your plants will start producing plump, ruby-red berries.

Should I remove the early blossoms in the first year?

Yes, you’ll want to remove the early blossoms in strawberry plants’ first year. This encourages robust root establishment for future yields.

What are the best strawberry varieties for container growing?

You’ll want everbearing types like Tristar, Tribute, and Seascape. Day-neutrals like Tribute and Seascape produce juicy berries all season long. Alpine strawberries are compact and ideal for pots. Give them at least 6 hours of sun and rich, well-drained soil for bountiful fruits.

How do I know when strawberries are ripe and ready to pick?

You know strawberries are ripe when they’re a deep red to burgundy color. Gently tug to see if they release easily – if so, it’s time for picking! When in doubt, taste them to confirm sweetness.

Can I grow strawberries in partial shade or do they require full sun?

You can grow strawberries in partial shade, but full sun yields the sweetest, most abundant fruit.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned berry farmer, a master gardener, or a novice horticulturist, cultivating a bountiful harvest of homegrown strawberries is within reach when you follow a few key steps.

Did you know strawberries are America’s third most consumed fruit? By properly preparing the site, selecting suitable varieties, and providing optimal care as your plants establish, you’ll be rewarded with buckets of juicy, flavorful strawberries.

Regularly check for signs of disease, prune runners, and practice wise watering to keep your crop thriving. Learn when to harvest perfectly ripe berries and how to store them to savor that sweet strawberry goodness all season long.

With a bit of patience and attentive care, you’ll reap a stellar strawberry harvest for years to come when you focus on how to grow strawberries the right way.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.