How To Plant And Grow Strawberries
Planting and growing your own strawberries can give you a ready supply of the fruit for your table. You can eat the fruit fresh in the summer and freeze the additional bounty for a winter treat. Have you been thinking about growing your own strawberries but are not sure how to develop a strawberry patch of your own? It is not that hard, it’s just time consuming in the beginning. This article will show you how to prepare the soil, plant the strawberries and care for your plants while young and after harvest.
What is a Strawberry?
Belonging to the Rosaceae family, the strawberry is a North American plant. It grew in popularity after the European setters began the strawberry trade with the Native Americans. From its simple beginning of five to six original wild species, we have over 600 varieties of strawberries today.
The berry comes in all sizes, flavor, and every shade of red. The larger the strawberry the more water it contains; the smaller the berry, the more intense the flavor. This fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy choice for anyone’s table. This makes a great addition to any garden.
How To Prepare Your Soil for Strawberries
In mid-April, early May, it is time to prepare your soil and get the strawberry plants ready to plant. Here are some helpful hints in choosing your location and getting your soil ready.
1. What is important is where you choose your strawberry bed location. The site should have excellent drainage, gets full sun and warms up early in the spring. However, spring can bring several instances of frost. In Iowa, we are always concerned about what we call "Frost Kings". And thus, if we see are strawberries blooming, we cover the strawberries flowers to protect them so they will not be destroyed by the frost.
If your soil drains poorly, you can grow strawberries in raised beds or containers. This is what we have had to do. Since rainwater comes from the woods to our lawn, we have chosen to create a small raised bed. This type of raised bed, give us a workable amount of strawberries that we can eat and freeze.
2. Till the planting bed to a depth of about 12 inches.
3. Place plenty of compost or if you have a farmer nearby, ask for some manure to ensure the soil is rich and fertile. (The soil's pH should be slightly acidic, around 5.5 to 6.5).
4. Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the roots. The width of each hole should be around five to six inches wide. Set the plant into the hole, making sure that the crown of the plant is just above the ground. (The crown is the plant’s above ground parts, which includes the stem, leaves, etc.) Cover roots completely.
Matted Method of Planting Strawberries
If you use the matted method you will need to place your plants 18” apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. With this method, you let the runners develop and allow the “daughter plants” to form to about 2 feet wide, beyond that, the plants should be removed.
June bearing plants usually are planted in the matted method. Since the plants have a short bearing season, you do not need, nor should you pinch off the flowers after planting.
Hill Method of Planting Strawberries
If you use the hill method you will need to set plants 12 inches apart on all sides. When runners begin to appear you will need to cut them off. Why? This will give the “Mother” plants more energy to produce fruit. Your reward will be an ample harvest for the next six or more years. (The hill method is best for everbearing strawberries).
If you are using the hill method for everbearing or day neutral plants, you will need to pinch off the flowers for the first 6 weeks after planting.
Watering the Young Plants
When the plants are young, they will need at least an inch of water a week. If nature does not supply this amount, you will have to give your strawberry plants the needed attention.
In addition to helping your strawberries maintain moisture, mulch will help to keep the weed population under control.
First Year Rule for Strawberry Plants
The first year rule for June strawberry plants differ from the ever-bearing plant. It comes down to if you can have a first year crop or not. Let me explain.
First Year Rule for June Bearing Strawberry Plants
If you are planting June bearing strawberries, it is advised not to let any fruit develop during the first year. Why? Letting the strawberries form and ripen the first year can weaken the plant so much that the next year's production will be cut dramatically. Thus, when you see a blossom, you will need to pick it off.
When the second year arrives, you should have strawberries that you can eat, freeze and preserve.
First Year For Ever-bearing Strawberry Plants
With ever-bearing strawberries you can have an opportunity to see the fruit of your labors in the first year. When you first see the ever-bearing plants begin to blossom you will pinch off the blossoms. You will need to do this until midsummer of the first year. Then in midsummer of the first year allow the plants to flower naturally. Then in the fall of that first year you can pick them.
Renovating Strawberry Plantings After Last Harvest
Renovating your strawberries after harvest season is necessary for both the matted method and the hill method. Through the process of renovation of the plants, you can expect to have a continual supply of strawberries for several years.
Matted Method Renovation
The June bearing plants are usually planted in the “matted” row method. To renovate June bearing plants you will have to begin the process 7 to 10 days after the last harvest:
1. Immediate after the last harvest, you will need to mow the foliage of the plant down to about 2 inches above the crown. (Note: if you miss the 7 to 10 window after the last harvest, do not mow the foliage down. If you do, you will destroy new leaf growth.)
2. Narrow the rows to 10 to 12 inch rows.
3. Thin out the plants.
4. Remove foliage and debris to control disease.
5. Spread with a balanced fertilizer.
6. Water plants. The water will activate the herbicide to control weeds and will help to stimulate growth of new shoots, runners and daughter plants.
Hill Method Renovation
The hill method renovation of everbearing and day neutral strawberries requires you to:
1. Use garden scissors or shears to cut the plants back 2” from the crown.
2. Remove foliage and debris to control disease.
3. Spread with a balanced fertilizer
4. Water plants to activate the herbicide and to stimulate growth of new shoots and runners.
5. Add compost around the crown to encourage growth.
After three years, it is advised to find a new location for your plants. This helps to prevent your plants from becoming susceptible to the soil disease, verticillium wilt. Please note, rotating the crops and deep tilling of the soil is the only method in which you can protect your plants from this soil disease. At this time, there is no man-made product that can protect your plants from verticillium wilt.
In the beginning your strawberry patch may be labor intensive, but the results offer you several benefits; you’ll save money and the fruit itself is healthy for you.
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