When it comes to growing fruits at home, one of the popular choices is strawberries. This is due to the fact that they can be grown in all the temperate regions of the world. They are quite easy to grow and can fit in small spaces. Also, growing strawberries does not require any special tools or equipment. In fact, you can let them grow in pots or containers and place them on your deck, porch, patio, or balcony.
If you are into gardening at home and want to grow some strawberries, you’re in the right place. Today, we are giving you the ultimate guide to growing strawberries.
Why Grow Strawberries?
One of the biggest advantages of growing strawberries is their persistent nature. You can get the rewards of your labor for more than a few years after initially planting them with minimal effort after the primary planting year. Also, with proper care, it is common for a strawberry plant to yield a full quart of strawberries. In fact, around twenty-five strawberry plants can already provide a normal family with delicious strawberries sufficiently.
Aside from that, growing strawberries at home can provide you with fresh fruits all the time. When you buy strawberries from supermarkets, they usually contain pesticides. Did you know that commercial strawberries rank very poorly on the list of most contaminated fruits? This means that even if you wash them thoroughly, store-bought strawberries still have residual pesticides on or in them. Growing your own strawberries at home allows you to ensure that you are eating fresh and safe fruits.
How to Grow Strawberries
If you decide to grow strawberries at home, the first thing you need to do is choose what your starting point will be. You can choose to grow strawberries from seeds, opt to transplant, or buy strawberry plants for your garden.
Starting with strawberry seeds is more challenging compared to buying existing strawberry plants. But if you’d like that option, you can read our post about Growing Strawberries from Seeds to learn more about it.
Whether you choose to start with seeds or plants, positive strawberry production comes from successfully growing strawberry plants. When growing strawberries, there are some factors that you need to consider, such as the variety of strawberries you want to grow, the planting site, the planting system, and as well as how to plant and care for them until harvesting time. Read on to learn more about these.
How to Choose the Type of Strawberry to Grow
There are three main types of strawberries you can choose from, such as June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral. Among these, June-bearers have the largest fruit produce. However, it only produces one big crop every after week or two. Everbearing strawberries, on the other hand, yield a larger early crop, smaller late crop, and a few berries in between. Lastly, day-neutrals produce strawberries throughout their growing season.
If you like to have fresh strawberries throughout the year and don’t mind getting smaller and fewer fruits, you can opt for an everbearing or day-neutral strawberry variety. But if you want a sheer quantity of strawberries, then June-bearer is the top pick for you.
Choose the Right Variety of Strawberry to Grow
You also need to remember that not all strawberry varieties are equally made. They are temperate by nature and can be meticulous as to where they will grow best. With this, the most generally adapted cultivars became quite popular. However, the most popular strawberry varieties may not be the best pick for your area. For those who have garden space, growing some specialty strawberries is great.
Also, you need to consider the strawberry plant’s susceptibility to fungus, which causes the most common disease in strawberries. It is better to get strawberry plant varieties that are certified to be resistant to Verticillium wilt.
Purchase the Right Quantity
Choosing the right amount of plants to start your strawberry garden is also important. Before you buy, think about your goals first and how to plan to use the strawberries. It’s because when you buy too many, you might be overwhelmed. However, buying too few might get you frustrated. Therefore, before you order strawberry plants, ensure that you think about and learn how much you need. Once you’ve decided on this factor, then you can buy the type, variety, and quantity of strawberry plants that you want.
Pick the Location to Grow Strawberries
One of the critical steps in growing strawberries is selecting a site for your strawberry garden. Strawberries love sunlight, and they need full sun to produce the largest fruits. It is better to choose a site that is clear from tall or shadow-casting plants or trees. This way, the root system of the strawberries will get adequate moisture and will not compete with other plants.
You also need to consider the soil condition in your area. This is because strawberries grow better in a sandy loam that is deep and has large amounts of organic matter. Therefore, you can also add extra compost, some sand or grit, and peat moss to your selected area to make the best environment for your strawberry plants. Most potting soils have enough compositions if you want to plant strawberries in a container. Just ensure that you add an extra inch of fresh compost to the surface of the potting mix. To learn more about this, you can also read our post about Growing Strawberries in Containers.
You should also choose a site that has good soil drainage and surface drainage. Even if strawberry plants require constant moisture to thrive, they will rot if they are left in standing water because of poor site drainage. If you do not have access to this kind of site, then creating a raised bed for the strawberry plants can help facilitate better drainage. If you choose this, then the bed should be elevated from six up to eight inches. Place drainage holes in the bottom if you choose to use container gardening methods.
Also, remember that strawberries do not grow well in dry areas. With that, make sure to choose a spot that will enable them to be watered easily, especially if rainfall water is not enough.
Choose the Planting System for Growing Strawberries
There are two kinds of planting systems for strawberries. Here they are:
Matted Row System
This planting system is best for June-bearing strawberry varieties. It also works well for any cultivar that sends out lots of runners. In this system, the strawberries are planted about 24 inches apart in rows that are about 4 feet apart. This will let runners spread easily and root at will in the row to form a crisscrossed, matted row of about 24 inches wide.
This planting system will yield the largest number of strawberries. However, the quality of each strawberry is seldom equal to the quality of strawberries that are grown with the other system, which is the hill system.
Hill System or Mound System
This planting system is best for day-neutral strawberries and everbearing strawberries. With this system, you will need to begin with a mounded “hill” of soil that is about 8 inches high and 24 inches wide. You can also extend this mound into a row.
Set two rows of plants for each hill in a staggered pattern. Each strawberry plant should be 12 inches from one another. For multiple rows, they should be spaced 4 feet apart. Also, in this system, all runners are removed to make the productive capacity of the mother plants remain with them. This will result in additional adjacent crowns to the original crown, giving you more flower stalks for fruiting.
Most home gardeners prefer this planting system as it results in more yields and higher quality strawberries.
Strawberry Garden Preparation
Before you plant strawberries, you first need to prepare your garden. If your garden is covered with sod, you need to cultivate it first and till the area a year prior to planting strawberries. This way, your plants will not compete with the grasses. Also, if possible, try to grow a green manure crop a year before you want to start growing strawberries, as this can help improve the quality of the soil. Some examples of these are rye, Sudan grass, and oats.
You also need to make sure that your garden is free of grubs, weeds, and soil-borne diseases. The pH level of your soil is also essential for growing strawberries successfully. Strawberry plants grow in the dirt that has a pH level of between 5.0 and 7.0. The most ideal is between 5.8 to 6.2.
Planting Strawberry Plants
It is important to learn how and when to plant strawberries properly. If you are planting in spring, you can do it as soon as the soil is dry and can be worked. The plants should be well-established first before the temperatures rise in the summer.
To plant strawberries, you first need to dig out a hole that is big enough to spread out the roots of each plant. Then, at the bottom of the hole, make a mound or hill of soil that is flush with the surrounding level of the soil. After that, place the strawberry plant on top of the hill inside the hole, placing the crown at soil level. Then, spread the roots out down the sides of the hill. Fill in the hole and make sure that the soil level is equal to the middle of the crown.
When you plant it too shallow, it may cause the roots to dry out. Planting too deep, on the other hand, may damage the growing strawberries. To learn more about this, you can read our article on How to Grow Strawberries.
Growing Strawberries Need a Good Environment
After planting the strawberry plants, it is essential to make an environment that is most conducive to growing strawberries. You can mulch the strawberry bed using shredded leaves, compost, straw, or pine needles. Among these, pine needles are a good choice, as they raise the acidity of the soil slightly as they decompose. In addition to that, this method also keeps the soil temperature down, keeps the strawberries cleaner, and mitigates the weed problem. Also, most varieties of strawberries yield better fruits when their roots are in cooler soil.
Watering Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants need to be in a moist environment. Therefore, watering them regularly is a must. At least an inch of water should be given to the plants either via rainfall or direct watering. When the fruit is forming, at least two inches of water can be provided, from early bloom until the end of harvest. You need to continue watering the plants during dry periods in August and September. This will decrease stress on the plants, helping them in fruit bud formation the next year.
Protecting Strawberry Plants
Strawberries can attract birds, slugs, and other critters. This means that birds will unavoidably get some of your fruits. But you can protect your plants and fruits from the majority of them by covering your garden with bird netting. Using copper ribbon may also help in keeping slugs away.
After two years of planting and caring for your growing strawberries, they are ready to be harvested. Before harvesting, you need to make sure that they are completely ripened. You can always try to eat one to make sure that it is ready to be harvested.
Remember that strawberries are fragile and can be bruised easily. Therefore, you need to be gentle when picking them from their plants. You can simply use your fingernails on your thumb and forefinger to sever the steam and release the strawberry. Avoid pulling the strawberries themselves. The cap part of the stem should also be attached to the berry. To maintain ripe and high-quality strawberries, you can harvest them as often as every other day.
Strawberries are indeed easy to grow at home, making them among the most rewarding food crops. Compared to strawberries sold in stores, homegrown ones are tastier. Also, planting some at home can help you save a lot of money too. We hope that this guide helped you in learning more about growing strawberries at home. Should you need more information, you can check out these other articles: