growing-strawberries

How to Grow the Best Strawberries

Strawberries are the first fruit to be harvested each spring/summer season. What a wonderful reason to add this easy-to-grow fruit to your garden. Abundant fruit harvests continue for three to four years if the plants are well-maintained. Strawberries are grown in every state of the United States and every province of Canada. This delicious fruit can be successfully grown in your garden also.

Where Can Strawberries Be Grown?

Strawberry plants are adaptable to many climates. There are varieties suited for all USDA Zones.

What Are the Types of Strawberries?

There are three types of strawberries. Each type has different fruiting characteristics. Here are the different types:

June Bearing Strawberries

June bearing strawberries produce one large crop per season. These strawberries usually produce larger berries and larger crops than ever-bearing and day-neutral varieties. One plant is capable of producing 120 new daughter plants per season. This type of strawberry plant contains early, mid-season, and late season varieties. Here are some June bearing varieties:

  • Allstar (late-season)
  • Annapolis (late-season)
  • Brunswick (mid-season)
  • Cabot (late-season)
  • Chandler
  • Cornwallis (mid-season)
  • Cavendish (mid-season)
  • Darselect (mid-season)
  • Delmarvel (mid-season)
  • Earliglow (early season)
  • Honeoye (mid-season)
  • Jewel (late season)
  • Kent (mid-season)
  • L’Amour (mid-season)
  • Veestar (early season)

Everbearing Strawberries

Three periods of flowers and fruit are produced by everbearing strawberry plants every growing season. This type does not produce runners. They are perfect for limited space gardens, groundcover, or edging plants. Some everbearing varieties to choose from are:

  • Fort Laramie
  • Quinault
  • EverSweet
  • Ozark Beauty

Day-Neutral Strawberries

Throughout most of the growing season, day-neutral strawberry plants produce flowers and fruit if the plants are properly cared for. They produce some runners and are great for gardens with limited space. Some day-neutral varieties are:

  • Tribute
  • Selvia
  • Seascape
  • Tristar

How Much Sun Is Needed for Healthy Plants?

Strawberry plants can grow okay with at least six hours of direct sunlight, but the quantity and quality of the fruit may be diminished. The ideal amount of direct sunlight needed is ten or more hours per day.

What Is the Best Soil for Strawberry Plants?

Strawberry plants prefer a fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8 (slightly acidic). If the soil is a heavy clay, mix in 4 inches or more of composted leaves or fully rotted sawdust before planting plants.

How Do Strawberry Plants Grow?

Strawberry plants can be started from seed but the task can be very challenging. The best way to raise strawberries is by starting with potted plants or dormant transplants purchased from a reputable nursery.

The mother (original) transplant will send out runners if it is a June-bearing or day-neutral type of strawberry. Everbearing strawberry types will not send out runners but will concentrate on fruit production.

From the crowns at the base of June-bearing and day-neutral strawberry plants, runners will extend and slowly grow roots, leaves, and eventually fruit. The new plants from these runners can produce much fruit. The new plants can also be removed and planted in a new area.

When Should Strawberry Plants Be Planted?

Planting strawberries in the spring are best for USDA Zone 6 and zones northward. A good root system will develop before the following winter. Dormant transplants or potted plants can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked or approximately four to six weeks before the last frost.

Fall planting of strawberries is best for USDA Zones 7 and southward. The plants can be grown as a cool weather annual in humid coastal areas like Florida.

What Are the Planting Systems of Strawberry Plants?

There are numerous strawberry planting systems. The type of strawberry that is grown determines which planting system is best. Here are some growing systems commonly used when strawberries are grown as perennials:

Matted Row System

The June-bearing cultivars grow best in this system. The mother strawberry plants are planted 18 to 30 inches apart in rows that are 3 to 4 feet apart. The mother plant is allowed to grow unlimited runners until the new daughter plants are established every 3 to 4 inches within the row. Any additional runner growth is cut.

Spaced-Row System

The mother plants are planted in the same manner as the matted row system, but the number of daughter plants that grow from a mother plant is limited. The daughter plants are spaced no closer than 4 inches apart. This system requires more work, but usually produces fewer disease problems and larger strawberries than strawberries grown with the other systems.

Hill System

The best growing system for everbearing and day-neutral strawberries is the hill system. All runners are removed in this system. All the energy goes to the mother plant which produces more crowns and flower stalks. A hill system consists of multiple rows arranged in groups of two, three, or four plants. Plants are 1-foot apart. Pathways between the rows are 2 feet wide.

How Deep Are Strawberry Transplants Planted?

When planting transplants, place the center of the crowns at the soil line and completely bury all roots. Transplants planted at the wrong depth will not grow correctly. Leaves will not emerge from the soil if the crowns of the plants are planted too deeply. Crowns that are planted too shallow will not absorb enough water and will soon die.

How Much Water Is Necessary for Strawberry Plants?

Strawberry plants will produce large, juicy berries if they receive 1 inch of water per week. Be careful not to overwater. Too much water during the fruit ripening stage could result in watery berries. Use a rain gauge to guarantee the plants are receiving the correct amount of water.

What Are the Fertilization Needs of Strawberry Plants?

Use an organic fertilizer beginning in spring of the first year of strawberry plant growth.
The shallow strawberry plant roots do best with a balanced fertilizer containing nitrogen and potassium. Soil testing is advised because some locations may need added phosphorus or trace minerals. Fertilize again in August and September. Repeat this every growing season.

Can Strawberries Be Grown in Containers?

Strawberries grow well in containers. Strawberry jars (urns), hanging grow bags, and strawberry towers are examples of containers designed specifically for growing strawberry plants.

What Diseases Attack Strawberry Plants?

Leaf-spot diseases can weaken strawberry plants, but usually, have minimal effect on the plant. Cutting off diseased foliage in midsummer can halt or lessen the damage.

Fruit rot caused by fungi can infect the fruit and flowers of older strawberry plants. Fruit rot prevention or reduction usually can be achieved by planting in full sun, watering early in the day, mulching, and not overcrowding plants.

What Pests Attack Strawberry Plants?

Birds are perhaps the biggest threat to a successful strawberry harvest, but there are many smaller creatures that can do damage to the strawberry plants. Insects that can cause damage are:

  • Strawberry Crown Borer
  • Strawberry Root Weevil
  • White Grubs
  • Leafrollers
  • Mites
  • Strawberry Rootworm
  • Eastern Flower Thrips
  • Slugs
  • Strawberry Clipper
  • Strawberry Sap Beetle
  • Tarnished Plant Bug

When Is Harvest Time?

Strawberry plants begin producing flowers when the weather warms up in the spring. The time from flowering to picking is four to six weeks for all three types of strawberries.

The best indicator of harvest-ready strawberries is their color. A ripe strawberry will be completely red. Some varieties are white under the leaves at the top of the berry.

What are Good Companion Plants for Strawberries?

Certain plants planted in close proximity to strawberry plants will help keep destructive pests away, attract beneficial insects, or enhance growing conditions. Some of these beneficial companion plants are:

  • Borage
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Thyme
  • Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Caraway
  • Dill
  • Marigold Flowers
  • Sage
  • Mint

How Should Strawberries Be Picked?

Berries should be picked from the stem about one-half inch above the blossom caps. Use a slight twist to detach the berries from the plants. Allow the berries to roll into the palm of your hand. Hold no more than three or four berries in your hand at a time. Carefully place the berries in a container.

How Are Strawberries Stored?

Strawberries stay fresh longer if they are picked in the early morning. Minimizing sun exposure to the picked berries also aids in keeping them fresh. Do not wash the strawberries until immediately before eating. By following these suggestions, your freshly picked strawberries should last about three days in the refrigerator.