There are certain things that just can’t be bought. And strawberries are one! You can’t beat fresh strawberries, so continue on to learn how you can easily grow them in your garden.
Many years ago I had strawberries planted in my garden and now that I’m thinking back I don’t know why I stopped.
I’m sure I pulled them up to give myself space to plant other things but I never replanted.
So this year I am super excited because I turned one of my raised beds into an entire strawberry bed!
Now the hard part is going to be not eating all of the strawberries while I’m out in the garden, because I’d really like a good harvest of berries to make strawberry jam!
Soo… I’m going to have to work on some major self-control this gardening season!
Speaking of self-control, here’s a quick story. When I was about 5 years old or so I remember having an allergic reaction, busting out into hives everywhere.
I went to the doctor and the only thing they could think of that caused the allergic reaction was strawberries…
Around that time I had been eating so many strawberries and since that was the only thing different going on my mom was convinced I must be allergic to strawberries.
Well, you can say I did not handle that very well. I remember just crying my eyes out because I loved strawberries and I couldn’t handle the thought of not getting to eat them.
Well, thankfully there is a good/not so good ending. I am not allergic to strawberries; I am allergic to penicillin and just about every other antibiotic out there.
So I can’t get sick, but I can sure eat strawberries!
And so every time I eat strawberries I think of that short moment when I was told I was allergic and think of how happy I am that I am not!
So lets talk about how to plant strawberries and how they can be the perfect addition to your garden.
Preparing Garden Bed
Strawberry plants need at least 8 hours of full sun so pick a location that will best suit their needs.
They also prefer slightly acidic soil with a ph ideally around 5.8 to 6.2
If you know your soil tends to be more alkaline you can plant your strawberries in containers filled with potting soil and that’ll be an easy solution.
Soil that is rich in clay it can be made suitable by mixing in additives such as: composted leaves, Miracle Gro Performance Organics All Purpose in Ground Soil (amazon), or fully rotted sawdust.
Or if your soil is sandy it can be made suitable by mixing in additives such as: rich compost or rotted manure.
No matter what just be sure that your garden beds have good drainage. You don’t want your strawberry plants sitting in water.
Another good practice is to keep your soil soft and lightly worked up throughout the season so that daughter plants can easily root themselves into the soil. We’ll go over more on daughter plants below.
Picking Out Varieties of Strawberries
Now this is where it got tricky for me. When I went to the nursery to pick out my strawberry plants… or truthfully, when I went to the nursery to buy succulents only, and the newly delivered strawberry plants pulled me in and I ended up buying an entire cart load!
Anyways…I started looking at all the varieties and had no idea which ones were best, or even what the difference was between them all.
As I sat there googling to make sure I was buying the right plants I learned there are three types of strawberries.
June-Bearing, which will bear all of their fruit at once over about a 3-week period. These plants also produce the most runners with daughter plants and largest berries.
Ever-bearing, which will produce a large crop from spring blooms, produce a few berries in between and then will have a small late crop.
Day-neutral, which will continually produce berries throughout the growing season until the 1st frost. They also tend to be less sensitive to variations in weather and the amount of light they receive.
Ever-bearing and day-neutral don’t shoot off as many runners and they tend to produce smaller berries with a lesser amount than June-bearing but they will provide you with berries for a longer span which is likely what you’re hoping for.
To find out which varieties grow best in your state go to strawberryplants.org and click on your state and it’ll show you the plants best suited for you.
Strawberry Growing Season
If you live in an area where strawberries are commercially grown you’ll likely notice that many of them grow strawberries as an annual. But for the home gardener it’s best to grow strawberry plants as hardy perennials. They’ll die back in the winter and then make their lovely comeback in the spring.
Plants should bloom in early spring and then the busy bees will need to get to work in your garden and pollinate so that your plants can start bearing fruit.
Then as long as the weather is warm and sunny your berries should ripen in about 30 days. Oh the wait… But don’t pick them early because they won’t ripen off the plant like an avocado.
Steps in Planting
Spring planting is the most common time for planting strawberry plants and so depending on your area it will likely be best to plant in March or April.
The important thing is to plant early enough so your plants can get established before the really harsh temperatures hit.
Certain varieties shoot off runners, which then produce daughter plants. So typical spacing should be around 18” for the majority of plants. Although there are some plants that do not put off daughter plants so they can be planted closer together. So just be sure to refer to the tag.
Once you get the spacing marked, dig a hole just deep enough so that the roots are covered but not the entire crown. The crown should be able to get some exposure to the sunlight, which will prevent the plant from rotting.
Once your mother plants start sending off runners you can train them to root where you prefer or just let them be, just keep it to no more than 5 plants per square foot.
Caring for Plants
Water plants consistently. Strawberries thrive in constantly moist soil but not sitting water.
If you notice that your berries seem small it may be that they are not receiving enough water. So watch closely and increase your watering if need be.
It’s not required but it’s recommended to cover strawberry beds with mulch.
Ideas for mulch could be:
Unfortunately, it is said that organic mulches attract slugs, which will end up eating your strawberries. So that’s why it’s common to see black plastic used on large strawberry farms.
But as long as you keep an eye out or prevent the slugs by using cooper wire or bait, you should be fine.
For strong healthy plants you should apply a fertilizer. You can use a fertilizer as simple as Miracle Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Nutrition Granules.
The time to fertilize is just before planting, 4-6 after planting, and then again around August.
Ever-bearing and day-neutral varieties can also be fertilized after their first harvest and June-bearing varieties during renovation.
While these steps for fertilizing are recommended guidelines, remember too little of fertilizer is better than too much fertilizer. So if you’re unsure don’t worry about fertilizing.
Oh the lovely birds… Can’t they just leave my fruit alone! Well unfortunately as much as I wish they would it’s unlikely it’ll ever happen. So if you want to harvest before the birds it would be smart to put some sort of bird netting (amazon) over your plants.
I say better safe than sorry, because I can tell you nothing will make you madder than waiting weeks for your perfect berries to ripen and then going out to find big ol’ chunks missing from every berry.
Harvest and Storage:
Once your strawberries have gained full color you should keep them on the plant for 2-3 days and then harvest.
Pick your berries early in the morning while the berries are still cool and then immediately put them in the fridge without washing them. Putting them in the fridge without washing them will extend their shelf life and then just before using you can wash them.
Good Practices in the 1st Year:
While I know this is super difficult, it is a good idea to remove all of the blooms in the first year of planting. The reason being is that it will allow your plants to put all of their energy into growing instead of producing berries.
This means by next year your plants will be even stronger and be better at producing fruit.
For June-bearing this means removing all of the blooms and getting no crop in the 1st year. For ever-bearing and day-neutral you should remove all of the initial blooms in spring and early summer. Then if you’d like, you can keep on the later blooms for a small late harvest.
Ways to Use Fresh Strawberries
Now this is what we’ve all been waiting for, eating fresh strawberries right!
Fresh strawberries are delicious all on their own. And if you sprinkle them with a little bit of sugar they are even better!
But a few ideas on ways to use them up are in strawberry shortcake, homemade jam, or a strawberry smoothie.
Most of all I hope you have fun growing strawberries in your garden. Don’t let all the steps and guidelines overwhelm you, it is just all the information needed to successfully grow healthy plants. Nobody has to follow all of the rules right! Haha!
Strawberries really are easy to grow and it is so rewarding. Don’t shoot for perfection, just test it out and remember to find the joy in growing and harvesting your own food. That’s what it’s all about!