The strawberry plant is a member of the rose family and one of the most popular small fruits in the world. Strawberries can be propagated in raised beds, high tunnels, containers, or hanging baskets, since they are perennial plants.
Strawberry species are divided into two classes, the short-day or June-bearing species and the day-neutral or ever-bearing species.
The June-bearing variety flowers and produces an abundance of fruit in May and June, hence their name.
While the ever-bearing varieties bloom and bear fruit throughout the growing season, peaking in June and again in late summer or early fall.
Strawberries come in countless varieties. Choose one that is compatible with your growing conditions and your end goal.
1. Bare-root vs plugs
You can buy strawberries as either bare-root plants, plugs, or established plants. If you are purchasing plants, choose varieties from a well-respected nursery that has disease-free plants. Many nurseries sell out quickly, so place your order early.
Bare-root plants are dormant and need to be planted quickly after you receive them. Until you’re ready to plant them, store bare-root plants in a cool place. Before planting, soak the roots in water for about half an hour. This will get them ready to receive nourishment from the soil.
Strawberries grown from plugs are in active growth and are usually available in the fall. Plantings are usually done in the spring for bare-root plants, and in the autumn for plug plants.
Choose a place that is well-drained, where the pH ranges from 5.8 to 6.8, and has lots of direct sunlight. A soil test is highly recommended to determine the proper fertilizer recommendations for berries.
Two to three weeks before planting, or at least six weeks after planting, apply the recommended fertilizer amounts. By doing so, you will prevent fertilizer burn and ensure a good harvest.
If possible, grow your strawberries in raised beds. This helps promote soil drainage, soil warming, weed control, and makes for better berry harvesting.
In beds, plants should be placed 8 to 14 inches apart when planting. Add mulch to help with weed control and keeping ripened berries from touching the soil, which could lead to disease.
However, if you’re not planting in beds, the strawberry plants should be placed 12 to 24 inches apart within the row, and 36 to 48 inches between rows.
Place roots downward, with the crown (the area between the roots and stem) slightly above or level with the ground.
Remove the first set of flower buds and runners to establish a healthy plant with strong roots. Strawberry plants need adequate soil moisture throughout the growing season; however, over-watering can dilute the berry flavor. Water only early in the morning or late in the evening when manual watering is necessary.
It’s important to remove weeds weekly so that plants are not harmed, and pests are reduced. Straw is a good mulch if you want weeds to be prevented. Leaves and grass clippings are not recommended because these can cause pest problems, smother plants, and prevent water infiltration.
As winter approaches, plants need protection from freezing temperatures by using mulch or row covers. This will encourage early fruit development. Mulch or row covers should be removed after any threat of frost has passed.
In optimal conditions, day-neutral varieties can bear fruit three months after planting, and June-bearing varieties the following spring.
The ripening process usually takes 28 to 30 days. Harvest fully ripe, red berries in the morning after plants have dried. You’ll need to pick berries every three days or so.
Depending on the variety, the harvest may last for four to six weeks. Berries should be refrigerated after picking and not washed until ready to be used.
4. Tips on pollination and production
- – Note that strawberry plants should not be planted in places where tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes and peppers have been grown within the prior three years because they can share diseases.
- Strawberry flowers are both male and female and self-pollinate. The wind can transfer pollen inside the flower, but pollinator insects, such as bees, are important for pollination. Complete pollination will produce larger berries and a longer harvest.
- – Runners from strawberries produce daughter plants for the following year. Remove these runners for a larger harvest and bigger berries.
- – Fruit production and berry size will decrease as plants age. Strawberries can last up to three years with proper care and pest control.