Growing Strawberries

There are few tasty treats that can match the exquisite, ripe sweetness of strawberries. This rich, red fruit is easy to grow in your home garden and these plants also do very well if they are grown in containers. Here are some handy tips to keep in mind that can help you produce a bumper crop of luscious strawberries this summer.

Preparation and Planting

Strawberries require well drained soil with a pH that is acidic (5.8-6.2)
For the best fruit production these plants must have full sun.
The soil in which you are going to plant the strawberries should have at least 2 inches of compost added and worked in at least 1-2 weeks before you set your strawberry plants into the ground.
Give your strawberries a good head start by putting them in the ground as quickly as you can work the soil. They can also be planted in the fall for fruit production the following summer.
Begin by purchasing healthy strawberry plants that have been certified to be free from any plant borne diseases.
Large crowns, green leaves and light colored, firm roots are evidence of healthy plants.
Strawberries should not be planted in an area where you have recently grown peppers, eggplants, tomatoes or potatoes to reduce the chance of your strawberry plants developing Verticillium Rot.
Create a hole for each plant that is big enough to give the roots room to spread out.
Hill the dirt around the center of the hole and be sure to set the plant so that when the plant is in the ground the dirt only comes about halfway up the crown.

Specific Instructions for June Bearing Strawberries

If you have strawberries of the June bearing variety you will want to use a matted row system to allow for the long runners that will occur.
These plants should be placed 18 inches apart, and there should be at least 4 feet between each row.
Let the plants become established the first year they are in the ground and pinch any flowers so that all the energy goes to the roots and runners, instead of being diverted into production of early fruit.
The runners will fill in the spaces in your mat design and you can train them so that you have plants that are all separated by a distance of about 6 inches.
Do not clip the runner from the mother plant, but simply press each runner gently into the ground and cover it with garden soil so that it can develop independent roots.

Special Instructions for Everbearing and Day Neutral Strawberry Plants

Use a hilling system for these strawberry varieties.
Create a raised garden bed that is about 2 feet wide, 2 feet long and 8 inches high.
Plant the berries in staggered rows that are 12 inches apart.
Remove any runners and flowers that appear before the 1st of July. After this date you can let your strawberry plants set fruit.
These strawberry plants need to be removed and replaced every 2-3 years if you want to keep the fruit production at peak levels.

Additional Tips

Mulch the ground between and around your strawberry plants with straw. This will keep weeds at bay and your strawberries off the ground.
These plants need at least 1 or 2 inches of water each week if you want them to produce juicy, big berries. The water need is especially critical during the stages when the fruit is forming.
10-10-10 fertilizer can be applied when you are preparing the soil but do not over fertilize your strawberry plants or you will have lots of leaves and few berries.

Graham Olsen writes for Flowers By Post.

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