Are you planning to grow your own fresh, juicy strawberries this season? If so, congratulations! Strawberry plants are a delicious and healthy addition to any garden; growing your means, you can enjoy them at their peak of ripeness. However, caring for strawberry plants can be tricky, and even a tiny mistake can ruin your crop.
In this post, we’ll show you how to care for your strawberry plants from planting to harvest, ensuring you get the sweetest, juiciest, and most delicious strawberries possible. From arranging proper soil drainage to monitoring watering schedules and controlling pests, we’ll cover every aspect of strawberry plant care to help you get started and avoid common mistakes that can harm your plants. Keep reading to learn more about growing and caring for strawberry plants like a pro, and enjoy the freshest strawberries all season long.
Strawberries are a straightforward fruit to grow, and homegrown strawberries taste much more flavorful than those in grocery stores. This is because the sugar in berries quickly turns into starch after they are picked. Information is available to learn more about growing strawberries in your garden or pots.
The great thing about strawberries is that they can be grown quickly in almost any climate and soil across the United States and Canada, as long as you plant them in an area that receives full sun.
There are three types of strawberry plants:
June-bearing varieties: These produce fruit all at once, usually over three weeks. They are sensitive to the length of daylight and produce buds in autumn, flowers and fruits in June, and runners during the long summer days. In warmer climates, these strawberries bear fruit earlier than June.
Everbearing varieties: These plants yield a large crop in spring, a lighter one in summer, and another in late summer/fall. They form buds during the long summer days and short autumn days. The buds formed during summer bloom and bear fruit in autumn, while those formed during autumn bear fruit the following spring.
Day-Neutral varieties: These plants bear fruit continuously throughout the season until the first frost. They are not affected by day length and will produce buds, fruits, and runners continuously if the temperature remains between 35°F and 85°F (1°C to 30°C). However, their production is lower compared to June bearers.
For home gardening purposes, we recommend choosing June-bearing varieties. Although you must wait a year before harvesting fruits, it will be well worth it.
When to Plant Strawberries
It is recommended to plan your strawberry planting as soon as the ground is workable in the spring. To maintain high berry quality each season, it is advisable to establish new plants every year. Strawberry plants produce runners, or daughter plants, that can root and grow into new strawberry plants.
When purchasing strawberry plants, it is best to buy disease-resistant ones from a reputable nursery. It’s essential to choose a variety that is recommended for your area. You can seek guidance from the nursery you purchase from or consult with your state Cooperative Extension Service for locally recommended varieties.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
To ensure the optimal growth of strawberry plants, they require 6–10 hours of direct sunlight per day. Therefore, choose a planting site that can provide this amount of sunlight.
While strawberries can tolerate different soil types, they prefer loamy soil with good drainage. Incorporating aged manure or compost into the soil a couple of months before planting is recommended. If you have clay soil, mixing in at least 4 inches of compost and creating raised mounds to enhance drainage is generally advised. In sandy soil, remove weeds lightly and add a 1-inch layer of nutrient-rich compost or rotted manure.
The pH level of the soil should be between 5.5 and 7. If needed, amend the soil before planting. In areas where soils are naturally alkaline, it is best to grow strawberries in half barrels or large containers filled with potting soil enriched with compost.
Selecting a well-drained planting site for strawberries is crucial, and raised beds are particularly suitable for these plants.
For successful cultivation, it is recommended to practice crop rotation. Only plant strawberries in an area recently used for growing strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant if you plan on amending the soil each year.
How to Plant Strawberries
When planting strawberries, providing enough space for their sprawling growth is essential. Set the plants approximately 18 inches (1-1/2 feet) apart to allow room for runners, and maintain a distance of 4 feet between rows. Strawberries are plants that spread through runners, producing their runners.
Ensure the planting holes are deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. However, avoid planting too deep! The roots should be covered with soil, while the plant’s crown (central growing bud) should be at the soil surface. It is crucial not to bury the crown, which could cause it to rot. The leaves, flowers, and fruit need light and fresh air exposure.
Water the plants well when planting to help settle their roots into the soil.
Additionally, it is possible to grow strawberries from last year’s runners.
How to Grow Strawberries
- Be diligent about weeding—weed by hand, especially in the first months after planting.
- Moisture is essential for strawberries due to their shallow roots. Water adequately, about one inch per square foot per week. Strawberry plants need a lot of water when the runners and flowers develop and again in the late summer when the plants are fully mature and gearing up for winter dormancy.
- Fertilize with all-purpose granules for solid growth. In warm weather, berries ripen about 30 days after blossoms are fertilized.
- In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage strawberry plants from fruiting. If they are not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots, which is good. The yields will be much higher in the second year.
- Eliminate runner plants as needed. The first and second generations produce higher yields. Try to keep daughter plants spaced about 10 inches apart.
- Row covers are a good option for protecting blossoms and fruit from birds.
Winter Care of Strawberries
- Strawberry plants are perennial and can survive mild freezing temperatures.
- If you live in an area with mild winters, little care is needed for your strawberry plants.
- In regions where the temperature regularly drops into the low twenties (Fahrenheit), strawberries will enter their dormant stage.
- To protect them during winter, mow or cut the foliage to one inch after the first couple of frosts or when air temperatures reach 20°F (-6°C).
- Mulch the plants with straw, pine needles, or other organic material, covering them about 4 inches deep.
- In colder regions, additional insulating mulch may be necessary.
- Adequate soil moisture can be maintained with natural precipitation.
- Remove the mulch in early spring, after the danger of frost has passed.
- Planting multiple varieties of strawberries is recommended, as each variety responds differently to conditions, giving you a more comprehensive range of fruits to enjoy.
- The ‘Northeaster’ variety is well-suited for the northeastern US and southeastern Canada, known for its intense flavor and aroma.
- ‘Sable’ is a hardy variety that can thrive in zone 3, with an early season and great flavor.
- ‘Primetime’ is a disease-resistant variety with a mild flavor, best suited for the Mid-Atlantic region.
- In the South, ‘Cardinal’ is an excellent variety to try.
- On the West Coast, ‘Camarosa’ is recommended.
- If you’re looking for a day-neutral variety that works well in hanging baskets, consider planting ‘Tristar.’
How to Harvest Strawberries
- Harvest strawberries when the fruit is red and ripe, usually 4-6 weeks after blossoming.
- It’s essential to pick the berries every three days, ensuring you only harvest the entirely red ones.
- Cut the strawberry by the stem instead of pulling it when harvesting, as pulling may damage the plant.
- The harvest typically lasts up to 3 weeks for June-bearer strawberries, providing an abundance of berries depending on the variety.
How to Store Strawberries
- To store strawberries, keep them unwashed in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- If desired, you can freeze strawberries whole for approximately 2 months.
Why Are Strawberries Called Strawberries?
There are various theories about the origin of the name “strawberry.” One theory suggests that woodland pickers string the berries on pieces of straw to transport them to market.
Another theory proposes that the surface of the fruit resembles being embedded with bits of straw.
Some believe the name “strawberry” comes from the Old English word meaning “to strew,” as the plant’s runners spread in different directions and appear scattered on the ground.
The full Moon in June is known as the Strawberry Moon because its appearance historically signaled the time to gather ripening fruit.
Common strawberry pests include Gray Mold, Powdery Mildew, Japanese Beetles, Spider Mites, and Slugs.
Keeping the beds weed-free and using a gritty mulch is recommended to prevent slug and bug damage. Spreading sand over the strawberry bed can also deter slugs (this technique works well for lettuce too). Pine needles are another option to foil slug and pill-bug damage.
You can spray your plants with puréed garlic and neem seed oil for larger pests like Japanese beetles.
When birds threaten your strawberries, you can deter them by placing balloons with scare eyes above the beds and using reflective Mylar bird tape.
How do you care for a strawberry plant?
Caring for your strawberry plants is essential to savoring your garden’s sweetest and juiciest berries. One key factor in ensuring excellent growth and yield is using a thick straw mulch around the plants, typically combined with low tunnels and row covers in early spring and late fall. Such measures protect the plants from harsh elements while retaining moisture in the soil, which is crucial for optimal growth.
Another essential component of proper care involves using organic, slow-releasing fertilizer that provides the necessary nutrients at the right time. The strategic timing of fertilization is especially critical for producing large and luscious berries, ensuring the plants receive sufficient nourishment to support vigorous growth and development. By following these tips and committing to the upkeep of your strawberry plants, you’ll be rewarded with a fruitful harvest that you’ll be proud to share and enjoy with your loved ones.
Do strawberries need to be watered in winter?
If you’re wondering how to care for your strawberries over the winter months, you might be surprised to learn that in-ground plants generally require very little maintenance. While it’s true that winter mulching can provide some protection from extreme temperatures, once this is done, you can leave your in-ground plants alone until spring arrives. This is because the plants are dormant over the winter and don’t require much moisture or other care.
On the other hand, if you’re growing strawberries in containers, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to ensure that your plants survive the winter. One of the most important things you can do is water your container plants well before the onset of cold weather. This is because dry soil freezes much faster than wet soil, and frozen ground can cause root damage that may harm or even kill your plants. Keeping your container plants hydrated and protected from extreme temperatures gives them the best chance of surviving the winter and producing a bountiful crop in the spring.
Can you eat strawberries right off the plant?
For avid strawberry lovers, the feeling of plucking ripe berries straight off the plant and popping them into your mouth is pure bliss. But what if you could have this pleasure not once but twice or even three times a year? That is the beauty of everbearing strawberries, which, as the name implies, can produce multiple harvests within a single growing season. With proper care and conditions, these plants can yield a bumper crop of sweet and juicy strawberries worthy of any dessert or snack.
Growers have reported getting at least two and even up to three harvests from their everbearing strawberry plants, which is undeniably a sweet deal. Imagine enjoying the delicate sweetness of freshly picked strawberries at the peak of summer and again in the mild autumn months. It’s no wonder that everbearing strawberries are a grower’s favorite and a must-have for any gardener who wants to make the most of their strawberry-growing season. So, grab the nearest everbearing strawberry and savor its luscious goodness straight from the plant.
How do you keep strawberries from rotting?
Strawberry lovers know too well the pain of discovering rotting fruits in their harvest. But what if there was a way to prevent this unfortunate occurrence? Fear not, for the answer lies in hilling – the technique of growing strawberries on raised rows or mounds, which offers several benefits aside from preventing rot.
One advantage of hilling is its ability to help the plants avoid excess water, which can cause rotting in the fruit and growth challenges. Since the soil is elevated, water drains away from the plant’s base, eliminating the boggy conditions that can lead to rot. In addition, hilling can help strawberries resist frost damage by boosting the soil temperature around the plants, allowing them to thrive in colder weather.
The raised mounds and rows also promote good air circulation, keeping the plants disease-free by preventing moisture buildup and allowing for sufficient oxygen. With all these benefits, hilling is an excellent strategy to keep your strawberries healthy, thriving, and rot-free. So, why not try it out and enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh, healthy strawberries without any risk of rot?
What are the best conditions for strawberry plants?
If you’re a strawberry grower, you know how crucial it is to ensure that your plants grow in optimal conditions for the best possible yield. One of the first considerations for planting strawberries is the type of soil you have. The ground should be deep, sandy loam, and rich in organic matter. This soil type enables good drainage, an essential aspect of strawberry plant care. The plant’s roots need to breathe, and well-drained soil will prevent waterlogging and reduce the chances of root diseases.
For this reason, it’s important to avoid planting strawberries in areas that remain wet late into the spring. Another critical factor is the amount of sunlight your planting site receives. Full sunlight is ideal for strawberry plants and promotes healthy plant growth and fruit production. A gradual slope is also desirable because it allows excess water to drain away from the plants’ roots while preventing soil erosion. By considering these aspects and providing the best possible growing conditions for your strawberries, you can enjoy a satisfying harvest every season and relish the delicious fruits of your labor.
Should you put straws around strawberry plants?
Surviving harsh winter temperatures can be a significant challenge for strawberry plants, especially in regions like the prairies. A reliable strategy to keep them healthy and ensure a bountiful harvest is the careful use of straw mulch. The low temperatures during the winter can cause severe damage to the plants if they are left exposed to the elements.
This is where mulching with straw comes in. By carefully adding a layer of straw around the base of the plants, you protect the crop’s crown and shallow root system from the cold. The straw prevents the ground from freezing and thawing too quickly, acting as insulation to regulate the temperature and ensure that the delicate plant tissues are not damaged.
Besides the obvious benefit of helping the plants survive over the winter, straw mulching also promotes healthy growth in the spring by providing nutrients as it breaks down over time. In short, adding a straw mulch layer is necessary to protect your strawberry plants from low-temperature injury and encourage healthy, vigorous growth. Give it a try, and you’ll be rewarded with a successful and fruitful strawberry growing season.
Is the best time to plant strawberries?
If you’re a fan of fresh, homegrown strawberries, you might be wondering when to plant these delicious fruits. Early spring is generally the best time to plant strawberries after the threat of frost has passed. This typically occurs in March or April, depending on your region’s climate. Planting in the spring allows the strawberries to establish their roots and adjust to their new environment before summer’s intense heat arrives.
It also enables the plants to undergo the necessary growth stages, such as flower development and fruit production, during favorable weather conditions. However, the planting window can vary based on location and weather patterns. For instance, it’s possible to begin planting in late fall or early winter in warmer zones, while colder climates may require waiting a little longer in spring.
It’s also worth noting that planting times can vary by variety, so be sure to research and consult with experts to determine the perfect planting time for your strawberry varieties. With proper timing and care, you’ll be able to establish healthy, productive strawberry plants that yield a crop that you’ll savor and enjoy for a long time.
Can strawberries get too much sun?
Providing ample sunlight ensures that your strawberry plants produce flavorful, healthy fruit. However, is it possible for your plants to get too much sun? The answer is yes. Excessive heat can indeed harm your crop, resulting in a condition known as sunburn. This can cause your strawberries to remain soft and pink instead of ripening to their luscious, red state.
If you’re in a warmer region, taking precautions to shield your plants from the afternoon sun is essential. One way to do this is by using canopies or other protective coverings. These structures reduce the direct sunlight that reaches the fruit while allowing enough light for growth and development. Shading nets or cloth can also effectively filter the sunlight and regulate the temperature.
It’s important to note that canopies or screens should only be used for specific periods, such as in the hotter midday and afternoon. You’ll want to remove them as the evening arrives to ensure the plants receive ample light. These measures will keep your plants healthy and promote optimal fruit production, meaning you’ll enjoy ripe, delicious strawberries throughout the season.
Are eggshells good for strawberry plants?
Gardeners have long been on the hunt for clever ways to keep their plants protected from diseases and boost their growth, and some have turned to eggshells as a possible solution for preventing blossom end rot in strawberry plants. However, the question remains, are eggshells helpful for this purpose? While eggshells contain calcium and other nutrients that can benefit soil health and plant growth, they don’t necessarily prevent blossom end rot.
Even so, eggshells are still helpful. They are still an excellent source of organic material for the soil, which is essential for fostering healthy soil microbes. The calcium in eggshells can also reduce soil acidity, promoting healthy root development in strawberries. Adding crushed eggshells to the compost pile is an excellent way to utilize them effectively, resulting in healthier soil for your plants. So, while eggshells might not be a miracle solution to prevent blossom end rot in strawberries, they can still be a valuable addition to your gardening arsenal.
How do you keep strawberries from rotting on the ground?
Should I cage my strawberries?
It’s every gardener’s nightmare to carefully cultivate a patch of juicy, delicious strawberries, only to discover them completely ravaged by birds or other common garden pests. It makes sense that you would want to prevent birds, rabbits, or other animals from destroying your priceless fruit after all the time and effort you put into growing them.
And this is where strawberry cages come in, offering a practical and convenient solution to safeguarding your harvest. Enclosing the plants in a sturdy wire cage can prevent unwanted pests from nibbling on your strawberries while allowing light and water to reach the plants. These cages come in different sizes, shapes, and materials and can easily be customized to fit your garden’s needs.
They provide a barrier against hungry animals and help maintain your plants’ healthy growth by shielding them against strong winds, heavy rainfall, and other weather conditions that can damage the fruits. By investing in a strawberry cage, you’ll enjoy a fruitful harvest of plump, ripe strawberries you can savor with your family and friends without worrying about pesky pests ruining the perfect crop.
How long do strawberries last in the plant?
Strawberry plants are a long-term investment, potentially producing fresh, delicious fruit for up to four or five years. This longevity makes them attractive for gardeners who desire a steady supply of plump, juicy strawberries.
However, productivity and yield can decline over time, as with any fruiting plant. After the first two or three years, disease, nutrient depletion, and other factors can significantly impact your plants’ ability to grow and produce. As a result, it’s essential to monitor your plants carefully and take the necessary steps to keep them healthy, such as timely pruning, pest control, and proper fertilization.
At the same time, planning and preparing to replace older plants with new ones is essential. Buying new plants once the initial productive years are over is crucial to maintaining steady production levels and keeping your garden flourishing.
Particular strawberries are more durable than others, so if you’re planning on multiple years of growth, it might be wise to research and invest in a durable variety. Nonetheless, with care and proper planning, you can enjoy years of fruitful harvests from your strawberry plants.