How to Grow Strawberries
Strawberries are one of the most popular garden plants. Each year, the plants multiply, producing bigger and better crops of sweet berries.
There are two main types of strawberry plants: June-bearing and ever-bearing. The first produces one large crop of berries in early summer. The second produces a crop in early summer and then continues to bear fruit sporadically until frost. Strawberries are typically grown from bare-root plants.
Strawberries grow best in sunny spots with fertile, well-drained soil. Work a generous amount of compost into the garden bed before planting. Using a hoe, form raised rows in the garden spaced about 4' apart.
In early spring, dig small holes every 24" in the rows. Keep the roots in water to avoid drying out during the planting process. Place the strawberry plants in the holes and fan out the roots. Make sure the crown, the portion between the leaves and the roots, is even with the soil surface. Gently firm the soil around the roots, backfill with soil, and water well.
Pinch off any blooms that form during the first growing season (Image 1). This allows the plant to focus its energy on developing runners. A runner (Image 2) is a shoot that grows out from the main plant and develops into a second plant. This creates a thick, vigorous row of strawberry plants.
Give the strawberries 1" to 1-1/2" of water per week. During the first summer, fertilize the strawberries twice using 10-10-10 fertilizer. It is essential to keep the berry patch well weeded. Add a generous layer of mulch to control weeds and conserve moisture.
To protect the berries from birds, cover the plants with bird netting as soon as the berries start to form. In cold climates, add a thick layer of winter mulch in late fall to protect the plants from freeze damage. In early spring, pull back the mulch from the plants.
Different strawberry varieties ripen to different colors. The best test is the taste test. If the berries are sweet and juicy, they are ready to pick. For the best quality, pick berries in the morning and refrigerate them as soon as possible.