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.
Most catalogues list two basic types of strawberries: June-bearing and everbearing. June-bearing strawberries produce a huge crop of berries in late spring or early summer, then may produce a few berries here and there for the rest of the season. Everbearing strawberries produce a good-sized crop in spring, but then they continue to produce berries regularly up until frost.
In most climates, gardeners can plant strawberries as perennials. In this method, strawberry plants are planted about 1-1/2' apart, in rows about 4' apart. The plants will grow until they eventually form thick, lush rows about 2' wide. As they grow, they spread by sending out runners, which root right in the garden bed and produce daughter plants.
By carefully managing a strawberry patch, a gardener growing strawberries as perennials can have berries for years to come, without ever having to buy another strawberry plant.
Strawberry plants that are to be treated as annuals are planted closer together than those that are left to grow as perennials. For annuals, mound or hill up rows of soil about 6" or 8" tall, spacing the rows about 2' apart. Set the strawberries about 12" apart down the length of each mounded row. In areas with mild winters, plants are set out in the fall for a spring harvest; in colder climates with winter freezes, strawberries are set out in spring for a summer harvest.
With the annual system, the strawberry plants are dug up and discarded after the harvest, and gardeners replant a crop of new, disease-free berries each year. It's an easy way to grow berries that works well for most people.
If you're not sure which growing method is best for your climate, contact your local cooperative extension service. The extension service will most likely have a free brochure on growing strawberries in your area.
If you are planting bare-root strawberry plants (Image 1), keep the roots moist at all times and place the bare-rooted plants in a shallow container, filled with just enough water to cover the roots, for an hour or two before planting. When you are ready to plant, dig a small hole, fan out the roots, and put the plant so that its crown is even with the surrounding soil surface (Image 2).
The crown is the point where the roots of the plant meet the leaves (Image 3). If you plant the strawberries with the crown too high, the plants will dry out. But if you put the crown too low, the berries will probably rot. If you are planting rooted strawberry plants, plant them at the same depth they were growing in the container.
Folks who don't have space for a berry patch can still have berries. The trick is to plant your strawberries in containers. Any container will work, but the most classic solution is to use a strawberry pot with side pockets (Image 1).
To begin, add a few inches of moistened, lightweight soil mix to the bottom of the pot, up to the bottom of the first pocket. Lightly firm the soil with your hands, then add a touch more potting mix to raise it back up to the level of the lowest pocket. Tuck a strawberry plant in the pocket, setting it at a bit of an angle (Image 2). Continue to add more soil to the height of each pocket, firming lightly each time and putting one strawberry plant in each pocket. Although you can plant any variety of strawberry in a pot, everbearing plants typically do better in containers than June-bearing plants.
When you reach the top of the jar, plant one or two strawberries on top (Image 3), then add some shredded hardwood mulch to give the pot a finished look. Water the pot well, watering from the top and watering each of the pockets as well. Given plenty of sun and lots of moisture, this pot will fill out beautifully and start producing berries in just a few months.
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