Juicy and ripe strawberries are one of the sweetest treats of nature. They’re also one of the easiest and most versatile additions to your garden, providing blossoms in spring, fruit in summer and spring, and ornamental green leaves for most of the season — what could be better?
You can take the standard approach of building long rows or hills, but in many home gardens, blossoms function well as ground covers or even a boundary’s edge. If you don’t have good soil, try out a bed that is raised; they’ll thrive and will be easier to harvest. If your space is limited, know that but musk berries are happy in containers, out of standard pots to strawberry jars into hanging planters. Just don’t plant where you’ve recently grown eggplants, peppers, potatoes or tomatoes, to stop issues with verticilium wilt.
While berries are perennials, you’ll discover that production slips after a few years. Many strawberries every three to five years to be replaced by strategy. You might need to deal with them as annuals in extreme climates.
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Varieties: June-bearing strawberries are the most familiar. These varieties produce large fruits over a two- to three-week interval in June. These are fairly aggressive plants, spreading runners out readily.
Everbearing forms are tidier while still producing a couple of crops over the season. Rapidly gaining in house garden popularity would be the day-neutral forms, too smaller and less aggressive, with the incentive of producing berries from spring through fall.
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If you would like to attempt something more exotic, consider alpine berries and musk berries. The small, highly ornamental alpine varieties can easily be grown from seed and also make their miniature fruits all summer long, however as their name suggests they don’t handle heat well. Musk berries, that make a spring crop only, have. They do best if there is a male pollinator.
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When to plant: In cold-winter climates, plant when the soil can be worked in spring around three weeks to one month before the last frost date; plant in winter and early spring or fall in warm-winter ponds
Climate: Strawberry varieties are available for every climate condition, from cold to hot, from dry to moist or humid. Check with your nursery or cooperative extension for the best varieties for the climate, and make sure you purchase resistant plants if infections are a problem in your area.
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade for Alpine berries; full sunlight or partial shade for musk berries
Water necessity: Regular
June-bearing: Allstar, Annapolis, Benton, Camarosa, Chandler, Earliglow, Guardian, Honeoye, Hood, Jewel, Puget Reliance, Rainier, Seneca, SequoiaEverbearing: Fort Laramie, Ozark Beauty, QuinaultDay-neutral: Albion, Fern, Seascape, Selva, Tribute, TristarAlpine: Alexandria, Alpine Yellow, Alpine White, Fragola di Bosco, MignonetteMusk: Capron, Profumata di Tortona
Planting: Nevertheless you intend to plant, choose a site with very rich, well-drained (even sandy), slightly acidic to neutral soil. If your soil is alkaline, develop the berries in raised rows or beds, or consider using containers. Work a complete fertilizer to the soil, and if you would like, build small hills or mounds to elevate the plants slightly and make watering basins or furrows.
Place the plants in place, spreading the roots out and then spacing them around 1 1/2 to two feet apart for many berries, 8 to 12 inches apart for alpine strawberries.
Keep the base of each plant crown level with or just slightly above the soil; plant too deep and the crown will probably rot. Cover the roots completely with soil and firm it in place. If heavy frost is expected, shield the crops with row covers.
If you’re placing in a container or increased bed, start looking for one which is at least eight inches deep. Hanging planters should be at least 12 inches deep.
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Care: In case you’re growing the plants in rows, lightly cultivate the soil for two to six weeks (fourteen days to get everbearing and day-neutral forms; six weeks for June-bearing) allowing runners to disperse. Remove any weeds and ramble runners. Keep weeds down with straw or a different light-colored mulch throughout the growing season.
Pinch off the earliest blossoms to let the plants focus on development instead of fruit production. Pinch blossoms on June-bearing strawberries for at least the first two weeks they appear; you can also pinch off all flowers the first year to get better production in later years. Pinch off the first everbearing blossoms. Remove the blossoms for the first six weeks to get varieties. Do not remove blossoms on alpine strawberries.
Keep the soil consistently most while the fruit is forming, supplying about 1 to 2 inches of water each week. Pinch off June-bearing strawberry runners which are spreading out of boundaries to make sure fewer but bigger berries.
Feed June-bearing, alpine and musk strawberries plants as they begin to grow in spring with a balanced or low-nitrogen fertilizer; feed intensely after you harvest. Lightly feed everbearing and day-neutral berries throughout the season once the blossoms have set.
Strawberries are subject to a number of pests, including aphids, mites, snails and slugs. Strawberry root weevils can be a problem in some regions. Much more of a problem will be birds. Use netting to keep them and any household dogs or other creatures in the growing fruit. All of them love strawberries just as much as people do.
Diseases such as blight, fruit rot, leaf troubles, powdery mildew and verticilium wilt may also lead to problems, although if you keep a close watch and remove any diseased plants, you need to be able to keep things in check.
If you live in a cold-weather climate, cover the plants with straw mulch by late fall. You can reuse the mulch the next spring in case a late frost threatens.
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Rejuvenation: This is vital for June-bearing strawberries.Once the plants have finished fruiting, thin out older, weak or diseased plants, leaving about 6 inches between the rest of the strawberries. Mow over the foliage, about 1 to 4 inches above the crown. Spread a layer of soil over the plants and include fertilizer.
For all other berries, split the plants in spring.
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Harvest: When they’re bright red, they’re prepared to eat. Home-grown strawberries are fragile. To prevent crushing or bruising the fruit, then pinch or cut the stalks.
Plant guides: How to grow the top summer crops