Introduction to Growing Strawberries:
Strawberries are by far one of the most popular fruit that is grown in home gardens today. Among the many reasons for its popularity are its ease of growing, the large amounts of fruit the plants can produce, and how well it adapts to a wide range of growing conditions across many zones. There are many uses for strawberries, which we will cover in these articles, but before you start eating those strawberries, you probably would like to know how to grow them first!
There are three distinct classes of strawberries that you can choose from to incorporate into your landscaping ideas. The first are the Junebearers that get their name because they produce fruit once per season, typically around the month of June in most climates. Dayneutrals is the next type and these will bear fruit a few times throughout the growing season. The final type are the Everbearers, which despite the name will only produce fruit twice in a given season.
Site Selection for Growing Strawberries:
One of the nice things about growing strawberries is they can do very well in a wide range of soil types, so for the most part you can probably get away with the garden soil you already have. If you want to maximize the fruit production however, it's not a bad idea to amend your soil to give the strawberry plants their ideal growing conditions. Strawberries will grow exceptionally well loamy soils that drain well and do not allow water to collect on the surface of the soil.
If you are not able to produce these ideal conditions don't worry, few people are blessed with the perfect soil. You can still grow your strawberries just fine. There are a couple of ways that you can accomplish this. The first is to till your garden area with various amendments to counter whatever problem you are facing. Strawberries love soil that is rich in organic matter!
The other thing you can do is build raised beds to grow your strawberries in. Not only do raised gardens make the work a little easier on your back, but they also give you the advantage of filling the beds with whatever soil you want, so you can give your strawberry plants their ideal growing conditions.
Growing Strawberries - Planting:
Planting strawberries should be done as early in the spring as possible, to give the plants the longest growing period possible. Prior to planting, as soon as the soil is workable, you should mix in a good 6-24-24 fertilizer into the top 6 inches or so of the soil. Strawberries will produce more fruit if the soil has high levels of potash and phosphates in it. You should get the plants in the ground as soon as reasonably possible.
If you are getting your plants in early, you should plant them with about a 2 foot spacing in between to give them adequate room to spread out without crowding one another. If you aren't planting until later, a 15 inch spacing should be sufficient. It is very important to set the strawberry plants at the proper depth in the soil. Your starter plants will have a crown at the base of them, this is the part where the leaves develop from. This should be set right at the surface of the soil. If you plant them too high, the roots may dry out before taking, if you plant them too deep, the plants may not grow at all.
Growing Strawberries the First Season:
As your strawberry plants grow, keeping the garden area weed free is essential to healthy plants. As the plants grow and develop, they will create runners that shoot off from the parent plant. These runner plants should be trained to grow near the parent plant rather than some distance off. A good ratio is about 5 total plants for every square foot of garden space. Any additional runners can be cut and removed so the plant can focus on growth.
Strawberries benefit greatly from adequate irrigation. If you want to achieve the best results from your plants, make sure they are never starved for water. Proper irrigation will make the difference between top performing plants, and those that are a disappointment. If Mother Nature isn't providing enough rain, make sure you are giving the plants at least 1 inch or more of water per week. Also make sure you provide your plants with extra water during the drier months of August and September as this will aid them in forming fruit buds in the following year.
Frost & Disease Control when Growing Strawberries:
One of the biggest enemies to growing strawberries is an early frost in the spring time. One way you can help protect the emerging strawberry plants is to cover them with commercial greenhouse plastics made just for this purpose. Another way of protecting your plants is with a generous layer of mulch to help insulate the plants. This should be placed around the plants after they go dormant around December. The following year you can rake away most of the mulch once the last frost has past, but leave a little behind to still provide some barrier between the plants and the soil.
One unfortunate part of growing strawberries is insects and other pest love them as well. There are plenty of general purpose fruit sprays on the market that you can use on your strawberries for most application. In order for these types of sprays to be truly effective, make sure you follow the directions and try to time the applications as best you can with the corresponding periods of infection. Generally you should spray your plants when the first blossoms start to open, and then once again when your plants are in full bloom.
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