How to Grow Strawberries

     Abigal Gordon's Home Grown Strawberries

 

 

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No garden is complete without Strawberries. One of Americas favorite "fruits".  The care and cultivation of Strawberry plants requires some care and planning, but if you weren't fascinated by Gardening like I am , you wouldn't be reading this.

 

Strawberries

Home-grown, vine-ripened strawberries are among the garden's supreme treats- sweet, succulent, and bursting with flavor. Serve them in shortcakes, blended into smoothies, on ice cream, in cheesecakes or crepes, topped with yogurt or whipped cream, or simply savor them "as is" fresh from the garden. Grocery store strawberries, which are harvested early and ripened off the vine, can't begin to compare in sweetness and flavor.

Strawberries are also easy to grow in the home garden. The plants form foot-wide mounds of lush dark green foliage that can serve as an attractive ground cover. They require no staking or training, as do the larger berries, and only basic care. Once planted they will spread and continue to produce for four or five years before they need to be replaced.

Strawberry plants also grow well in pots, patio planters, even in hanging planters. While there are many varieties of strawberries, there are basically only two types: June-bearing (Allstar) and Everbearing (Ozark and Quinalt). The June-bearing strawberries bloom in the spring and produce a plentiful crop that ripens during June. The Everbearing strawberries produce both a spring and a fall crop, and continue producing some berries throughout the summer, more when temperatures aren't too hot. For the home gardener, the best strategy is to plant both types and harvest ripe berries over a long season.


 

 

 

Planting   Strawberries  

Setting the Plants 

Strawberries should be planted in the early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Choose a cool location if storage is necessary before they are planted, keep the roots moist, but not soggy, and out of direct sunlight and . If possible, plant on a cool, cloudy day to reduce the stress on the transplants.
 

When Planting, be sure the crown is above soil level and the topmost roots are 1/4 inch beneath soil level   Buried crowns rot / Exposed roots dry out.  Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture and keep weed growth down.

Strawberries do best in drained fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the strawberry patch.

There as four basic systems for growing strawberries

  1. Hill System
  2. Matted Row
  3. Ground Cover
  4. Raised Beds

 

The Hill system

The Hill system  is used for day neutral or ever bearing cultivars and works well in raised beds. Rows should be aprox. 8-10 inches high and 23-26 inches wide. (Starter plants are planted only 12 inches apart), Staggered double rows are preferable. Leave an isle between the rows about 2 feet wide. The plant's energy is put toward producing berries rather than producing an abundance of plants as in the matted row system. Runners are removed and berries are harvested the first season.   

The hill system works well in warm climates where strawberries can be planted in the fall. The plants can be treated as annuals, replacing them every fall for best results.

If not treating them as annuals, keep in mind that the Plants productivity wanes over time, they should be replaced every 1-3 years.

 

 

 
 

The matted row system

The matted row system is the least time consuming as far as maintenance is concerned.

 

You'll need an area aprox. 8-10 feet wide and 30 feet long to accommodate 30 plants. This system works best with June bearing strawberries.

In the spring, plant the Starter (or Mother) plants 2 feet apart in rows 3-4 feet apart and allow them to produce and set runner plants unobstructed. The first year all the plant's energy is devoted to producing and developing strong plants ,all flowers must be picked off, and fruit is not harvested until the second season.

Keep rows to a width of approximately 18 inches. You may have to cut back runners that grow between the rows.
 

 

Strawberries as a groundcover

space the starter plants 1 to 2 feet apart.

Weed well , and after the first season maintenance should be minimal.

Strawberries grown as a groundcover will not produce as much fruit. In all cases, the soil

should be well tilled and fertilized a week before planting.
 

 

Raised Beds

Some gardeners find that raised beds are easier to maintain and promote more vigorous plant growth. Walking in a garden causes soil compaction, which can cause problems with drainage

and oxygen availability to the roots. It's also more difficult to weed when soil is compacted.

With a raised bed, you can plant, weed and harvest without ever walking on the soil. You can also avoid  drainage problems by planting in raised beds. The soil also warms up faster in the spring than in a traditional garden. The growing season can also be started earlier.

 

Basic Care  of Strawberries  

Firm the surrounding soil and water thoroughly.

Prune damaged roots 

Trim excessively long roots to aprox. 5 inches

Regularly hoe between rows and individual plants.
Remove runners and old leaves.  Most strawberries produce offsets at the end of runners. If you want more plants, just let them grow. If you have enough strawberry plants, pinching off the runners will give you larger plants with small yields of big berries.

Remove the flower stalks of June-bearing strawberry plants as they appear throughout the first growing season. More production can be expected if the plants are allowed to attain large size before fruiting. Remove the blossoms of day-neutral types of plants as they appear until about the middle of June in the first year of planting only.. Then allow flowers to set fruit for the duration of the season.

 

 

Watering / Irrigation     

June-bearing strawberries that have been renovated after this year's harvest should be watered weekly during dry weather. Watering aids the recovery of the renovated planting and helps ensure optimal production next season. (The flower buds on June- bearing strawberries develop in late summer and fall. These flower buds will bloom the following spring.) If the strawberry planting is not properly watered, dry weather in late summer and fall could drastically reduce flower bud formation and next year's crop.

Everbearing and day-neutral strawberries must be watered during dry periods to maintain good fruit production.

Always soak the soil thoroughly when watering. this helps to promote good root development, but not excessively ..so as to avoid rot.  Inexpensive Water timer systems are available.

 

Fertilizer  recommendations for Strawberries  

The recommendations below are generalized and should be adjusted to the fertility, nutrient holding ability of your soil, and your observations of the plant growth. An application of Miracle-Gro as they are attempting to get established is recommended.


June bearing
The soil should have been fertilized before planting as recommended ..if not, apply 1/3 cup 13-13-13 per 25 feet of row two weeks after planting. Repeat in late August
1/3 cup 13-13-13 per 25 feet of row at renovation (after harvest) and again in late August
 

Ever bearing
2 weeks after planting apply 1/3 cup 13-13-13 per 25 feet of row if soil was not fertilized before planting. Repeat twice in the growing season.
Fertilize with 1/3 to 1/2 cup 13-13-13 per 25 feet of row three times per year. In containers, it may be easier to use a weekly soluble fertilizer or a slow release fertilizer according to label directions.

See Also Soil pH, and adjust accordingly

 

 

 

Best Varieties of Strawberries for Home Growers   

The following are my personal favorites, you of course may prefer to scan any of the many online nurseries and seed catalogs.

Hanging Strawberries

Developed by University of California these year round berries cascade forth in masses of snow white flowers and sweet berries all year long. The more you pick, the more grow to take their place. Easy to grow - practically a care-free Indoor Strawberry Garden

June Bearing

Ever Bearing & Day Neutral

June Bearing Strawberries produce one crop per year in late spring or early summer. It's best used for preserving.  June-bearing strawberries are most productive when grown in 2-foot-wide matted rows. Some June-bearing strawberries are extremely vigorous, producing runners beyond the 2-foot-wide matted row. These runners should be placed back within the 2-foot row or trimmed back to prevent the field from becoming a solid matted jungle. 

 

Everbearing Strawberries tends to peak in early summer and continue on through the fall. This is the type to plant if you want fresh berries all season long. They are highly productive and have very flavorful berries. Day-neutral plants have three peaks of production each year. Early Summer, Mid Summer and Early Autumn. There are limited varieties.
Allstar - Junebearer   Allstar June-bearing strawberry produces large, firm fruit late-to mid-season. Performs well in almost any condition.   Everbearing Picnic Strawberry Medium-sized fruits on bushy, compact plants with few short runners. For baskets, tubs, ground cover or edging. Grows as Annual or Perennial.

 

Earliglow Strawberry Claims to be the "heavyweight Champ of the strawberry world"  They are very big and Juicy, but my personal experience states they are not as tasty as some other varieties.  Yes they're good - I still grow them - but for sweetness the smaller varieties are better
 
  Alpine Strawberry sweet and tangy with a wild aroma. It will fruit right through the summer and early autumn and can be producing strawberries about ten weeks from an early sowing.
 
     
Park's June-Bearing Strawberry Collection Park Seed is offering a sampler collection of June bearing Strawberries.  I've had much success with their seeds and seedlings in the past.   Ozark - Everbearer fares best in Southern regions. Tolerates temperatures over 100 degrees without loss of fruit quality. Large berries are exceptionally flavorful.
 
     
Seed & Nursery Catalogs  

Renovation

Renovation is an important part of strawberry care. In order to insure substantial and quality berry production, June-bearing strawberries grown in the matted row system should be renovated every year right after harvest.

A strawberry patch will continue to be productive for three to four years as long as the planting is maintained. The first step in the renovation process is to mow the old foliage with a mower, cutting off the leaves about one inch above the crowns. Rake and remove the leaves, if  not diseased, compost them or dig them into the soil. Fertilize, Remove all weeds. Thin the plants in the narrowed row to 4 to 6 inches between plants.
 

Winter Protection       

To protect strawberries against winter injury, a layer of mulch is recommended. If plants are unprotected, low winter temperatures may kill the fruit buds and damage the roots and crowns. Alternate freezing and thawing conditions in the spring cause heaving of the plants. Mulch should be applied before the temperature drops below 20oF (-6oC). Once the temperature drops below 15oF (-10oC), damage to the plants begins. However, if the mulch is applied too early before the plant growth stops the crowns may rot.

Clean hay or straw make the best mulching material. Do not use tree leaves, as they mat down and smother the plants. A 3 to 4-inch layer of mulch is sufficient.

Leave winter mulch in place until plants show signs of growth in the spring. No harm will result even if many of the plants show one or two small yellow new center leaves. Delayed mulch removal prevents most heaving and may also delay early blooming which may be damaged by spring frosts. Remove just enough of the mulch so that the plants can come through.

 

Pests Common to Strawberry Plants  

  1. Aphids cause strawberry yield losses due to honeydew production. Honeydew deposits on fruit cause sooty molds to develop.  White skins shed by aphid nymphs stick to the berry which renders the fruit unpalatable.

  2. Birds  Birds love berries, enough said !

  3. Corn Earworm  causes damage to strawberries by burrowing into the berry. Only larvae of the first generation attacks winter strawberries. Entrance holes made by early larvae aren't visible, and the fruit must be cut to determine their presence. Larvae typically feed in the air pocket at the strawberries center. Mature strawberries containing larger larvae appear seedy and develop a shrunken surface with brown patches

    • Bacillus Thuringiensis is recommended for use by organic gardeners.

    • Sprays/Pesticides must be applied in the pre-bloom stage to prevent injury. Pesticides such as Rotenone that are more effective in cool than warm weather will work more efficiently earlier in the season.

  4. Strawberry Root Weevil feeds on the roots of strawberry plants and can completely devour small rootlets and destroy the bark and cortex of larger roots. Soon after feeding begins, plants wilt

  5. Spider Mites retard the growth of strawberry plants which can result In plant death. Most severe losses have resulted from outbreaks starting in late fall or winter. In the spring, mites increase rapidly and do the greatest damage during or after the blooming period.

    • Lady Bugs and lacewings help to contain infestations of mites

    • Sprays of rosemary oil are also effective as well as non toxic.

  6. See Pest Control for more extensive data

     

    See Also : University of Kentucky Entomology -STRAWBERRY PESTS

    Major and Minor Pests of Strawberries

Common Diseases and Pathogens affecting Strawberries    

 

    Most  Strawberry problems are fungal in nature, and caused by soil born pathogens, a sufficient ground cover of straw or well rotted mulch will help to minimize many diseases as the spores will bounce and spread further off soil and water than they will off straw.

 

Red Steele Root Rot

Red steele, or red core, is a serious disease of strawberry. In areas with cool, moist soil conditions, especially soils heavy in clay that are saturated with water during cool weather, the disease is more prevalent.

 

If Plants begin wilting and dying off  in the lower portions , the cause is very likely to be red stele. Infected plants are stunted, lose their healthy green luster, and produce very few runners. Young leaves often have a metallic, bluish-green discoloration. Older leaves turn prematurely yellow or red. Diseased plants wilt rapidly and die at the first signs of summer heat. Diseased plants have very few new roots, when compared with the roots of healthy plants that have thick and bushy roots with many secondary feeding roots. Infected strawberry roots usually appear gray, while the new roots of a healthy plant are yellowish-white.
 

See Also: Stele Root Rot of Strawberry Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet Red

 

 

Leather rot

It is caused by a soil inhabiting fungus, [Phytophthora cactorum] and occurs  on a wide variety of plants.. The fungus attacks berries in the field at all stages of development. Fruit rot occurs when the berries come in contact with the soil. The pathogen may also cause a serious crown rot, which may develop along with the fruit rot.

 

Mulching, which keeps the fruit off the ground and aids in minimizing rain splash, will help control leather rot.
 

See Also:  Leather Rot of Strawberry Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet
 

Strawberry leaf blight  [Image ]

Strawberry leaf blight causes a rot at the stem end of the fruit. Caused by a fungus which overwinters in plant debris on the ground. In early to mid-April, at about the time buds emerge from the crown, the fungus attacks the new leaves and causes the primary infection. Later, when fruit has formed, the green fruit cap becomes infected and urns brown. If uncontrolled, a considerable number of fruits may be rotted by harvest time.  
 

See Also : Integrated Pest Management Strawberry Leaf Diseases

 

Anthracnose  [Image]
The anthracnose fungus causes dark brown, oval sunken areas or spots on stems. It also causes the crown to rot, which may cause young leaves to wilt. The fungus can be carried on apparently healthy plants. Therefore, you should be sure to use healthy certified plants for transplanting. Anthracnose is favored by hot, humid weather as the fruits develop .If you avoid excess moisture during the summer, you will help decrease the severity of this disease.  You can also cover the ground around your berry crop with a dry mulch or straw, as the spores will bounce and spread further off soil and water than they will off straw.

Anthracnose cannot be adequately controlled through the use of fungicide.  Potassium Bicarbonate can help to control outbreaks , Bonide Remedy Fungicide, which contains Potassium Bicarbonate is useful for this purpose. For large fields try Bonide Lime Sulfer Spray

 

 

Powdery Mildew  

The fungus that cause Powdery Mildew [Sphaerotheca macularis if anyone cares], appears as a grayish-white coating on the undersides of leaves  Leaf function is impaired but symptoms develop so late in the season that berry production is seldom affected.
Bonide Remedy Fungicide is effective against Powdery Mildew.

See Also: University of California: Strawberry -Powdery Mildew

 

Botrytis Fruit rot  [Also known as Gray mold - Image]

caused by spores produced on dead strawberry foliage . The fungus invades young strawberry leaves without producing any initial symptoms. As the leaf matures, the pathogen spreads quickly through the dying tissue . Spores are dispersed by air, water or harvesting and ultimately infect all parts of the plant. Bonide Remedy Fungicide is effective against against Botrytis Fruit rot.

See Also : Botrytis Fruit rot Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet
 

Verticillium wilt

When a strawberry plant is severely infected with Verticillium wilt fungus, the chances of it surviving to produce a crop is slim. The Verticillium fungus infects hundreds of various host plants. The fungus can survive in soil, and, once it becomes established in a field or garden, it may remain alive for decades.   Cool, overcast weather interspersed with warm, bright days is most favorable for development of Verticillium wilt. Infection and disease development may occur when soil temperature is from 70 to 75 degrees F .
 

See Also :

Additional References

Grow the Best Strawberries : Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-190

Rodale's Garden Problem Solver : Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs

Burpee : The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener : A Guide to Growing Your Garden Organically

 

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