by Avis Licht
I recently wrote about fruits that you can grow in small yards. At the top of the list was strawberries. Here are some easy tips to get the best fruit from your plants.
There are many varieties of strawberries. June bearing produce one large crop a year in late spring or early summer. Pick the varieties best suited to your climate. Everbearing strawberries have smaller crops in early summer and fall. Day neutral bear intermittently through the summer. Since you’re planting for your own use I think it’s best to have several varieties that bear throughout the whole growing season.
You can find a strawberry for almost any climate. In very hot areas they should have mid day shade. Plants won’t flower over 85 deg F/29 deg C. If you live in extremely cold climates there is even a strawberry that can grow in -30 deg F/-24 deg C without mulch. During blossoming the weather shouldn’t go below 30 deg. F.
Topsoil of turf/loam amended with compost and well rotted manure is best. Be sure not to get the manure near the crown of the plant. Dress the bed with bone meal and wood ash. It should be well drained and slightly acidic.
Water the bed when the soil starts to dry out. Keep the soil moist, but not over wet. When the berries start to ripen cut the watering in half. Stop watering when they are ripe. If you give strawberries too much water they will get big, but not taste as sweet. Drip irrigation is best to avoid disease problems and fruit rot.
Full sun for standard strawberries and partial shade for alpine strawberries.
Dig a bed that is loose and friable with good drainage. Make a hole for your plant and mound the center. Lay the roots around the pyramid of dirt in the hole. Be sure to keep the crown above soil level or the plant will rot. Water your plant in well. Mulch to keep moisture in. I don’t recommend straw as a mulch because it will promote mildew and be a home for insects.
Wait until the fruit is very red and harvest with the stem. Don’t wash the fruit until you’re ready to eat it. Homegrown strawberries are like a completely different species than what you will find in the store. Because you can harvest them ripe and eat them right away. They will not last long off the plant.