Strawberries are an easy fruit to grow at home. Most people will want to start with established plants so that you can yield fruit right away. Strawberries can be grown in garden beds, in containers and even from seed. Here are easy instructions on how to grow strawberries at home.
Strawberries come in 3 basic varieties: June-bearing, everbearing and day-neutral. June-bearing plants are vigorous and have one good yield in late spring or early summer. Everbearing strawberries peak in the summer but will bear fruit into the fall, though tend to be less vigorous than June-bearing varieties. Day-neutral strawberries produce fruit continuously when temperatures are between 35° F and 85° F, but tend to produce much smaller berries. Within each type are different varieties adapted to thrive in most any region of the United States. Best to check with local growers to find out which types of strawberries are best for your region.
WHEN TO GROW
In most regions, strawberries are best planted in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. In warmer climates, like California and the south, they can be planted in the fall. Keep in mind that strawberries grown from seed do not yield fruit until their second year. Many choose to purchase established plants for this reason.
WHERE TO GROW
Try to avoid spaces where strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, eggplants or peppers have recently grown. They’ll need lots of sun exposure, 6 to 10 hours direct sunlight per day, and ample space to thrive. Strawberries do well in raised beds and containers, but garden beds are fine so as long as they are well drained.
Strawberries need well-drained, loamy soil to thrive though they will tolerate most types of soil. Weed thoroughly and shoot for a pH about 6.0 to 6.2, but anywhere from 5.5 to 7.0 should be sufficient.
Because strawberries don’t produce fruit until their second year, it is easiest to buy strawberry plants that are already matured to grow fruit. Be sure to purchase healthy, disease resistant plants. Most nursery-bought strawberry plants will be sold bare-foot. Don’t let the roots dry out. Clip them to about 6 inches before transplanting (no longer than 8 inches). Space them 14 to 20 inches apart. If planting multiple plants, you’ll need 3 to 4 fee between rows.
Strawberries need about 1 inch of water per week. Water at the base of the plant and avoid getting the leaves wet if possible, which can foster disease. Keep the soil moist but do not let it get soggy.
June-bearers are best if fertilized twice, once lightly when growth begins and then more heavily once they begin to fruit. Everbearers do well if fed every two weeks. A seaweed fish blend does good things to strawberries.
Pinch off runners to allow main stems to thrive and produce larger berries. Keep runners if you prefer a greater yield of smaller berries.
Strawberries can thrive if grown in containers. They’ll need to be relatively large pots, about 18” across with plenty of depth (12” – 14”) for most varieties. Ceramic containers tend to dry out the soil faster than plastic, so water regularly.
GROWING FROM SEED
Many strawberry plants are cultivated from hybrids and will not grow from seed. However, growing strawberries from seed is not difficult if you choose parent cultivars, such as the Alpine. Strawberry plants start producing fruit in their second year, so you need to be in it for the long hall.
Simply sprinkle some seeds in a container or tray (yogurt containers are great for sprouting seedlings) of moist soil and lightly cover in potting soil or peat moss, no deeper than ¼ inch. Place them in direct sunlight in cool conditions. Water regularly, keeping the soil moist. Most seedlings will emerge after about 2 weeks. Once the third true set of leaves sprout, carefully transplant them to larger pots or growing containers. They can be transferred outdoors if weather permits. Care for them through the winter and they should be ready to bear fruit the following summer. Pick off any flowers the plant produces in the first year in order to strengthen the root system. This will better establish the plant to produce fruit in its second year.
Most strawberries are ready about 30 days after blooming. A taste test is the best way to decide. Harvest every 2 or 3 days, every day during hot periods. Be sure to leave the green caps on and eat or refrigerate immediately.
TIPS & ADVICE
Strawberry plants begin to decline after 3 seasons. Replace them with new ones every two or three years or every year for best results.
In cold climates, be sure to mulch to protect against harsh temperatures. Remove the mulch in the spring.
Strawberries are susceptible to bugs. Check them regularly and harvest often.
Keep an eye out for gray mold and other common diseases that can devastate of strawberry crops.