Homegrown strawberries are a billion times better tasting than the often hard, barely ripe, flavorless selection in many supermarkets. But, there’s an easy solution. Strawberries are cold-hardy and adaptable, making them one of the easiest berries to grow at home.
While most fruit trees take several years to begin bearing produce, you can harvest your own strawberries the very first summer you start to try. And even if you live in an apartment or small home, you can grow strawberries in a container on your balcony, rooftop, patio, or even doorstep. If your horizontal space is limited, consider growing strawberries in a hanging basket or stacked planter, which will allow you to take advantage of vertical growing space as the strawberry plants tumble over the sides.
There are two main kinds of strawberries: “June-bearing” and “Ever-bearing” varieties. June-bearing, turn up almost all at once, usually over a period of about three weeks. Because of their earliness, high quality, and concentrated fruit set, June-bearers, like “Allstar,” produce high yields of very large, sweet, extra juicy berries in late mid-season, which is usually late spring and early summer, depending on your geographic region. These are the best variety for preserving.
The second type–“Ever-bearing”–produce a big crop from spring flowers, light flushes of fruit through summer, and then bloom and bear again in late summer and fall. They are perfect for large containers or raised beds, where you can give them attentive watering and regular feeding.
Timely tips to ensure success:
- When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the uppermost roots are ¼-inch beneath soil level; buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out. Strawberry plants should be placed approximately 14 to 18 inches apart from each other in neat rows that are separated by 2 to 3 feet. Let runners fill in until plants are 7 to10 inches apart.
- Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture, and control weeds.
- If you want to keep it simple, plant strawberries in a container. Just remember that container plantings need much more water than in-ground plantings, usually once a day; and if it’s hot, twice daily. Strawberry pots are the obvious, best container choice for growing strawberries. You can fit several plants in one pot; just make sure whatever type of garden pot you use has good drainage. Strawberries have a relatively small root ball and can be grown in containers as small as 10 to 12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more frequently you will need to water. Synthetic and light colored pots will keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat.
- Strawberries like well drained fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the pot or patch.
- They also require full sun, 6 to 8 hours per day, and frequent, deep soakings. They will grow in all zones and should be fed twice a year–when growth begins and after your first crop. You’ll need to feed them with a plant food, which has nutrients and growth stimulants that your strawberry plants will love.
- Control slugs and snails by handpicking them off plants and prevent theft by birds by covering your patch with netting as the first berries ripen.
- Strawberries are one of the easiest and most delicious home garden fruits to grow, which makes them a great choice for children to help grow, especially if they’ve never planted or cared for a fruit or vegetable. They will love to pluck them off the plant, wash, and eat them right away!
- Become adventuresome and try your results in all types of recipes, too, including soups, salads, and main dishes. Also learn to preserve, so you have yield throughout the fall and winter.
- For more information on growing strawberries as well as vegetables and herbs, visit http://www.bonnieplants.com