Strawberries are probably close to being one of the most perfect things to grow. They take up fairly little space and are easy to grow. Many of the new varieties are everbearing which means that they will produce all summer, and are fairly disease and pest resistant. If you haven’t put in a small strawberry patch, now is a good time to think about it.
Begin your strawberry growing experience by selecting a variety which you like. There are new varieties being introduced all the time, but Quinalt and Ft. Laramie are among my personal favorites. Each has a slightly different flavor so depending on your intended final use for your berries, you may wish to “taste test” before purchasing if you can.
There are two main types which are widely cultivated and sold commercially. One is “short-day” or June-bearing. These plants bear most or all of their fruit during the month of June in the Northern Hemisphere. They form flower buds in the fall, go dormant over the winter, then flower and fruit again in the spring.
The second type which is becoming more popular are the “day-neutral” strawberries which will fruit almost continuously from spring until fall. These are sometimes referred to as “everbearing.” They will form buds regardless of day length, hence the name “day-neutral” and often produce their largest crop in the fall.
Strawberries do best in full sun, although they can tolerate some shade. Make sure the site you select for your strawberries is well drained and has good soil and before planting, be sure the soil has been amended with organic material. Use a good commercial fertilizer along with the organic material and work them down to a depth of 7-8″.
When planting, dig your hole deep enough to accommodate all of the roots of the plant. Place the plant into the hole, cover and press firmly around the plant to set the soil, be sure that all of the roots are covered but do not cover the crown by planting it too deeply as this could smother the plant and kill it. Water after planting.
The runners on your berries are the main way that they produce new plants. If you wish to redirect the runners as they come off the main plants, move them in the direction which you want them to go as this will help the bed to fill in evenly. If there are too many runners, or you have no place to send them, simply cut them off. Remember that strawberry plants need room in order to produce at their optimum, so don’t overcrowd the beds. Do not plan to have more than 3-5 plants per square foot of bed space.
Although eating and making jam are the primary goals when you plant strawberries, I use strawberry plants as a groundcover in my garden. Once they are established and start to spread, they will choke out the weeds while providing a pretty, green groundcover. Just take care to be sure they get enough sun and you’ll get the benefit of both the groundcover and the fruit.
I think of them as “edible landscaping”- the leaves are pretty, the flowers delicate, and they serve a useful purpose in the garden. Add a strawberry patch to your garden or landscape this summer…the results are delicious!