Fresh picked strawberries
image by Clairity/Flickr.com
Strawberries come in many varieties that can be grown in most locations. Strawberries are easy to grow and even a small amount of plants can provide large quantities of delicious tasty fruits. Eating these is not only scrumptious, but is also very healthy, since strawberries supply lots of vitamin C. Decide what particular type is best for your specific area from the three main classes of everbearers, June-bearing and day neutral. Learn more about each type, which have several varieties to choose from. Contact your local university horticulture department or use other reliable sources.
Select an area that has full sun or at minimum 6 hours of sun daily. Choose a location that has not been used previously in the last 3 years for growing tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes or peppers. Do this in March or April.
Create beds that are around 6 inches high, 6 -- 12 inches wide (across the top) and allow for at least 2 feet in between rows. Plants will need to be placed at minimum 8 -- 14 inches apart. This is known as a hill system and works well with both day-neutral and everbearing plants. June-bearing do best with a matted row planting system (See University of Illinois link in References for more information on this).
Buy your plants from a reputable source. Choose a cloudy day or plant your strawberries in the late afternoon hours. Prepare the soil when it is dry or at least a couple days after a rain.
Use your hoe (or rototiller) to work 1 pound of fertilizer per 100 square feet into at least the top 8 inches of soil. Apply a mixture of manure and alfalfa meal or manure, compost and peat instead, if you prefer. Use your shovel to add it to the soil.
Utilize a hand trowel to dig a hole that is the same depth of the container the strawberry plants are in. Gently remove the plants from the containers.
Place the plant in the hole so that the upper part (known as the crown or the part of the plant between the leaf stems and roots) is just above the ground level or even with it. Add soil around the plant as needed and press down to remove any air pockets.
Water the newly planted strawberries and continue to water to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. Supply around 1 inch per week throughout the growing season, if rainfall is not adequate.
Remove any weeds that appear around the plants for the first 2-3 weeks. Add about an inch of straw mulch around the plants.
Remove any blossoms that appear on the strawberry plants until the end of June. June-bearing plants should have all of the blossoms removed for the first season.
Pinch the stems of the fully ripened berries about ½ inch above the actual fruit. Get rid of any that are overripe or rotted. Check plants daily and pick as needed.
Use a shovel to completely cover the rows of strawberries with 2--4 inches of mulch prior to the temperatures reaches less than 20 degrees to protect the plants over the winter. Remove most of this in the spring of the next season.