Strawberries are an easy-to-grow and common garden fruit. Numerous cultivars within four different types provide gardeners with a wide selection suitable to their needs. June-bearing strawberries produce one large crop over a month in early summer. Ever-bearing types have two moderate harvests in June and late August, with sporadic berries during the summer. Day-neutrals, a newer type, provide fruit during the entire growing season. Alpine strawberries, often grown as ornamental edging, bear small fruits from summer until frost.
Prepare the strawberry bed by removing all weeds and amending the soil with a 3-inch layer of compost. Plant strawberries in early spring in full sun. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Choose a site with well-drained soil with a pH of about 6. Dig a hole for the strawberry plant wide enough to spread the roots. The crown of the plant must be above the soil level. Water thoroughly.
Spread a 4-inch-thick layer of clean, fresh straw or pine needles to mulch the bed. The mulch prevents weeds, a fundamental part of growing strawberries because they are shallow rooted and weeds compete for valuable nutrients and moisture. In cold areas, put the mulch over the plants if a frost risk is present and cover with mulch for the winter. Pull the mulch off of the plants in spring but leave it in the bed. Refresh the mulch as it breaks down, maintain a 4-inch layer.
Keep the bed weed free and well-watered during the growing season. Strawberries require 1 inch of rain per week while growing and producing. Dry areas benefit greatly from the installation of a drip irrigation system.
Remove the blossoms from June-bearing varieties during the first growing season after planting. This gives the roots a chance to establish. Snip off the flowers of day-neutral and ever-bearing strawberries during the first season planted until July. Then allow them to flower and bear fruit.
June-bearing strawberries produce numerous runners, or daughter plants. Allow only one or two runners to grow per plant. The daughter plants, once established, will replace the older plants as their production lessens. Ever-bearing and day-neutral plants do not send out as many runners, making it unnecessary to remove them. As an alternative, remove all of the runners during the first two years of growth allowing the plants to put all of their energy into bearing fruit. The third year, keep enough runners to replace the original plants. Alpine strawberries do not have runners.
Add compost or fertilizer to the bed in late summer or early fall. Use a 10-10-10 fertilizer following the manufacturer’s instructions. If using compost, apply a 3-inch layer around the plants before refreshing the mulch.