Strawberries are possibly the most beloved summer fruit – fresh and sweet, people can usually never get enough of them. Luckily for us, they’re not that difficult to grow, and anyone can nowadays eat strawberries planted in their own garden.
There are some things you don’t want to miss – strawberry growing secrets that we’ve discovered after growing them for decades. What kind of fertilizer should you use? Where should you plant? What do you do with weeds?
Find the answers to all those questions, and more, below.
1. Add Compost Into The Soil Before Planting
Strawberries aren’t difficult to grow, but the soil needs to be just right for them to succeed. They like to be watered plentifully, but they don’t like being drowned, so the soil needs to drain the water well.
You should also test your soil for pH if you don’t know it already, as strawberries like a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. While they can succeed if the pH is out of that very specific window, you’ll get the most yield if you keep it within that window.
Before you plant your strawberries, you should add compost to the soil and rake it in. Not only will it release nutrients (especially nitrogen, which is the most important nutrient for strawberries), but it will also help with the aforementioned drainage.
2. Plant On Higher Ground And Away From Shade
These two strawberry-growing tips are often overlooked, but they can make a noticeable difference down the road. Since strawberries are so dependent on sunlight, planting them far away from shadow-casting objects is a must.
Strawberries need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, but the crops will yield much more if they get even more sunlight.
You also shouldn’t plant them close to large plants, such as trees or bushes. They’ll impede the strawberries’ feeding, and that can lead to dehydration and malnourished strawberries.
When it comes to planting on higher ground, this increases air circulation, which reduces the chances of disease, while it also minimizes frost damage. Strawberries do very well in raised beds too!
3. Plant Strawberries In Rows
Unless you’re planting just a few plants, the easiest way to manage strawberries is by planting them in rows. You’re also slowing down the spread of disease, pests, and weeds this way.
Each row should be at least 3 feet away from the adjacent row, and the plants within the rows should be planted at least 18 inches apart.
Plant your strawberries in the spring – it’s best to buy potted strawberries, as you can plant them as soon as you get home. If you’re planting transplanted strawberries, you should wait until the last frost has passed.
Once you plant your strawberries with the roots fully below the ground, water them plentifully.
4. Pinch Flower Buds Early
Soon after you plant your strawberries, you’ll see flower buds growing. It usually doesn’t take more than a few weeks for them to grow. You should pinch these flowers off as soon as you spot them.
It may go against your natural instinct (you’re essentially sabotaging the plant’s development), but strawberries don’t need flowers at that moment – they need leaves and deeper roots.
Wasting energy on flowers early means that they won’t have enough energy to grow large fruit once fruit starts growing.
5. Use Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizer
Strawberries don’t need plenty of fertilizer, but if you don’t see much fruit yield in the summer, that means they’re lacking nitrogen. The most natural way to add nitrogen is through compost.
In the summer, you can add fast-acting, liquid fertilizer rich in nitrogen as you don’t have the time for the compost to break down. In the following year, however, add compost after the last frost. This way, you’ll ensure that the same mistake doesn’t repeat itself.
6. Prepare The Strawberries For The Winter
When the temperatures drop, strawberries will enter dormancy. At this point, you should add mulch to protect them from the low temperatures.
The mulch will be covered with snow, which will act as an additional layer of insulation for the strawberries.
In the spring, once the temperatures are back up, you should rake that mulch as it will only get in the way of the strawberries, but leave a thin layer of mulch to break down, provide nutrients, and help with drainage.
7. Remove The Weeds
Strawberries develop weeds very often, and there’s no other way to remove them but to do it by hand. It’s incredibly important to remove the weeds as they’ll fight the strawberries for nutrients, which will lead to a weaker yield.
A good way to minimize the growth of weeds is by applying a thick layer of mulch, as we’ve discussed before. Mulch makes it more difficult for weeds to get sunlight and break through from the surface of the soil.
8. Prune Strawberries At The End Of The Summer
Once the final fruits have been picked, it’s time to prune the strawberries. Cut all plants to about 2 inches above the ground. This will ensure that old leaves, which might be infected with some illnesses, are removed and they won’t get in the way of new growth.
You’re also lowering the chance of insects developing a breeding site as you’re removing their food.
9. Protect The Strawberries From Disease And Pests
The best way to manage diseases is by preventing them.
Firstly, try not to get the leaves wet when you’re watering the strawberries. You can use a soaker hose (which is very simply set up) to ensure the water only gets to the actual plants.
If you insist on watering with a regular hose, in which case you’re most likely getting the leaves wet, water the strawberries in the morning. That way, the leaves will have enough time to dry by the end of the day.
Many species of fungus thrive on moist leaves, which is why you always want the roots wet, but the leaves dry.
To prevent pest damage, you have to regularly clean the dead leaves and remove the weeds – leaves and weeds can serve as shelters for insects. Pests are attracted to ripe fruit, so you’ll have to harvest it quickly to get it out of the way before pests get to it.
Old fruit that’s already begun to rot should be removed as well.
Slugs often feed on strawberries, while strawberry clippers (a type of insect) clip buds in the spring and sabotage your harvest.
When it comes to larger pests, you might have some trouble with birds, which can be solved by casting a net over the strawberries.
10. Harvest Strawberries On Time And Store Them Properly
Your strawberries will be ready to harvest about a month after blossoming – you’ll know that they’re ripe because they’ll become completely red. You’ll need to pick them three times a week to keep them from rotting.
Strawberries, unfortunately, don’t have a long shelf life. They can’t last more than 5 days in a fridge, but you can freeze them and keep them in the freezer for more than two months.
If you know you’re not going to eat them soon, we highly suggest you freeze them.
Summer Harvest Is Waiting For You!
If you read all that, you’re definitely ready to grow your own strawberries. As you might have deduced from the article, weeds are the biggest problem with strawberries, but aside from that, they’ll do just fine if they get enough sunlight and water.
Don’t forget to pinch the new growth in the spring and cut off the dead leaves once the harvest is finished in the summer. Keep those few things in mind and you’ll see a garden full of red this summer!