Strawberries are one of the most chemically laden foods. Did you know that even the organic strawberries you buy are started/grown in chemically fumigated soil? They insist though that the strawberries don’t soak up the chemicals from the soil. Strawberries are difficult to grow commercially and be completely organic. What a great reason to grow them yourself. Strawberries are one of the first plants I grew when I started gardening.
They are quite east to grow, and you get a decent return on your labor. Plus, a strawberry picked when it is at the peak of ripeness is delicious, it needs no sugar at all.
I don’t use any pesticides or fungicides on my strawberries. Do I loose berries? Yes, unfortunately. I’d rather reduce my crop and know I’m eating healthy than put a chemical on them. Btw, just because a pesticide is considered organic, doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you, so be selective when you use that stuff.
Truth be told my biggest battle is with the birds and deer that come to eat my berries. They are so sneaky.
I plant my strawberries in March around the time I prune the rose bushes. I am in zone 6. Depending where you are, you may be able to plant earlier. Do it when you are able to work the soil, but it shouldn’t be really wet.
You can grow strawberries in containers. The strawberry pots are very popular, I don’t like them. I tried it, I don’t care to grow my strawberries in containers, especially the strawberry pots. If you want to use containers keep in mind you don’t get many berries on a plant so you’ll need several containers.
I prefer to use a raised bed. I plant them all together. I also space them quite close, about 6-8 inches apart. Since I use square foot gardening. I try to get the most bang for the limited space I have. It would be nice to expand my space, but I might be pushing it. ☺️
I have had my berries in the same place for many years, so this year I think I will move them to another box. This will allow me to give their bed a good renovation.
Purchasing Plants: Since it is February you might want to start looking where to order. It is much cheaper to order online. You can get 25 bareroot plants for $10-15. The selection online is also better. Find organic plants if you are able. Some places will wait and send them when it is planting time, others send them when you order. Make sure you know when they are coming. If they arrive before you can get them in the ground you can always keep them in the refrigerator. Too early and they won’t survive.
Prepare the soil: They need light, fertile, well drained soil. Mix in some compost if you are able. The soil shouldn’t be heavy. They prefer slightly acidic soil, ph between 5.5-6.5. Use a general all-purpose organic fertilizer. 10-10-10.
Planting: Strawberries need full sun.
Don’t plant strawberries in the same place you recently grew nightshades. They share some of the same diseases.
Soak the roots, dig a hole, make a cone of dirt, spread the roots around the cone, fill in the soil. The crown should be covered midway. If the soil is too high the crown will rot, if it is too low the crown will dry out. Recheck soil level after you water.
They say strawberries should be planted 12″ apart, I practice square foot gardening, so I generally plant closer to 6″. I don’t think it hurts them. I think the 12″ allows for the runners to spread and grow.
You may want to mulch around the plants to keep them dry and reduce the risk of rot from sitting on the wet soil.
Growing: The recommendation is too pinch off any flowers the first season so the roots can be established. I don’t do that. I say, Let it grow. Let it grow. Strawberries need to be replaced every third year or so anyway.
They will need to be watered consistently.
When they start flowering they should be protected from frost. Misformed berries are due to poor pollination. Bees and other insects aren’t generally out if it is a cold or wet season. The bees seem to be less and less each year anyway. The last few years I have seen dead bees lying on the walkway or around the yard on a regular basis. Something is eliminating these guys.
If you grow berries that refruit, you may want to scratch in some more organic fertilizer the second half of summer.
Promptly remove any decayed leaves or berries to avoid spreading disease. If you keep the bed clean and weed free, disease shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Cover the strawberries with bird netting or other protection before they start turning red.
The first berry on the plant is generally the largest and the later ones are smaller.
Harvest: Pinch the berry off with your fingernail or clipper when it is ripe. The berry should be completely red, including the shoulders. When you cut it include some stem.
Don’t wash the berries until you are ready to eat them. This helps them last longer. I like to eat them at room temperature. I think the cold berries lose some flavor.
Strawberry jam, strawberry sauce, yum.