In recent years, strawberries have gotten bigger and bigger as commercial growers have learned how to please them.Your homegrown berries won’t be as large, but they’ll be twice as flavorful.
How Much is Enough?
For a family of four, plant about a dozen June-bearing strawberries, which fruit all at once in early summer, and a dozen plants of an everbearing type,which produce crops in spring and late summer. Each plant should yield about a cup per year.
The Right Soil
Strawberries like their soil to be rich, acidic, and well drained. In early spring (or fall in mild winter areas), prepare a thoroughly tilled,well-weeded bed amended with plenty of compost or aged manure. Plant strawberries on an overcast day so the plants won’t be stressed by strong sunshine.
Neither Deep nor Shallow
Strawberries are fussy about their planting depth. Plant so that the crowns are just above the soil line. If planted too deep, the plants will rot; if too shallow, they’ll dry out.Mulch between plants with pine needles, straw, or chopped leaves.
Berries on the Balcony
barrel with holes in its sides where you can tuck in plants.To water evenly, insert a perforated pipe down the center of the pot; it can be left in or filled with gravel,which stays in place when the pipe is pulled out.
Once an existing strawberry bed becomes less productive, start a new one in another part of the garden. But don’t choose a spot where tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes have been grown in the previous three years; strawberries are prone to the same soilborne diseases that attack these vegetables.
A Morning Shower
Strawberries need to be kept moist, but take care: Water only in the morning so the plants can dry before sundown. This lessens the chances of seeing fruit-rot diseases and also discourages slugs.
Take a Pinch
Get young plants off to a good start and ensure bountiful harvests in succeeding years by pinching off the flower buds the first season. With June-bearing strawberries, this means forfeiting fruit; on everbearing plants, removing the buds through July 1 stimulates the late-summer crop.
Speed the Harvest
Strawberries will ripen and be ready to pick sooner if you protect the beds with plastic tunnels or row covers very early in spring. Be sure to leave the ends of the tunnels open on warm days so pollinating insects can get to the blossoms.
Store Ripe Berries Unwashed
Store ripe berries unwashed in the refrigerator; wash them and remove the stems and caps just before using.Wet strawberries spoil quickly even if kept chilled.
Thwart Thieving Birds
Thwart thieving birds by stretching nets over the rows when the berries begin to redden.You can also set up wires that whir in the wind; twist the wires slightly so they vibrate and “sing” even louder.
The Next Generation
Help young runners put down roots by pinning them directly to the soil with 4-inch (10-cm) lengths of wire bent into a U shape. You can also bury 3-inch (8-cm) pots in the soil and peg the runners into them. Cut the runner from its parent six weeks later and wait another week to transplant it.
Feed Them Twice
Fertilize established strawberries in early spring just as new growth begins. Mow back the tops in midsummer, which helps prevent diseases, and watch for signs of new growth before feeding a second time in early fall. The fall feeding helps the plants develop buds that will grow into the next season’s blossoms.
In areas with hard freezes,mulch after the first frost with several inches of straw, hay, or other coarse material.Remove it the following spring after all danger of frost has passed.