Light requirements: Full sun.
Planting: Space 6 to 18 inches apart, depending on type. (Read the stick tag that comes with the plant for specific spacing recommendations.) Be careful not to bury the crown of the plant, or it will rot.
Soil requirements: Strawberries need well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend heavy clay or sandy soil with compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Create raised beds if soil is heavy or drains poorly. Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.8.
Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Moisture is the key to plump, fully-formed berries. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation.
Frost-fighting plan: Strawberry plants are sensitive to frost. Temperatures of 28º F or less (a hard frost) damage flowers. Protect newly planted seedlings and established, budded plants by covering plants with straw or a frost blanket. By fall, strawberry plants have formed the flower buds that will open the following spring. To protect them through winter, apply a 2- to 3-inch mulch of straw, pine straw, or other loose organic material.
Common issues: Slugs can be a problem when using organic mulch, so use plastic mulch to discourage them). Keep birds from feasting on berries by covering plants with plastic bird netting. Small, misshapen berries are can be caused by drought or high temperatures.
Harvesting: Pick berries in the morning, when fruits are cool. Select fully formed and colored berries, as unripe berries won’t continue to ripen once picked. Carefully pull strawberries (with stems) from plants. Aim to leave about a half-inch stem on each berry.
Storage: Refrigerate unwashed berries (caps still on) in a plastic container with a loose-fitting lid. Place a paper towel in the bottom of the container before adding berries, then arrange berries in single layers separated by clean paper towels. For peak flavor, use within 2 to 3 days, although berries may last up to 7 days.
The best strawberries you’ll ever taste will come from a garden, because fully ripened strawberries have a rich, aromatic flavor unmatched by supermarket counterparts. Savoring the melt-in-your-mouth juiciness of freshly picked strawberries is but one reason to grow your own. As the first fruits to ripen in spring, strawberries are nutritious assets to any garden. The sturdy little plants prosper when planted in properly prepared beds or rows, or you can put them to work as edible edgings or let them sprawl over the top of a wall. Strawberries are happy to grow in strawberry jars and hanging baskets, too.
Quick Guide to Growing Strawberries
- Plant strawberries in spring or fall based on your growing zone. In-ground gardens, raised beds, and containers are all excellent growing areas.
- Give strawberries room for runners by planting them 18 inches apart. Strawberries can be grown in a variety of ways, but make sure they get 8 or more hours of sun and are planted in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
- Give your native soil a boost by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter. Consider a premium bagged potting mix for growing in containers.
- Give plants 1 to 1.5 inches of water weekly, and avoid wetting the leaves.
- Promote excellent fruit production by keeping plants fed with a continuous-release fertilizer.
- Harvest ripe strawberries in the cool of morning and refrigerate them right away.