Growing Strawberries: Sweet Taste of Spring

Sweet juicy strawberries, available in supermarkets and your local farmers’ market, are a sure sign that the spring growing season has arrived.

But why not grow your own?

Did you know you can easily grow four strawberry plants in as little as one square foot of dirt! That means you can grow strawberries in containers on a balcony or patio.

6 Tips for Growing Strawberries in Containers

1. Strawberries need some space, so no more that four plants per square foot of surface area. Overcrowding will give you few berries, even if your plants look lush and green.

2. Remove the runners. It may look pretty to see the hanging runners, but they are draining your plants, preventing fruiting.

3. Shade the containers. Strawberry plants are native to temperate climates, so if the roots become too warm, the plants will suffer. Avoid using black pots, or put reflective aluminum foil around them. Spraying the pots will also help cool the soil.

4. Water more frequently, and with moderate amounts of water. The soil should be damp, but never soggy, and good drainage is essential to prevent rot.

5. Fertilize your container grown strawberry plants in the fall so they have sufficient nutrition next spring.

6. Protect your container plants from the cold. Provide extra insulation so the roots do not freeze when temperatures drop.

Follow these tips, and there’s no reason your container grown strawberries won’t thrive.

Strawberry Types

Strawberry plants are one of the most productive garden plants based on size-to-harvest ratio. And you have the benefit of knowing your own berries haven’t been exposed to chemical sprays. Commercial strawberries in the supermarket are at the top of the list of pesticide laden fruits. People who never grow any other crop can often find the space to grow these sweet familiar berries.

And once you’ve tasted them, picked fresh and sunshine warm, you’ll soon expand your own strawberry patch.

There are three main types of strawberry plants to choose from: June-bearing, ever-bearing and day-neutral.

June-bearing strawberry plants produce one large crop of berries each year, typically in June to early July. These plants tend to grow the largest berries, and the plants will easily multiply from the runners they produce. The downfall is you only have these yummy berries for a limited time.

Ever-bearing strawberry plants produce two crops annually, in the spring and the fall. The berries are medium sized, but sweet and tasty. Ever-bearing plants grow strawberries well for about three years. After that, the fruit production declines and the plants need to be replaced.

Day-neutral strawberry varieties continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season, as long as temperatures remain below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In warmer climates these berries can bear fruit for much of the year, and in cooler climates they produce from late May until the first fall frost. Day-neutral plants produce medium to large berries and they are more disease resistant than other varieties. These are the best choice if you want to grow strawberries in containers.

If you have the space, consider planting some of each of the types of strawberries so that you have an extended harvest.

Planting Tips for Growing Strawberries

Choose a sunny site.

Strawberry plants will set berries with just 6 hours of sunlight daily, but produce more abundantly with longer hours of sunlight. Don’t plant your berries near trees, as tree roots spread and will steal away some of the soil nutrients. Strawberries prefer a sandy loam soil with lots of organic compost dug in deeply. They need a fair amount of moisture, yet require good drainage.

If your soil is heavy or drainage poor, build a raised bed for your strawberry patch. I’d suggest building a netting or screened cover for your raised bed. Birds love these berries as much as you do!

When starting your berry patch, set one healthy plant per square foot, allowing space for runners to root. Remove blooms the first year so that the plant will produce healthy runners. To ensure the runner plants are established, wait until the stolon itself (the runner between the two plants) begins to brown and shrivel. At that point, you can sever the runner so that the plants are physically separated.

If you’re planting strawberries in a garden plot, space the plants 18 inches apart within the rows. Space the rows two feet apart, so you can easily move between the rows. The rows can be closer together if you’re setting them into a raised bed. Set each plant into the soil with the crown at the surface of the soil.

Mulch around the plants with a layer of clean straw and dried coffee grounds. The straw will hold the berries above the soil so they don’t become moldy or food for wood lice and the coffee grounds will deter slugs.

As the plants begin producing ripe berries, you’ll need to pick every other day during their peak production. Throughout the summer during the first year remove the runners. Next year, keep training the runners to form a matted row of plants.

Once the strawberry plants have gone dormant for the winter, apply a layer of straw mulch two to four inches deep over the plants. In the spring, move the mulch into the spaces between the rows, and around the plants as the first new leaves are beginning to develop.

Most strawberry plants will survive and produce for 3 to 5 years. Once you have passed the 3 year mark, it’s time to consider digging up your strawberry plants and replanting in the spring.

Strawberries are Nutritious

These sweet juicy red nuggets are full of wholesome nutrition. A mere 100 grams contains 97% of the Vitamin C your body needs per day. Strawberries are packed with vitamins. In addition to Vitamin C, they have an abundance of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E.

The heart-healthy and anti-cancer power of organic strawberries comes from their phytonutrient and flavonoid content.  Strawberries are loaded with vital trace minerals. They contain potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and selenium. All of these minerals are important to normal body functions.

Strawberries are easy to grow, delicious, and nutritious. Ready to start your patch?

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