Learn about general care of your strawberry plants. This is part 2 of a 3 part series of growing strawberries. In this post, you’ll find a mini guide on deciding which strawberries are best for you and your goals for harvest, how to choose healthy plants and where to get them, and simple tips on basic strawberry care (fertilizing, pruning, watering, etc). Check out Part 1 which discusses different types of strawberry varieties.
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Table of Contents
What Strawberry Type is Right for You?
Before you start planting strawberries, there are a few things to take into consideration to choose the best for your garden.
If you want a constant harvest of strawberries throughout the growing season, plant various types. Each type flowers and fruits at different times throughout the growing season. Planting different types allows that.
You should also take into consideration what you want to do with the strawberries. Are you going to can or preserve them?
Another consideration should be the amount of space you have. Do you have a limited amount of space in your garden? Are you growing in a raised bed or a container? You may want to opt for a type of strawberry that doesn’t send out lots of runners.
Do you need a hardy one that will endure harsher winters?
How to Choose Healthy Strawberry Plants
There are a couple of ways you can get started with growing strawberry plants in your garden.
- Buy dormant, bare roots. They can be purchased from a nursery and/or online. We purchased bare roots and starting this way worked out well for us. We’ve since planted them in our raised beds and in-ground garden.
- Dormant, bare roots arrive brown – they’ll look like they’re dead, but they’re not! They need to be planted right away, but if you’re not able to keep them moist and cool.
- In my opinion they’re the best option because you can purchase lots of bare roots to have a pretty good harvest. I purchased ours from Johnny’s Seeds, which were a bundle of 3 different strawberries. The bundle includes 3 bunches of each type of strawberry, and each bunch has 25 roots of each strawberry. I paid about $45 for 75 roots.
- Buy a potted plant. In my experience, stores usually have potted plants to buy. However, there’s normally only one plant in the pot and it’s kind of expensive for just one. From what I’ve seen at the stores (I haven’t looked recently since I don’t need to buy them, so this doesn’t factor in inflation) each pot is $3+.
- From seeds. I’ve personally never tried this method, but I’ve read it’s more difficult to grow strawberries from a seed than by having a plant or bare root. If you’re interested in trying to grow strawberries from seeds, Baker’s Creek (one of the suppliers I use) has a small selection.
Strawberry Care: How to Grow Strawberries
Here are some tips on strawberry care and how to grow them. Knowing these simple care tips can help you have a great harvest!
Sunlight, Where to Plant, Soil, & Watering
Strawberries prefer full sun. If you want to have a good harvest and productive plants, full sun is required. Plant away from trees and any other objects or plants that may cause shade for more than a few hours. They need at least 6 hours of sun, but the best amount of sun is 10 or more hours.
Strawberries need well-draining soil and do not like to sit in water. Sitting in water can cause the plant to rot. However, they do like moist soil so paying close attention to the soil conditions and moisture will be important. If you do not have well-draining soil, consider planting the plants in a pot where you have more control over the soil. For a successful harvest, strawberries do best when they have at least 1 inch of rainfall or manual watering a week. Water the plants at least once a week with a good soak. We cover the soil in both the fall and in the spring with straw. By covering the soil in fall, you can prepare to protect the plants during the winter. In the spring, a fresh covering of straw helps for rising temperatures in the summer. The covering will help with water retention.
Strawberries enjoy slightly acidic soil. The most ideal soil conditions are a pH of 5.8 to 6.2, but they can grow within a range of 5.0 to 7.0. Testing the soil before you start planting anything will help you gauge what needs to be added for amendments.
When to Plant
Planting dormant roots – If you’re planting dormant roots, plant in either April or May. Whenever the soil can be worked is a good time to start planting. By planting them before the high temperatures of the summer, it gives them time to become established.
Potted plants – If you purchased potted plants, the best time to plant them is in May or June.
Taking Care of Runners and Pruning
Keep an eye out from spring to fall for any runners that may grow. The runners are a great way to propagate your strawberry plants. However, they take away energy from the main plant too. By removing the runners, it allows the main plant to focus energy on itself and therefore produce more fruit.
- Identify runners which look like a long stem growing out of the side of the main plant. In comparison to the stems of the main plant, runners are a lot tougher. The stems with leaves on the main plant are softer.
- Trim or pinch the runner off down to the base of the main plant. Remove any prunings away from the garden. Discarding into your compost pile is the best. One thing to keep in mind is that runners root themselves and become another plant.
At the end of the growing season there is an additional pruning that needs to be done. After the growing season, cut the plant down to 4 inches from the crown.
Simple Strawberry Care: Fertilizing, Mulching, Weeding
Before fertilizing, always do a soil check. There are a few options to test your soil:
- pH test strips – A pH test is a simple way to test how acidic or alkaline your garden’s soil is. You can find pH testing strips just about anywhere, and of course, Amazon has everything.
- Soil Test – If you’re looking to do a more comprehensive testing of your soil and receive recommendations for amendments, the next option may be good for you. Simply Soil Testing offers a variety of inexpensive soil tests. Here’s an example report from their website of the information they provide. The recommendations they make are totally customizable based on the results of the test.
- Search for your local extension office for soil testing. Check with your Cooperative Extension Office for all kinds of tips as well when it comes to gardening. Gardening Know How has a link to help you track one down. If you happen to be in New Jersey, Rutgers University has 21 cooperative extension county offices (1 for each county) throughout the state.
When it comes to fertilizing, the first fertilization is important. For in-ground planted strawberries, after planting, fertilize them 4 to 6 weeks. This will help the plant produce flowers. Fertilize every 2 to 4 weeks if your plants are planted in-ground or pots. Fertilizing should be done less if they’re in raised beds. Pay close attention to over-fertilizing. Too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. You can always do a soil test to make sure you’re on par.
Suggestion for fertilizer:
Down to Earth is a good option as an all natural fertilizer, plus it can be used for other fruits and vegetables that you may be growing that require acidic soil like: blueberries, raspberries, and potatoes.
Mulching and weeding
It’s important to keep weeds under control when growing strawberries. Weeds create competition and strawberries do not do well with competition. Be sure to keep an eye out for weeds and pull them quickly. Mulch can help prevent/suppress weeds. Lay mulch around the crown of the plant
Now that you’ve put in all that care into your strawberries, it’s now time to harvest and enjoy!
When are you strawberries ready to be picked?
Strawberries ripen from the tip and up to the top. Unripened strawberries will be a white/yellow/green color. Pick them when they’re a deep red color. I find the juiciest are just when they over ripen.
Pest and Disease Management
It’s important to know what pests and diseases strawberries are susceptible to so you know what to look out for and know how to grow healthy strawberries. They’re susceptible to different types of rot and fungi. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Tarnished plant bug
- Strawberry clipper
- Strawberry bud weevil
- Spotted wing drosophila
- Wildlife like birds and squirrels
Rot and Fungi
- Gray mold
- leaf scorch
- Black root rot
- Leather rot
- Anthracnose fruit rot
- Angular leaf spot (ALS)
- Powdery mildew
Want to learn more about growing different berries? Check out my previous posts about raspberries and blueberries.