Strawberries are easy to grow. The pretty flowers and red fruits add color to your garden. You also get a regular supply of fresh juicy strawberries half of the year, for the next three to four years.
There are two different types of strawberries: standard or summer-fruiting, and ever bearing or perpetual. You can decide which type to grow based on how you intend to use the berries. The standard will bear a large crop ideal for jams and freezing. The perpetual type will provide you with a small but regular supply of strawberries from summer ‘til until frosty weather comes in August. The method of culture for the two types is similar.
When selecting your varieties, you should also bear in mind that some are susceptible to pests, and may be more suitable to certain areas.
Strawberries will grow in any type of soil as long as there is sufficient water and good drainage. They do prefer sunny spots and need protection from the wind.
You can also grow strawberries in hanging containers, grow bags, troughs and pots. You may need to do this if you have no spare garden space, or your soil drains poorly. This method has several advantages over growing plants in the open. You can select the location of your container, such as a glasshouse or porch. Strawberries grown in containers are more protected from soil-borne pests and diseases. Picking them will be more convenient too.
Planting time depends on the climate in your area. If you have severe winters, buy dormant plants and place them in the ground in early spring. Where there are mild winters, you can plant during the fall.
Prepare the soil one month before planting. Turn it over at least a foot deep. Remove weeds and grass, and add plenty of compost or manure to add nutrients to the soil.
You can plant your strawberries in rows or in mounds. The mounding method is best for the perpetual types, and in soils with drainage problem. Set the plants about 12 -15 inches apart in mounds. Perpetuals should not be allowed to produce runners until the mother plant is exhausted so that they will bear more fruit. Allow the plant to produce runners only if you want to have new plants for the next season.
If you plant in rows, set the plants 18 inches apart, with the first runners spaced six inches apart. Allow only a few runners per plant. Young plants should get at least an inch of water weekly. Mulching is recommended to conserve moisture and deter weeds.
Pick off the blossoms when you see them appear. Avoid letting any fruit develop in the first year, as it will weaken the plant and reduce the following year’s production drastically.
When the berries ripen, pick them up at once. Overripe fruits spoil quickly.