Hardly a spring goes by when I’m not tempted to buy plants. It’s not a bad temptation, but I could seriously go WAY overboard on buying plants if I don’t watch it! Plants are kind of like chickens. Can you REALLY have too many? There’s always room for one more! This spring was no different. Even though I hadn’t planned to buy a bunch of plants, I ended up buying two plum trees, a rhubarb, and a bunch of strawberries. Then lo and behold, just a few weeks later the strawberries had their very first berry. Hooray! Growing strawberries is a great plant to start with because they are attractive, productive, and last for several years.
Why Is Growing Strawberries Awesome?
I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like strawberries. If you are someone who doesn’t like strawberries, you should probably plant some anyway, for all the rest of us. 😉 (Just kidding…mostly… but plant things you LIKE to eat!).
Strawberries that you grow yourself will almost always be tastier than strawberries you buy at the store. The reason for this is that the sugar in the plant starts converting into starch as soon as you pick it. The sooner after picking you eat strawberries, the sweeter they will be.
Plus, they’re great fun for kids to help with the harvesting. My kids spend tons of time combing through our strawberry beds checking to see what’s ripe each day.
They’re easy to save
Strawberries are also very versatile. If you have a large enough crop not only can you eat them fresh, but you can also preserve them for later. Freezing strawberries is a super easy to save them. Once you pick your berries, rinse them to remove any dirt or debris. Spread your rinsed berries out on cookie sheets and place them in the freezer.
Once they are completely solid, transfer the berries into freezer bags. Frozen strawberries make great snacks for the kids. They also go well in smoothies, and they cook down into a delicious sauce to go over things like ice cream.
You can also use frozen or fresh berries to make jam. If you are a canner, you can can the jam and store in your pantry. If you don’t like to can, just store your premade jams in the freezer until you’re ready to use them! For more detailed information on making jam, check out the Fiercely DIY Guide to Jams, Jellies, and Fruit Butters.
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Strawberry plants produce well for several years after you plant them. And the really awesome thing is that you can use your existing plant as a nursery for a new bed of strawberries once they end their most productive years.
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Here’s a video from Farmer’s Almanac on how to grow new strawberry plants from your existing strawberry bed:
How To Grow Strawberries That Fit Your Needs
There are several different types of strawberry plants. To be the most successful, it’s a good idea to pick the type that best matches your plans for the fruit as well as your growing climate. There are three different types of strawberries with slightly different benefits, and within those three types are several different varieties.
June Bearing Strawberries
Everbearing strawberries are the most popular type. They produce the largest berries and the most runners. They produce one large crop of berries per seasons, which makes them great choices if you plan to preserve most of your berries instead of eating them fresh.
They’re called June bearing, but there are varieties available that produce at different times of the summer. If you had enough space, you could plant the different varieties and get several large crops.
Everbearing strawberries have smaller berries than June bearing, however they produce two or three harvest throughout the growing season instead of one. They put out fewer runners as well. Everbearing strawberries are a good choice if you don’t have a lot of space, or need to grow your strawberries in containers. They will put most of their energy into berry production and you will get several harvests off the same plant in one year.
Day Neutral Strawberries
Day neutral strawberries are derived from everbearing strawberries, and also produce multiple harvests throughout the growing season. They produce smaller fruit than the June bearing, but what makes the day neutral strawberry varieties unique is that they produce fruit based on the temperature instead of day length.
If you live in an area with a short growing season, or with wide fluctuations between cold springs and very hot summers, day neutral strawberry plants may be the best option for you. Here is more information on growing day neutral strawberries in covered tunnels with additional heat in order to extend their growing season.
How To Choose Which Varieties of Strawberries To Grow
Before running out to the store and picking up some strawberries, it’s a good idea to put a bit of thought into which varieties will be best for your circumstances. First decide if you need June bearing, everbearing, or day neutral strawberries.
Once you’ve decided which type, look up which varieties of strawberries grow best in your state. In Oregon I had a mix of June bearing and everbearing strawberries, but the varieties that did well there were completely unsuitable for our new homestead in Texas, even though we are still in the same growing zone. Here’s a list where you can look up the best strawberry varieties by state.
How To Plant Strawberries In Your Garden
Now that you know which strawberries to grow in your garden, it’s time to plant them! Woohoo! Strawberries can be planted “as soon as the soil can be worked” which essentially means that when your soil is dry and defrosted enough that that you’re not going to wreck the soil structure by digging in straight up mud or ice.
Decide on a location for your strawberry bed. For the best fruit, your plants should receive at least six hours of sunlight, although the plants will grow as a ground cover in shadier areas. For the highest production, it’s recommended to plant your plants 18 inches apart. Once again, if you are growing strawberries mainly for a green, leafy ground cover closer spacing is fine.
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Dig a hole deep enough to place the roots into the hole and spread them out a bit. Roots don’t like to be cramped! Strawberries have a crown where the leaves, stems and fruit emerges. Don’t bury the crown, but do get it deep enough to cover all the roots.
Fill in the holes around the roots, adding compost to the top inch or so of soil, and add mulch on top of the soil. I like bark chips for mulching most things. Straw or shredded leaves also work well. If you have a big slug problem, a few ducks in the strawberry bed should take care of it for you.
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Make sure your strawberries get 1 inch of water per week. I actually haven’t had to water the strawberries since the day I planted them this spring because we’ve had more than an inch of rain every week. Yay! (Related Post: Here’s How To Use Rainwater In Your Garden). But just in case your area is drier, get out and give them a drink, especially while they are making fruit. The fruit is ready to harvest when it is completely red.
Enjoy your delicious harvest and have fun growing strawberries!
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