How to Grow Strawberries

In addition to the traditional strawberry patch, there are as many ways to grow strawberries as there are to eat them! Grow strawberries in a bed, hydroponically, as a ground cover, as an ornamental patio plant, or in a hanging basket.

Strawberry Categories

An important part of knowing how to grow strawberries is understanding how different types of strawberries grow. Strawberry cultivars are placed in one of three categories.

? June bearing strawberries produce a large, voluptuous crop of berries in late spring. Mother plants send out runners (daughters) that root and develop into matted rows. The disadvantage to June bearing strawberries is 1) they only bear fruit once a year and 2) the first year you need to pluck all blossoms from your plants to let them become firmly established.

? Ever bearing strawberries really aren't "ever" bearing, but do produce a harvest twice a year, once in spring and again in autumn. During the first year, pluck all blossoms from ever-bearing cultivars through the end of June. After that, they will blossom again and set fruit for a fall harvest.

? Day neutral strawberries frequently produce a crop of small, but very sweet berries throughout most of the growing season. After plucking off the first set of blossoms allow the fruit to set and you'll have strawberries throughout the summer!

The Versatile Alpine Strawberry

The Alpine Strawberry is a cousin of the wild strawberry and is very much at home lining a path or walk way. In fact, the only strawberry that is regularly started from seed, the Alpine strawberry is a day neutral cultivar that makes an excellent ground cover with headily fragrant blossoms and very tasty red or white strawberries. The Alpine Strawberry reseeds profusely from its own strawberry seeds and bears fruit throughout the growing season.

Buying Strawberries for Transplanting

The best time to purchase strawberry plants is autumn. Find end of season plants at dirt-cheap prices or order new plants for spring delivery. In addition, your nursery may offer wholesale strawberry plants packed in bundles containing as few as 25 plants. Nurseries have limited space and often take orders for wholesale plants on a first-come, first-served basis. Frequently, their stock is depleted long before spring.

Most strawberry cultivars over-winter if kept cool in a root cellar, unheated garage, or basement. For extra protection, cover roots with sand, wood shavings or soil. Ordering or purchasing strawberry plants in the fall ensures that you'll have them for spring planting!

Thirty plants provide enough strawberries for a family of four. Select your plants carefully and purchase only virus-tested transplants.

Site Selection

Plant strawberries in the sunniest spot you can find. Although you can get a harvestable crop with as little as six hours of direct sunlight per day, the largest harvests and best quality berries come from those plants that get the advantage of full sun.

The shallow rooted strawberry plant is poor competition for weeds, shrubs, trees, or other plants. Till a garden bed in the fall to eliminate a lot of the weeds that cause problems during the growing season. Choose a spot away from large trees, which may send roots into your strawberry bed. Also, be sure to locate your strawberry bed away from any spot where you have grown peppers, tomatoes, eggplant or potatoes. These plants can harbor verticillium wilt, which is devastating to strawberries.

Although strawberries won't thrive in saturated ground, they do need a moist environment. Amend soil with a good supply of nutrient rich organic matter to both improve aeration, drainage, and increase moisture-holding capacity. In the spring, as soon as the frost is out of the ground and the soil is workable, till your bed again. Now you are ready to "set" your strawberry plants. The second and third part of this how to on strawberries is available on our site.

Linda is an author of Gardening Tips Tricks and Howto's. The next part of this article is available at our site,
where you can also download the whole series as a free full color e-book. Just follow the links.