Thursday, December 31, 2009

Strawberries


Growing strawberries in your garden has to be one of the more rewarding gardening efforts, because there is just no comparison between store bought strawberries and those picked fresh from the garden. So let’s take a look at how to grow strawberries in your garden.

The traditional way to grow strawberries is to nurture them as perennials, that is you plant them one year and expect them to peak in later years. But some places in the South where the summers are quite hot it is not uncommon to grow them as an annual, and replant the following year.

Based on how you might want to grow them you can pick the one of the strawberry varieties that will work for you.

Where to Plant Strawberries

Strawberries are very versatile, and can be planted in a variety of ways. Many people will plant strawberries in containers. Hanging strawberry planters are a favorite, and let you grow strawberries on the balcony or a patio. For this its common to plant them as annuals so you don’t have to overwinter the container. Strawberries should not be planted where peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes have been grown since these plants can harbor verticillium wilt, a seriously bad disease for strawberries. If in doubt you may think of using the square foot gardening approach which uses a soilless mix in raised beds.

The most common way of growing strawberries is in a bed. Since they are most often grown as perennials, you want a location for the bed that is out of the way, as it will be mulched and scraggly looking for part of the year. You may want a raised garden bed as this will help control the week population, since in perennial beds you can’t just go in and till it up once a year. Like most garden vegetables or fruits, strawberries like full sun, at least six hours of sun a day.

Strawberries need at least one to two inches of rain a week, so if your climate won’t provide that factor in the need for irrigation like the proximity to a hose when choosing a location.

Soil Preparation

Drainage must be good (another advantage of a raised bed) and they do best in a sandy loamy soil. For any garden bed it’s good to prepare the soil with a healthy addition of organic matter like compost, but it’s particularly good for perennial plantings as they chance to work that in again could be several years away.

There are several popular approaches to creating a strawberry bed, which vary a little based on the varieties that you want to grow.

Matted Rows

Matted rows are good for June-bearing strawberries. The plants should be planted about eighteen to thirty inches apart in rows, with the rows being 3 to 4 feet apart. Daughter plants are allowed to spread and root freely. This should result in a matted row about 24 inches wide.

Spaced Rows

With spaced rows to goal is to limit the number of daughter plants spreading out from the mother plant. Once again the mother plants are set eighteen to thirty inches apart with rows spaced 3 to 4 feet apart. The daughter plants are spaced out so they root at least four inches apart. All other runners are cut from the mother plants. This is somewhat higher maintenance approach, but the payoff is in higher yields, larger strawberries and reduced disease problems.

Hills

Hills are recommended for growing everbearing and day-neutral strawberries. For this approach all runners are removed, leaving only the original strawberry plant, forcing the mother plant to develop more crowns and stalks for fruiting. Start by arranging multiple rows of two to four plants with a walkway between each group of rows about two feet wide. The plants are staggered about one foot apart in the rows. After the first two or three weeks of growth add mulch to the bed.

Planting Strawberries

Plant in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant the new plants where the crown is at soil level. The buds can be harmed by frost, so for new plantings you may want to wait til after the last frost.

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