How To Grow

Tips To Grow Strawberries For Beginners

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Growing your own fruit, such as strawberries, can be a delightful experience, especially during the hot summer season. Strawberries are the quintessential fruit of summer and taste best when homegrown. They thrive in bright, sheltered positions with fertile, free-draining soil.

This versatile fruit is easy to grow and can be cultivated in various ways, including in containers, hanging baskets, or strawberry planters. Not only are they delicious, but they also offer benefits during the hot season, providing a refreshing and nutritious treat straight from your garden.

Choose Right Variety

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When beginning the procedure of planting strawberries, the first step is to choose the right variety. There are many different varieties of strawberries, each with its own unique flavor, size, and ripening time.

For beginners, everbearing strawberries are a good option as they produce fruit throughout the summer. June-bearing strawberries yield a large crop of fruit in early summer, while day-neutral strawberries produce fruit throughout the summer and fall.

Pick Perfect Spot

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Strawberries require at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day, so choose a planting location that receives plenty of sunlight. Ensure that your soil is well-drained, as these fruits do not thrive in overly wet conditions.

If your soil is heavy clay, you can improve drainage by amending it with compost or other organic matter. For those with limited outdoor space, consider growing strawberries in containers positioned on a sunny balcony or patio.

Amend Soil

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When your soil is not ideal for growing these berries, you need to amend it. Use light, loamy soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Add organic matter such as mature compost, aged manure, or peat moss to enrich the soil with nutrients.

This will help create a fertile, rich, and slightly acidic environment for strawberries to thrive. Moreover, incorporate perlite or vermiculite for moisture retention and drainage. Spread 4 inches of organic matter on top of the bed and thoroughly work it into the soil.

Plant Your Strawberries

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In most climates, strawberries can be planted in the spring or early fall. However, if you live in a hot climate, it's best to wait until the fall before planting them. If you want a quicker harvest, you can also buy container-grown new plants.

Here are some steps for planting strawberries:

  • Prepare the soil by digging in well-rotted manure or garden compost and raking in a high-potassium general fertilizer.
  • Space plants 35 to 40cm apart and in rows 75 to 100cm apart.
  • Plant at the correct depth, water well to settle the soil around the roots, and place a biodegradable mulch mat around each plant.

Water Regularly

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Water your strawberries deeply and evenly, providing about 1 inch of water per week. Just aim to soak the soil thoroughly without making it soggy. This can be achieved by using a watering can or a hose with a jet setting to pour water directly into the soil. 

It's recommended to water the plants in the morning to allow for adequate absorption and to prevent the foliage from remaining wet overnight, which can lead to disease. Also, during the first few weeks after planting, it's important to keep them well-soaked to help them establish.

Fertilize

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While strawberries don't require a lot of fertilizer, a light application of organic fertilizer can give them a boost during the growing season. Apply a balanced fertilizer around the base of each plant with an equal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, such as a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 fertilizer.

Organic options for fertilizing strawberries also include blood meal, fish meal, soy meal, alfalfa meal, and aged manure. Nitrogen is especially important for strawberry plants in early spring and again in late fall. However, avoid over-fertilizing, as it can harm the plants.

Mulching Strawberries

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Mulching around strawberry plants is essential for moisture retention, weed suppression, and keeping the berries clean. Typically, a layer of straw or shredded leaves about 2 to 3 inches thick is used for this purpose.

This practice also helps protect the plants' roots during cold winters and prevents soil splashing onto the fruit.

Watch For Pests And Diseases

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Strawberries are generally resistant to pests and diseases, but they can still be affected by certain issues. Birds can pose a threat to the fruit, while slugs can damage the plants. Fungal diseases can also affect them, leading to reduced yields and quality. 

To maintain healthy plants, it is essential to regularly monitor them for signs of pests or diseases. If any issues are detected, prompt treatment is necessary. This includes maintaining a clean environment, using physical barriers against birds, and growing companion plants for strawberries.

Protect From Birds

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One of the most effective methods to control this issue is using bird netting, supported by stakes and jute strung between trellises. Another option is to employ scarecrows or row covers, which can help deter birds from landing and feeding on your strawberries.

Apart from that, you can try using fake strawberry rocks, painted to resemble real strawberries, placed around your plants to confuse birds. Remember to check the netting frequently for any trapped birds that need to be released.

Remove Runners

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Different varieties of strawberries, including Everbearing plants, produce runners, which are long, thin stems that sprout new plants. If you want your plants to produce more fruit, you can remove the runners.

On the other hand, if you want to expand your strawberry patch, you can let the runners root and grow new plants.

Harvest Ripe Strawberries

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To harvest ripe strawberries, wait until they are fully red and soft to the touch. Summer-fruiting strawberries are ready to pick when at least three-quarters of the fruit has turned red. If they are too soft, they have gone bad, and if they are too hard, they are not ripe yet.

Pick the fruit with about one-quarter of the stem attached. The best time for picking this fruit is in the morning when the berries are still cool. Take care when harvesting, as these are delicate fruits that bruise easily.

After Harvesting, Cut Back leaves

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After harvesting your strawberries, trim back the leaves to about 4 inches from the ground. This practice helps prevent diseases and promotes new growth, contributing to the overall health and productivity of the plants. By removing the old foliage, the plants can channel their energy into producing fresh leaves and runners, essential for a bountiful crop in the following season.

Overwinter Your Strawberries

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In cold climates, you will need to overwinter your strawberries. This can be achieved by covering them with a thick layer of mulch or by relocating them to a sheltered area such as a garage or shed.

If you reside in frost-prone areas, it is recommended to cover the plants with brushwood, straw, or fleece, and wrap the planters with insulating materials like jute or garden fleece.