Strawberries are the first fruits of the season, and fresh-picked strawberries from the garden taste better than any berry bought from a store.
Plant strawberry plants this spring for ample production and summer fun for your kids next spring. Strawberries can be greatly rewarding and only require a few simple timed garden tasks.
Before planting bare root bundles, amend the soil with organic matter. Organic matter will provide nutrients and help retain water. There are two types of strawberries; June bearing, day neutral or Ever-bearing.
June-bearing strawberries are the most commonly grown, producing large plump berries for two to three weeks in late spring. One common way to plant is in a matted-row configuration, meaning 24 inches between plants at time of planting. Then four weeks later, runners (daughter plants) will need to be pressed down, creating a box with four corners around the mother plant. All of the remaining runners should be removed in addition to all of the flowers for the first year. Watch for perennial weeds, as they can take over your strawberry patch.
Ever-bearing strawberries can be planted as a ground cover in the landscape. This type produces smaller berries throughout the season.
Don't let the strawberries go through drought in late summer months or you may compromise next year's fruits. Winter covering of 3 to 4 inches of straw will protect strawberry crowns from cold temperatures and will need to be removed in spring.
After about a pint of berries per plant has been produced, one more timed step must be implemented to keep diseases away and strawberries big. This step is called renovation, and requires the foliage to be cut back to within 1 inch of the crown. Plants should be thinned to 6 inches between plants. Work in organic fertilizer and additional soil around crowns.
One year of patience and a few simple timed garden tasks can provide your family with strawberries that are sweet, red and juicy the way they are supposed to be. For more information on growing strawberries, go to http://urbanext.illinois.edu/strawberries.
Photo Credit Kelly Allsup
University of Illinois Extension