Growing Strawberries in Your Garden
Have you ever considered growing strawberries in your home garden, but thought you didn't have a green thumb? Well, I'm here to encourage you to "dig in".
You don't have to be a professional gardener to succeed at growing this popular and healthy berry. It's so easy that even kids can grow them. As a matter of fact, the basic "ingredients" you'll need in this garden recipe are simple:
1. A garden location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight.
2. Well drained, loamy soil or sand.
3. Strawberry plants.
That sounds easy enough. Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty....literally! :)
Choosing Your Site
Take a look around your garden. Find a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Strawberries grow best in deep, well drained, sandy loam soil rich in organic matter. If at all possible, the site should be slightly sloped with a watering source nearby. (Strawberries are NOT drought resistant).
Avoid planting strawberries in places where you've previously grown tomatoes, peppers, potatoes or eggplant. (A health issue for your strawberry plants.)
Preparing the Soil
Just like any other project you've undertaken, preparation is key. Clear your future strawberry patch of all weeds and grass. Work the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches (preferably 24 inches), and add organic matter (compost) to the soil.
Strawberry plants prefer a soil pH of 5.8 - 6.2. If you're unsure of the acidity levels of your soil, send a sample to your local Cooperative Extension Office.
Strawberries grow best in slightly raised rows that should be set 3-4 feet apart. This allows ample room for the runners to spread. Thirty plants will provide enough berries for a family of four. Plants should be spaced 18-30 inches apart.
Choosing Strawberry Plant Varieties
There are basically three types of strawberries: June bearing, everbearing and day neutral.
June bearing: This strawberry plant produces berries during a 2-3 week period in the spring. June bearers generally produce larger fruit.
Everbearing strawberries: This strawberry type produces one crop in the spring and a second crop in the fall.
Day Neutral: These strawberry plants will produce fruit throughout most of the growing season.
It's best to plant all three varieties of strawberry plants in your garden. That way, you'll be sure to have berries all season long!
Everbearing and Day Neutral are perfect for those who have small gardens as they can be grown in pots, patio planters, or in beds as groundcover.
You can plant your strawberries as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, usually in April or May. If the soil is too wet, wait a few days until it dries out. Your first year's harvest won't be much, but the really plentiful harvests will be in the years to come. Strawberry plants will continue to produce fruit for 2-3 years. Plant new plants each year to replenish the old.
In the off season, protect your plants by covering them with a straw mulch. Remove the mulch come spring, and you'll be on your way to another successful growing season.
That's about it...I hope you'll try your hand at growing strawberries in your garden. I know I will....we'll compare notes next spring!
Good luck in your garden and ENJOY!
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