Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Best Way to Grow Strawberries

 Photo by: MirellaST

The Best Way to Grow Strawberries
Strawberries are delicious and nutritious. They contain essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, calcium, folate, iron, manganese, magnesium and potassium but sometimes the plants can be hard to grow so they produce abundant berries. If you want to have a productive strawberry bed, there are many ways to do this. I've tried growing strawberries different ways through the years to see which worked the best for me.

Find the best location for your strawberry bed. You need to be fussy and take some time to find the right location. Find a place that has the full sun exposure, adequate air movement, and good soil drainage. If your soil is clay based, you’ll have better luck planting the strawberries in a raised bed. While this gives you better soil, the bed will need to water more frequently. Avoid planting strawberries where you have recently grown tomatoes, raspberries, and potatoes.
Prepare the Soil
Late in the fall, when you have picked out the place to grow your strawberries, prepare the strawberry bed. Remove the weeds and til the soil until it is fine. By doing the ground preparation in the fall, the soil has time to settle. 
In the spring when the ground is dry enough to work it, remove the weeds. Amend the soil with 3 to 5 inches of organic compost and fertilizer. For every 100 square feet of soil, add 2-3 pounds of a high-phosphorus fertilizer mixed with 1-pound Epsom salts. Work this into the top 6 inches of soil. 
Types of Strawberry Plants
There are two types of strawberries, spring-bearing and everbearing. The spring-bearing produces one crop of large strawberries in the spring. The first year of planting spring-bearing plants, you will not be able to harvest any fruit until the second season. 
Everbearing strawberry plants produce strawberries in the spring and another in the fall. With everbearing, you can pick the strawberries the first year of planting in the fall. 
When picking out strawberry plants at the store, look at the root section. They should have many light-colored roots with single crowns. Another good idea is to read the label and find disease resistant plants. Choose the varieties that are resistant to gray old, leaf spot and powdery mildew. These are popular diseases of strawberries, and after you go through the time it takes to prepare and plant, it would be a shame to lose the plants to disease. If you are getting plants from a friend, make sure the plants are a year old for best results. 
Planting Strawberries 
Spread out the strawberry roots and this will show you how wide the hole needs to be. The depth of the holes should be only deep enough to keep the crown just above the surface. This is the most important step when planting strawberries. You don't want the crown too high, or the roots will dry out. If the crown is too deep, the strawberry plants will rot.  
When you have the hole dug, spread the roots out like a fan and place them in the hole. Fill in the hole with soil and firm the soil in place with your hands to collapse air pockets. Space the plants 15 to 24 inches apart, with rows spaced 42 to 48 inches apart. 
After you plant each strawberry, water it thoroughly. Strawberries need plenty of water until they become established, so keep the bed evenly moist. To help retain moisture, lay a 2-inch layer of organic mulch, grass clippings, or straw over the soil and around the plants. This will also help keep the weeds from growing.
Strawberries will need to be fertilized several times throughout the growing season. When applying fertilizer, always read and follow label directions for the proper amounts. Too much fertilizer will burn the plants, so it always better to use too little than too much. 
Remove Blossoms 
If you planted the spring-bearing variety, remove all the blossoms for the first year. It seems a shame to do this, but it forces the strawberries to put their energy into root formation and/or runners, instead of the formation of fruit. If you planted everbearing, remove the flowers until mid-summer for the first year. After that, you can leave the blooms for a fall harvest. 
Harvest the berries early in the morning when they are full of juice and flavor. The berries are firmer and easier to pick at that time also.
Winter Care 
In the fall, it is time to prepare the strawberry bed for the winter.  This is also a good time to transplant some of the runners into another section of your prepared garden if you want. Cover the entire strawberry bed with 2 to 3 inches of straw. This will protect the plants from being heaved out of the soil when the ground freezes and thaws. In the spring, when you notice new growth on the strawberry plants, remove the straw. You can leave it between the rows to help maintain moisture, or put it in your compost pile.

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