Last year our garden wasn’t very successful. I blame it on a few things, such as a cool summer, a small fenced patio/yard with probably not enough sun, and most likely poor soil (not to mention my inexperience). But despite all the dead tomato, carrot, melon plants and more, we did have success with one little crop: strawberries.
Our one little plant flowered and gave us fruit several times throughout the growing season, and was enough of a success to get my daughter (age three) thoroughly excited about gardening.
This year, it looks like we’ll be moving across the neighborhood in a few weeks, so we’re waiting to plant anything, but even so, I’m planning out what I’d like to do. If nothing else, I’ve decided I will plant at least one thing at our new place, and that’s strawberries!
Types of Strawberry Plants
There are many varieties of strawberry plants, but three basic types. You’ll have to choose between June Bearing, Everbearing, and Day Neutral.
June Bearing are the most common type; they produce fruit in a large, one-time crop for a few weeks, have lots of runners (off shoots), and depending on variety can be harvested early, midseason or late.
Everbearing strawberries will produce intermittently (two-three times) throughout the spring, summer and fall, and have less runners.
Day Neutrals will be smaller, but will produce throughout the season (these also have less runners, like the everbearing type).
We live in a region that is actually known for being ideal for strawberries, and in fact, there are strawberry farms we pass on the freeway when drive just a few miles north. As far as I know, these berries are a pretty versatile crop in most places, especially in milder climates. I’d head to your local nursery to ask about the best varieties for where you live, or check out this state-by-state guide.
I’m hoping to plant more than one type of strawberry this year so that we get more than one harvest, and a variety of sizes.
When and Where to Plant
Most sources will tell you to plant your strawberries in early spring, after the last frost.
Strawberries do fine in the ground; that’s how my family always grew them when I was growing up. I have fond memories of walking barefoot out to the sideyard to pick a bowl-full to have in my cereal.
You may need to cover the ground around the strawberries with (repurposed) plastic to protect them from rotting (or just be prompt at picking!) or snails. Another safe way to keep snails off your berries is to use a non-toxic product like Sluggo, or just send your kids out to the garden to find all the snails and dispose of them.
But another great way to plant strawberries is in a container with various “pockets” for your plants to peek out of. You can either put a plant in each pocket, or, plant a couple in the top (main) section, and then train the runners into the pockets where they will root themselves, like Willi Galloway describes in a post on the blog, DigginFood. This method provides a great way to get more plants for your buck. I’m hoping to try growing some of mine in a container this year.
Sun, Water and Soil Needs
Strawberries require full sun and lots of drainage. You don’t want to let them dry out or overwater them. If you want to get technical, they prefer a soil pH of between 5.8 and 6.2 (source). If you’re not at a point in your gardening where you’re that tech-savvy, don’t worry. I’m not either and my strawberries have turned out fine!
Have you successfully grown strawberries? Do you prefer to use the ground or containers? What are your favorite ways to enjoy this sweet fruit?