Strawberries are a delightful fruit and a favorite of many but how do you successfully grow them so they will last from year to year? It's not as hard as one might think but there are a few things to remember if you want to have success your first try.
Strawberries need good soil. They need a pH of 5.8- 6.5 so here in the south they grow well with little fuss. Just be sure to add some compost to enrich the soil you plan to plant strawberries in. If your soil is terrible when it comes to drainage you will need to soften your soil with sand. Sunshine is a must too for a good crop of strawberries so pick a sunny location.
A tried and true method for growing strawberries is the wide row method, in rows no wider than four feet, with 18 inches wide being ideal. The idea is to be able to reach half way across the bed with ease. Four feet is a little bit of a stretch for most people. Three feet is very doable, and 18 inches is ideal. It's also a good idea to try to raise the bed, even a little bit. This helps keep the strawberries from rotting. Don't confuse mounding the soil with a raised bed, as this is much different.
To raise the bed, you can use untreated wood. Or think outside the box, and use landscape edging. If you would like clean pathways, place vinyl or plastic down on the ground. This gives a good surface to pin or nail down the bottom edge of the black landscape edging. Two inches is the recommended fold up on the bottom edge. This stuff is flexible, and can be cut quite easily.
You will need to cut a two inch slit at the corner to turn the corners. You should use long ridged nails to pin the edging down. On the inside of the bed, to keep the black edging standing up, hammer some six to eight inch aluminum spikes right next to the edging. This is a great way to create a low but raised bed that then can be filled with quality soil, right on top of your existing soil. You can use this height to contain your untreated wood mulch to crowd out the weeds.
Before you plant be sure to till the soil and let it rest for two weeks. Now it is time to mound your soil. you will need a hoe or shovel and if you've ever mounded the soil when planting watermelons, zucchini then you know what kind of mound to make. The only difference is the size. The mound only needs to be about a foot across 6-8 inches high. If your plants have long roots give them a higher hill to keep their roots from sitting in water. Mound up the dirt one foot to 18 inches apart. . When done it will look like you made circular hills in a grid across your bed.
If you purchased bare root plants, place them in water for a couple hours or overnight. If you bought them in pots just check to see that they are not dried out. Now you can set your strawberry plants out on the hills you created. To do this just spread the roots over the hills from the center in all directions. Finally you cover the roots only. Be sure not to bury the plants too deep or they will die. Plant them just to the base of the crown or to the point the roots meet the plant.
To have great success, and a carefree strawberry bed, always do this next step. Gather several sheets or a whole newspaper. Place these up to the base of the plant, and continue covering all bare soil with newspapers. It is best to have your newspaper more thick than just using one sheet. The idea is to hold moisture, and prevent weeds so your plants can get a good start.
Next, cover all of the newspapers with mulch. This should be untreated mulch, as you do not want poisons on your delicate strawberries. If your town has a tree removal service, sometimes you can get a truck load of untreated mulch delivered to your house. Strawberries can handle the acid of fresh mulch. Be aware, other plants may not be able to tolerate the acid, and the mulch will need to sit for a year before use.
Come spring you will have blooms and from the blooms will come your beautiful strawberries. Be sure to cover the blooms if a late frost threatens them. Spray your crop with an all natural copper solution to deal with brown spots such as rust and be sure not to let a drought kill off your beautiful plants. If birds threaten to eat all the strawberries before you do, consider a bird net to deter them or other organic methods.
As the Spring turns to Summer your plants will put out runners. It is a good idea to let these take root in shallow pots for filling in bare spots or to give away. This will ensure you and your friends have beautiful strawberry beds that will last for years to come.
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