Strawberries are the perfect summer fruit! With a little preparation and care they will produce an abundance of juicy, red, and delicious berries in your home garden.
Any soil that grows good garden crops will also grow an abundance of strawberries. It may be sandy or even a heavy clay. Sandy loam is ideal. Good moisture and drainage is important. Plenty of organic matter in the soil is good for holding moisture. The best berry production requires full sunlight for at least 8 hours a day.
Before planting work cow manure into the soil. It is the best material for good berry growth. Approximately 4 weeks after planting apply a balanced fertilizer(10-10-10). It should be sprinkled around the base of the plant without getting on leaves. Do not apply fertilizer when the leaves are wet. Do not apply fertilizer during the Spring on fruiting beds. Fertilize in the late summer (August or September) prior to next years harvest as fruit beds for spring develop in the fall.
When to Plant
Early Spring is the best time to plant strawberries. The suggested planting dates for Northern Minnesota is April 15 - July 15. Fall planting is not recommended. Expect 2 or 3 years of good berry production with a well-planted and tended strawberry patch. After that, if yields become smaller, then your patch should be replaced with new plants. Also, the location should be changed. The dangers of building up disease and insect populations will be reduced by changing the site.
How to Plant
Plant strawberry plants 18 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart.
Much of your success in growing berries depends on how you handle your plants. They should be planted promptly. DO NOT LET THEM DRY OUT. Any method of planting that lets the roots go reasonably straight down, spreading wide for increased feeding area is good. Soil should be pressed firmly against the roots with the crown of the plant just at the surface with no roots showing. If the crown of the plant is covered with soil, the plant will eventually die. Be sure the root ball is very moist before planting. Always water plants well prior to planting and again after transplanting. The initial watering should be clear water. Do not use fertilizer at this time. Ask for our pictured hand out that shows proper planting.
Shortly after the strawberry plants are planted they will produce blossoms, which should be removed. This will improve plant growth. Some cultivation and light hoeing may be necessary to control weeds. Remember to keep strawberry beds moist.
Renewing Beds at the End of the Season
After harvest it is beneficial to thin your beds. Mow off the leaves by raising your mower so as not to damage the plant crowns. Thin the bed with a rake or hoe, leaving 4 to 6 inches between plants. If it is dry, water your plants after bed renewal. At this time you can do a light application of fertilizer.
Wintering Potted Strawberry Plants
Potted strawberry plants must also be protected from winter temperatures, but the roots must be insulated as well. This makes protecting container plants a bit more complicated than in-ground plants.
One option is to move your container strawberry plants to an area that stays between 20 and 40 degrees F all winter. For many gardeners, this space does not exist in our homes. In January and February, a garage gets well below 20 degrees for multiple weeks.
Most gardeners should consider insulating the roots and leaves with mulch or soil.
If the soil is not yet frozen and you have soil to dig into, you can dig a hole slightly wider than your container and place the container in the hole so that the strawberry leaves are just above ground level. Backfill the hole with soil around the container. Then, cover the strawberry leaves with mulch.
If you are unable to dig a hole for your container plants, then another option is to mound several inches of potting mix or soil around the container in order to help insulate the roots. Then cover the strawberry leaves with mulch.
If your gardening situation prohibits you from insulating container strawberry plants with these (admittedly inconvenient) methods, consider growing day-neutral strawberries instead of June-bearing strawberries.
Day-neutral varieties are meant to be grown as annuals rather than perennials, which eliminates the need to insulate them over the winter. (Information from University of MN Extension Office)
Mulching is necessary for winter protection. In case of sudden very cold temperatures, the crowns and roots may be damaged. Apply 3 to 4 inches of straw. The mulch will keep the temperature at ground level from dropping suddenly. Mulch, also, converses moisture in the spring, delays flowering, makes better picking conditions, and reduces rot on the berries. Prepare for rodent inhabitation, use bait protection.
Control of Disease and Insects
Transplanting from an old bed will often cause problems in your new patch. Keep patch clean and weed free. Remove over ripe fruit that attracts insects. Overcrowded beds tend to have more fruit rot. Thus bed renewal wil prevent this problem.
Red Spider and Mite control: Mites attack strawberry plants. Spraying with Kelthane will help control this problem. Begin spraying as soon as growth starts. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Strawberry fruit rots: Many gardeners grow a beautiful crop of berries only to lose the crop to fruit rots. Make timely sprays of Benlate & Captan to control these fungi. There are several fruit rots caused by fungi, but they all have one trait in common - they can infect a berry in any stage of its development.