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Strawberries: What You Need to Know

 

It’s strawberry season! In this video and article, we’ll explain the two types of strawberries, how to plant them and what you can do to make sure your plants are happy, healthy and producing great fruit. 🍓 

June-Bearing Strawberries

The June-bearing varieties produce their entire crop in June and early July. Generally speaking, June-bearers have somewhat larger berries and yield more quarts per year than everbearing varieties.

Everbearing Strawberries

The everbearing varieties produce a crop in June and early July with a second crop starting in late summer and continuing until freeze-up, if the conditions are favorable. Day-neutral plants are a type of everbearing variety. They produce more reliably in the summer without as many resting phases.

Site and Soil Preparation

Select a sunny site that has both good drainage and good air circulation. This helps cut down on disease problems in the planting bed. Stay away from existing plantings of trees or shrubs which could rob strawberry plants of moisture and nutrients. Do not plant strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes or peppers had been planted in the previous year, as these crops are hosts to the same diseases that attack strawberries.

Strawberries like to grow in a sandy or loam soil that drains well and has a high content of organic matter. We recommend preparing the planting bed in fall. This permits you to set plants out a week or two earlier in the spring. A good garden fertilizer should be worked into the top 6 inches of soil.

Planting Distances

Planting distances vary between June-bearing and everbearing varieties.

June-bearing plants should set 18 to 24 inches apart in rows spaced 3 to 4 feet apart. This allows room for the runners to develop and form a matted row about 18 to 24 inches wide.

Use the “3-row system” to plant everbearing varieties. Make a bed of 3 hilled rows, 1 foot apart and space the plants 1 foot apart in the row. If you need more space, leave a 2 foot path between beds.

Planting

Plant your strawberries as early in the spring as possible, with Mid-March to the end of April as the best time frame.

Bareroot: Carefully seperate and remove all older leaves. Cut the roots to a length of 4 inches. Be sure to keep the roots moist at all times. Putting the plants in a bucket of water about an hour before planting.

Potted: Remove the rooted plant from the pack being carefull of the plants crown and roots. Plant in your garden at the same depth as it was grown in the pack. Carefully separate the roots if they are grown together. Set each plant in the ground with the center of the crown at the soil surface. If too deep, it will smother, if too shallow, the roots will dry out.

Prepare a starter fertilizer solution. After the plants have been firmed into the soil, pour 1 cup of solution around each plant. We recommend Earl May Plant Start.

For good production, strawberries need about 1-inch of water per week. Whenever possible, water early enough in the day to keep the foliage dry at night. This helps cut down on disease problems.

Care of June-Bearing Strawberries

First Season: Keep all blossoms removed to help produce stronger plants. As runner plants develop, train them to root in the row, keeping them spaced about 6 to 8 inches apart. After you have spaced your runner plants so your entire row measures about 18 to 24 inches wide, remove any additional runner plants. Cultivate often to keep weeds down. Spray to prevent insects and disease.

Producing Years: After the first year, your strawberry plants need weed control, disease and insect control, harvesting, as well as renovating and fertilizing with Earl May All Purpose Plant Food immediately after harvest. Do not apply high nitrogen fertilizers in the spring. This would stimulate vigorous growth, dense foliage and softer fruit. It also sets the stage for disease problems. Keep weeds under control by cultivation and hand weeding.

Renovating the Planting

After the first crop has been harvested, mow off the leaves 1-inch above the crowns. Remove the debris from the bed within a week after harvest. Using a tiller or spade, narrow the rows to 6 to 8 inches. Then remove any old or weak plants, leaving only the healthiest runner plants. By mid-October you need only 5 to 7 plants per square foot to get top yields next spring. Remove any excess runners, as overcrowding may result in small berries and fruit rot. After renovation, apply a good garden fertilizer and maintain a good moisture level in the planting bed.

Replant the bed when the number or size of berries begins to decrease, usually after 3 production seasons. Occasionally, well-cared-for, small plantings keep producing for 6 to 7 seasons.

Care of Everbearing Strawberries

First Season: Keep all blossoms removed until about July 1. The first berries ripen in August and continue until frost. Keep all runner plants removed during the entire season. Control weeds by cultivating  and hand weeding for the first 2 to 4 weeks. Then apply a summer mulch around each plant and between rows (sawdust or clean straw works well). Apply sprays to prevent disease and insect problems. Mulch well for winter.

Second Season: Remove winter mulch as soon as the plants show signs of growth below the mulch. Add fresh summer mulch where needed. Keep runners removed all season and keep weeds under control. Maintain a good spray program.

Disease and Insect Management

Proper management of strawberry plantings helps prevent damage and loss caused by insects and diseases. We recommend using a good spray program, which makes it easier to prevent disease problems than control them. Use an Orchard Spray, as it combines insect and disease control very effectively. Start spraying strawberries when new growth appears in the spring. The second spray should be applied after the plants bloom. Apply cover sprays every 10 to 14 days. Do not use this within 14 days of harvest. After completing renovation, another cover spray should be applied.

Winter Protection

To protect strawberries against winter injury, apply a layer of mulch. If plants are unprotected, low winter temperatures may kill the fruit buds and damage the roots and crowns. Alternate freezing and thawing conditions in the spring cause heaving of the plants. Mulch should be applied before the temperature drops below 20 F. Once the temperature drops below 15 F, damage to the plants begins. However, if you apply mulch too early before the plant growth stops the crowns may rot.

Clean hay or straw make the best mulching material. Do not use tree leaves, as they mat down and smother the plants. A 3 to 4-inch layer of mulch will do.

Leave winter mulch in place until plants show signs of growth in the spring. No harm will result even if many of the plants show one or two small yellow new center leaves. Delayed mulch removal prevents most heaving and can also delay early blooming. Remove just enough of the mulch so that the plants can come through.

Once your plants have produced, try using your strawberries to make a Lemon Poppy Seed Strawberry Shortcake!
Are you a fan of strawberry rhubarb pie? Try growing your own rhubarb as well!