Yesterday my husband and I planted our strawberries. I took lots of pictures, so you could see how it’s done.
I always order bareroot strawberries. They’re cheaper and require less digging to plant. This time I ordered a june-bearing strawberry, called Flavorfest. It’s a newer variety that’s supposed to produce tons of berries and be incredibly disease resistant. Time will tell.
When you buy strawberries, there are two main types to choose from: june-bearing and everbearing/day-neutral. Those names can be a bit misleading because June-bearing strawberries may not fruit in June, and everbearing strawberries don’t necessarily produce berries all season long.
The main thing to know is that june-bearing strawberries produce one big three-week-long crop of berries in the late spring/early summer, while everbearing/day-neutral berries might produce two smaller harvests: one in the summer and one in the fall, or produce berries continuously from spring to fall.
If you live somewhere like New England, your june-bearing strawberries really will fruit in June. Here in Tennessee, strawberries are usually ready for harvest in May. In Florida, strawberry season kicks off in February.
I grew everbearing strawberries for years, but decided to switch to june-bearing for a few reasons, but mainly because I wanted the bigger berries and bigger yields that june-bearing strawberries are known for. With everbearing strawberries, it can be hard to get enough berries at one time to make jam. They’re better for keeping you in berries for your cereal.
When you order bareroot strawberries, this is what you get in the mail. They don’t look like much, but they snap out of dormancy pretty quickly, once you get them planted.
If you buy your strawberries through a mail-order garden company, they should ship your strawberries when it’s the right time to plant them, but a good rule of thumb is to plant strawberries in the early spring, just as soon as the soil can be worked. That’s usually works out to being about six weeks before the last frost. I tend to plant my strawberries in late February or early March, but your planting time may be earlier or later, depending on where you live. Just look up the last frost date for your area to gauge when you should plant yours.
Planting strawberries is pretty straightforward. There are just a couple things that you need to know. First, be sure to get your plants in the ground as soon after they arrive as you can. When you’re dealing with bareroot plants, it’s important not to let the roots dry out. Once you receive a shipping confirmation, go ahead and prepare the bed that you’ve chosen for your strawberry patch. Pull weeds and work some compost into the soil, so everything will be ready to go.
If you want your strawberries to thrive, it’s important to plant them to the right depth. They should be planted so that the crown sits above the soil line, and all of the roots are buried below. Take a look at this picture to see what I mean.
To make quick work of the planting, we use a dibble to dig our holes.
Just plunge it into the ground where you want your plant, and it makes the perfect hole to tuck the roots into.
Strawberries should be planted 12-18-inches apart, and they prefer full-sun and slightly acidic soil (not a problem here in the south). We opted to plant ours 12-inches apart. They’re in a long bed that extends down the length of our driveway. We have 75 plants in total. You can see my strawberry patch and the rest of my garden here.
Do not plant strawberries where peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, melons or other strawberry plants have been grown. They’re susceptible to the same diseases. One source I read said you should wait 5-8 years before planting in beds where any of these plants have grown. That makes crop rotation a little tricky. I have a pretty small yard, so I don’t have much choice but to plant my strawberries in the same spot again and again. So far I’ve gotten away with it.
Expect to get at least a quart of berries from each plant, under optimal growing conditions. This number will vary a bit depending on the variety, growing conditions and how much attention you give your plants. Younger plants will produce more, too. To keep your yields up, plan to replace your strawberry plants every three years. Over time strawberry plants tend to produce smaller harvests and smaller berries, and the longer they’re in the ground, the more susceptible they become to disease and crown rot. I’ve left strawberries in the ground past the three year mark, but eventually most of the plants die off and the weeds take over. Strawberries don’t compete well with weeds.
Here’s one of our freshly planted strawberry plants. They look pretty sickly when they first go in the ground, but within days they’ll spring to life.
Here’s one of our old plants that I just dug up. See how great it looks, even in March?
Your strawberry plants will form runners, and spread to fill up the bed pretty quickly. For maximum yield, it’s recommended that you pinch off all the flowers the first year. It’s not easy convincing yourself to do it, but you’ll get a nice pay off, if you do.
Mulch your strawberry patch heavily, so it retains moisture between waterings. Leaves have become my go-to mulch. Strawberries need about an inch of rain each week.
Birds love strawberries, so if you don’t want to share, you may want to net your patch. This is especially important, if you’re growing everbearing strawberries. With fewer berries to go around, it can be frustrating to see the birds get to them first.