Happiness is a strawberry patch! Get our no-fail guide on growing your own, plus the best varieties for your location
Scrapping the front lawn comes naturally to Calvin Abe. “My garden is about exploring ideas,” says the L.A. landscape architect,
who has used the spot to experiment with everything from native plants to Mediterranean ones over the years. His latest endeavor:
a front-yard strawberry patch, which was inspired by his childhood growing up on his grandfather’s farm outside Sacramento.
“I remember the smell of the berries, the scent of the earth they grew in,” he says. “And how—for a treat—my grandfather would
serve me fresh berries over homemade ice cream.”
The front yard may seem an unlikely spot for a strawberry patch, but it made perfect sense to Abe. The space was sunny and big enough for strawberries, and the plants—pretty, green, and neat—would look great in front of his Westchester neighborhood house. So he cleared and leveled the slightly sloped yard, mail-ordered bare-root plants, and started planting.
The first year, he harvested 4 gallons of berries—more than one man could ever eat alone. “I love sharing,” says Abe, who doesn’t mind neighbors’ snacking from his plants. During evenings when he’s out there tending the berries, neighbors often stop to chat and ask questions. Some even leave inspired to rethink their own lawns.
In mild-winter areas, plant standard strawberries from bare-root stock in late winter or early spring. In cold climates, wait until spring to plant.
Buy enough for the space you have in mind. The plants spread by runners to about 1 foot across. (To fill his 15- by 30-foot
patch, Abe needed 225 plants—150 of the June-bearing ‘Chandler’ and 75 of the everbearing ‘Ozark Beauty’.)
It should be rich, well-drained, and acidic. Before planting, dig in organic matter (Abe used about 20 cubic feet to prep
Set plants 14 to 18 inches apart, in mounded rows about 2 feet apart.
Photo courtesy of Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles; written by Susan Heeger
The crown should be slightly above soil level (a buried crown can rot). Mulch with straw to deter weeds and keep berries clean.
Give plants consistent moisture during growing season; use soaker hoses or a drip-irrigation system to prevent disease.
‘Hood’, ‘Puget Reliance’, and ‘Rainier’ (west of the Cascades); ‘Shuksan’ (east of the Cascades); ‘Quinault’
‘Chandler’ (especially Santa Barbara and south), ‘Seascape’, ‘Sequoia’
‘Camarosa’, ‘Chandler’, ‘Ozark Beauty’, ‘Shasta’