Sweet, juicy strawberries are among the easiest fruits for home gardeners to grow ― and one of the most productive, too.
June-bearing types bear one crop of high-quality berries each year in late spring or early summer. Everbearing (day-neutral) varieties peak in summer and continue to produce into autumn; though they bear for a longer period than June-bearing sorts, they tend to be less vigorous. Within these two types, there are varieties adapted to almost every climate in the United States.
Planting and care
In most parts of the country, strawberries are planted in early spring; where winters are mild, you can also plant in autumn.
Plants are usually sold bare-root. Take care that the roots don't dry out. Just before you set plants out, trim roots to 6 inches to make planting easier. Space plants 14 to 18 inches apart in rows 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart.
Most strawberries spread by runners. To get large plants with smaller yields of big berries, pinch off all the runners.
For a heavier yield of smaller berries, allow some of the runners to grow and fruit; space them 7 to 10 inches apart in a circle around the mother plant, cutting off extras so the bed doesn't become too crowded.
Fertilize June bearers twice a year ― very lightly when growth begins, then more heavily after fruiting. Everbearing types prefer consistent light fertilizing; feed them every 2 weeks.
Note that heavy feeding of either type in spring leads to excessive leafy growth, soft fruit, and fruit rot.
Where winters are cold, it's crucial to mulch strawberries to prevent winter damage. In late November, after temperatures have dipped to freezing several times, lay straw loosely over the plants.
Replace plants with new ones as they begin to decline, usually after 3 years.
Pests and diseases
Strawberries are subject to many troubles, including mites, rose chafers, strawberry root weevils, and verticillium wilt. To help reduce problems, plant only certified disease-free plants; also remove and dispose of diseased foliage and rotten fruit.