Learn the basics to succeed with strawberries

We all know that the fresh goodness of strawberries is well worth a little trouble. Not only is the sugar-berry flavor of strawberries a delicious reward, but they’re also a pretty easy crop to grow in your garden and become even easier the following year.

What strawberries want: 

Strawberries adore basking in the full sun in a well-drained, sandy-loam soil. If you live in a very windy area, they also enjoy an area here they’ll be somewhat protected. They like a soil pH of about 6.0 – 6.5, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not, but some people like to know. 

How to plant strawberries:

You can plant strawberries in their permanent spot as soon as the soil becomes warm enough in your zone to do so. For West Coast gardeners, this can be as early as late winter.

Before I plant my strawberries, I simply (no serious ritual here) hand-till in 3 to 4 inches of compost into the bed or container. As far as watering strawberries, they don’t like to dry out, but wet feet will cause them to get crown rot – so basically water in moderation.

When you plant your little strawberry plants, you’ll want to dig a hole and make a little mound in the middle. Then gently spread out the roots and set it on the mound – think straddling a horse. When you fill the hole in you’re looking to make sure the soil line is at the middle of the crown. If you plant them too deep, you set them up for crown rot, too shallow and the roots become exposed and the plant dies.

3 Common Types of Strawberries:

Junebearers – This type of strawberry plant doesn’t fruit until one year after they’re planted.

Everbearers – These plants will produce a nice crop of berries late in the summer after planting.

Day neutrals – These perform basically the same as the everbearers but can produce berries from mid-summer to fall in the same year.

Botrytis - a common strawberry problem:

A little annoyance that sometimes creeps up on you (and the strawberries) is a fungus called botrytis. It creates a horrid-looking coat so furry that it could send up a flag for any nearby animal-rights activists. The fungal spores generally come from the old leaves that are on the soil. Botrytis can also grow in organic soil and when you water it hits the soil and splashes back up onto the strawberry blossoms. If you put down 1 to 2 inches of composted mulch, it’ll keep the spores from reaching the plant.

How to harvest strawberries:

Don’t pull on the berry to harvest it from the plant. Instead pinch it off at the stem so you don’t ruin the fruit. Remember to try to harvest all of the ripe or over-ripe berries; this will help reduce problems with disease.

Get cooking with strawberries

Strawberry-Lemon Sorbet
Photo/Illustration: 
FineCooking.com

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