How to Grow the Best, Most Delicious Organic Strawberries in your Garden
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love fresh, in-season strawberries? Not those plastic things the grocery stores try to pass off as strawberries. I’m talking about those luscious, juicy, red fruits fresh from the farm or garden.
Maybe you’ve noticed, however, that those wonderful strawberries are, well, expensive. Like, mortgage your house and sell your first-born to Rumplestiltskin (did I spell that right?) expensive.
So, what’s a strawberry lover to do? Grow them, of course! Let me give you some tips for success.
Welcome to Week 10 of Crop of the Week! I’ve talked to you already about growing things like Peas, Potatoes, and even Raspberries. There’s even a “bonus” crop, Rhubarb (I didn’t make it an “official” crop since I didn’t do a printable cheat sheet because rhubarb is sooo easy to grow). That said, be sure to sign up for my emails here so you get all the free resources I offer (there are a lot of them!)
Types of Strawberries
Did you know there are 4 different types of strawberries? Yup, there are. Here goes:
- Junebearers ~ as you might guess, these bear fruit in, yup, June. Well, actually, June and July in the north, earlier in the south. If you want strawberries for jams or to freeze, these are the ones for you as they have a big crop over about a month. They’re also the most aggressive, though, sending out tons of runners, so aren’t ideal for small spaces.
- Everbearers ~ these guys have a crop in June, then a few berries here and there during the summer, and a smaller crop in late August. These are especially good in my area (ie., the north) because even if the early crop is damaged by a cold, wet spring, you’ll still get strawberries later. Great for fresh eating.
- Day-neutral ~ fruit from June through first frost here in the North, January through August in warmer areas. Can be sensitive to drought and heat though.
- Alpine ~ Alpine strawberries are a different species altogether and produce much smaller berries, but will have berries from summer through frost. Although the fruits are small, they’re extremely sweet and flavorful. Great to grow in containers.
If you’d like a handy dandy resource for figuring out which specific strawberry varieties you should plant in your state, check out this chart from strawberryplants.org.
Strawberries love full sun, as do most other fruits and veggies.
They also love really rich soil, so be sure to add lots of compost to your planting area. You should also incorporate bonemeal before planting.
You can put your plants in as soon as your last frost has passed (some say as soon as ground as warmed, but that would make me nervous here, as we can still have multiple frosts and even snow in late spring). In the south, planting in the fall is okay.
You can put your plants about 15″ apart. If you’re planting in rows, make sure they’re 2 to 3 feet apart, especially with Junebearers, as they like to send out lots of runners.
If you’d like to see a really pretty strawberry garden, check out my friend Nikki’s strawberry beds her hubby built for her.
Make sure you keep the roots damp while you’re planting. Use either damp peat moss, a damp paper towel or place them in a bucket or pot of water while planting.
IMPORTANT: Strawberries MUST be planted so the crown of the plant is exactly level with the soil. Don’t bury it and don’t allow it to extend above the soil. They’re picky like that. If you’re not sure what I mean, check out this link.
Make the planting hole big enough that the roots aren’t smushed and be sure to spread them out as you plant.
As soon as your plants are in, give them a nice thick layer of mulch, preferably straw. This keeps the fruits clean and helps discourage mold and other diseases.
Your plants will also like a nice side dressing of seaweed emulsion or meal during the season.
Once the berries have started coming, be sure to pick at least every other day. If you see any berries that look “off” or moldy, remove them right away. This goes a long way towards keeping diseases at bay.
Oh, and you’re going to NEED to cover your strawberries once they fruit unless you want the birds to have an early Thanksgiving feast. Some kind of netting is a must.
In the fall, be sure to cover your strawberries completely with straw or pine boughs, but pull the mulch off in the spring to allow the soil to warm.
Pests & Diseases
Good news! Strawberries don’t get a lot of pests and diseases.
Practice good sanitation and clean up your beds right after fruiting, removing old fruit and dead or diseased leaves and plants.
Crop rotation is, as with lots of other plants, a REALLY good idea. Strawberries are prone to verticillium wilt, like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, mint, okra and bush fruits like blueberry and raspberry, so don’t put them anywhere these crops have grown in the past 3 years.
They’re also related to roses so shouldn’t be planted where roses have been recently.
Fun plant nerd fact: If you look at the flowers on plants, you can often tell which are related, at least to the family level. Look at strawberry flowers and then look at wild roses (not hybrid teas or anything else that’s been highly bred). You’ll see that they’re almost identical.
Slugs can be troublesome, but the old tried and true beer-in-a-saucer close to your plants should do the trick.
There ARE lots of plants that benefit strawberries. Borage is beneficial, as it is for most other plants.
TAKEAWAY: Plant borage! I’m going to have a ton of it in my garden this year!
Bush beans and lupines are both nitrogen fixers, and the strawberries will like the extra nitrogen. The beans will also repel beetles that can bother your berries.
Caraway attracts beneficial insect predators. If you’d like a quick tutorial on a few of these insects, check out my post here. If you’d like to know about a few other plants you can put in to attract the good guys, my Shrubs to Attract Beneficials might be helpful.
One class of plant that DOESN’T like strawberries is the cabbage family. Don’t plant anything cabbage-ish (is that a word?) anywhere near your berries.
In a word, DON’T! They won’t come true and you’ll be disappointed.
The exception to this is alpine strawberries, they’ll come true from seed.
If you’d like to know the genetics behind why most strawberry plants won’t come true from seed, check out this post. Hint: It has something to do with strawberries having 6, 7, 8 or even more sets of chromosomes. Plants are weird…and amazing! If you had 8 sets of chromosomes, you’d be in serious trouble….actually, you’d be dead. All it does to strawberries (and some other fruiting plants) is give them bigger fruit.
Maintaining your Strawberries for Yearly Harvests
Ok, deep breath!
I saved this for last because there are sooo many different, often conflicting ideas about what you should do to maintain your strawberry beds.
I’m going to give you two of the simplest ideas I found as these particular ones didn’t make my head spin like some of the others did.
This idea comes from the Heirloom Life Gardener. In the second year, when your plants send out runners, let them root.
After you’ve harvested all your berries, remove the original plants. That way, the following year, the runners will be the plants that produce berries.
You’ll then repeat this sequence each year to keep your harvests going strong.
If you’d rather a simpler method, dig up your entire garden every 3 years. Get rid of any older, woody-looking plants and replant only the young, healthy plants. Easy peasy!
This one’s a bit more complex and requires more space than Idea #1, but this is the one I’m going to try because it seems like it would produce the most strawberries.
Year 1: Plant your strawberries in bed #1. Harvest from bed #1.
Year 2: Harvest from bed #1 and plant runners from these plants into bed #2.
Year 3: Harvest from beds #1 and #2. Plant runners from bed #2 into bed #3.
Year 4: Harvest from beds #1, #2 and #3. Plant runners from bed #3 into bed #4. At end of season (after harvest) dig all plants from bed #1 and incorporate lots of compost into this bed.
Year 5: Harvest from beds #2, #3 and #4. Plant runners from bed #4 into bed #1, and your cycle begins again.
In my long, narrow bed, it’s going to look like this. I’ll split it into 4 sub-beds so I can plant as above:
I hope this post was helpful and you’ve enjoyed all the Crops of the Week so far. The last one is coming up next week (hint: sweet potatoes), so be sure to sign up to receive ALL the free printable cheat sheets that go along with them. You can do that here. You’ll also receive other freebies, a weekly newsletter and NO SPAM, I promise!
As always, there are some pinnable images below. Don’t forget to pin so you can find me again! Otherwise, smile and have a crazy organic day!
Posts Related to Growing Organic Strawberries
- Printable Garden Journal
- Grow Organic Peas
- Grow Potatoes
- Growing Raspberries
- Grow Delicious Rhubarb
- Attracting Beneficial Predatory Insects
- Shrubs and Bushes that Attract Beneficials
- Heirloom Life Gardener Book Review
- Resource Library
This post has been shared on the Farm Fresh Tuesday Blog Hop, The Family Homesteading and Off the Grid Blog Hop, The Simple Homestead Blog Hop and the You’re The Star Blog Hop. Come on over for a visit!