Nearly any soil that will grow a vegetable or flower garden will also grow a great crop of luscious strawberries. The best spot to grow your strawberries will be in full sun, which will have sunlight for at least 6 hours. The spot should also have good drainage.
Spread a couple of inches of organic matter such as compost, manure, peat moss or soil pep onto the bed. If you have an alkaline soil, you will want to add sulfur to the bed to acidify the soil and lower the ph level. On the flip side, if you have acidic soil, you will need to add lime to the bed in order to raise the ph level and make it more neutral. Ideally, you should have a ph level between 6 and 7 for the best results with your strawberries. Now spade or rototill to a depth of around 6 inches.
There are two common methods that are used when planting strawberries: the single-plant method, also known as the hill method, and the matted-row method.
- Single-plant Method-This method will result in the largest and strongest plants and will produce the biggest strawberries. However, it takes time to cut off the runners every season. You will also most likely need to replace the plants every two to three years.
For this method, you will want to space the plants approximately 12 to 18 inches apart in the row with each row being approximately 18 to 36 inches apart. If you are planting day-neutral varieties, you will want to use the closer spacing as they do not produce as many runners. Keep all runners clipped as they form. The first year, if you pick off all of the blossoms until mid July, you will have a larger crop of strawberries in the fall.
- Matted-row Method-This method is perhaps the most popular with most gardeners because it requires less work and the plants will not need to be replaced as often. The strawberry beds often produce very well for many years. However, it is more difficult to weed and the strawberries do not grow as large.
For this method, you will want to set the plants 12 to 18 inches apart in rows that are set 3 to 4 feet apart. The runners will gradually fill in the row until a dense mat is formed. Leave a path that is free of the runners to allow you access between the rows.
If the plant roots are too long, you will want to cut them off to 4 or 5 inches rather than bending them over. Dig a hole which is about 6 inches deep and spread the roots of the plant out somewhat as you fill the soil back in around them. It is important that strawberries be planted the correct depth. The plants are not apt to live if their roots are exposed or if they are planted too deeply. Be sure that all of the roots are covered, but that the crown of the plant is not covered with soil. Water the strawberry plants in well.
Choosing Your Strawberries
Most people will purchase their strawberry plants in the early spring, anywhere from late March to the early part of May. The bare root plants are less expensive and will do just as well as the potted plants if they are planted early. Bare root plants can also be kept for as long as two to three weeks in the refrigerator if they are left in their plastic bag so they do not dry out. You can plant them as soon as the soil is workable, as frost will not hurt them. If you cannot find any bare root plants, then you should purchase plants that are already established in packs or pots. These are generally available in the late spring to early summer.
Strawberries are divided into two main groups: June-bearing and everbearing. There is a third group, the day-neutral, but it is really a sub-group of the everbearing.
- June-bearing-These strawberries produce one crop per season in the early summer. They are sometimes considered to be the best choice if you desire to use them primarily to make preserves.
- Everbearing-These strawberries produce two crops per season, one in the late spring and the second in the fall.
- Day-neutral-These strawberries produce fruit all summer long. However, their largest crops are produced in the spring and fall. These varieties will produce more total fruit over the course of the season than any of the other types.