Strawberry Growing Tips

Strawberries are among the most widely grown fruit in the home garden. Strawberries prefer a well-drained soil, high in organic matter. They need full sun for the highest yields, at least 6 hours per day. Do not plant strawberries where peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes have been grown. These plants could harbor verticillium wilt, a serious strawberry disease. Strawberries need about one inch of water per week during the growing season.

Matted Row Systems
This system is the best for growing June-bearing cultivars. In this system, the strawberry plants should be set eighteen to thirty inches apart in rows three to four feet apart. Daughter plants are allowed to root freely to become a matted row no wider than two feet.

Hill System
This is the best system for growing day-neutral and everbearing strawberries. In this system all the runners are removed so only the original mother plant remains. Removing the runners causes the mother plant to develop more crowns and flower stalks. Multiple rows are arranged in groups of two, three or four plants with a two foot walkway between each group of rows. Plants are set about one foot apart in multiple rows. During the first two or three weeks of growth, the planting should be weeded; then the bed should be mulched.

Strawberries are very susceptible to frosts in the spring. Mulches that have covered the plants during the winter months should be removed in the early spring but should be left in the aisles to cover the blossoms in the spring when frost is predicted. Old blankets or sheets can be used for protection against frost. Row covers will protect strawberry plantings down to temperatures of about 23°-25°F. In the fall between mid-November and mid-December in Illinois but before temperatures drop below 20 degrees; apply straw mulch three to four inches deep over the rows. This mulch will protect the plants from cold temperatures that can kill the buds and injure roots and crowns. Remove the mulch in the spring when the strawberry leaves show yellow. Leave some of the mulch around the plants to keep the fruit from soil contact and to conserve soil moisture.

Renovation is an important part of strawberry care. In order to insure good fruit production, June-bearing strawberries grown in the matted row system should be renovated every year right after harvest. A strawberry patch will continue to be productive for three to four years as long as the planting is maintained. The first step in the renovation process is to mow the old foliage with a mower, cutting off the leaves about one inch above the crowns. Rake the leaves and if disease-free, compost or incorporate into the soil. Fertilize with one pound of a 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet. Narrow the rows to six to twelve inches wide by spading, hoeing or rototilling. Remove all weeds. Thin the plants in the narrowed row to 4 to 6 inches between plants.

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