University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
joy of edible gardening is being able to pick your own strawberries
grew yourself. Growing your own you'll
usually save money, know what chemicals, if any, are on your berries,
good exercise and relaxation, and usually have plenty to easily store
The first step for successful
strawberry growing is to choose a proper site.
This is one that isn't in a low area that is particularly subject to
cold downdrafts or frosts. The site
should have well-drained soil, and be weed free. Weeds compete
with strawberries for water and
nutrients, reducing their vigor or crowding them out. Wet soils
foster rots and other diseases. If
you didn't prepare a bed last year with weeding or cover crops, then
to use mulches after planting and keep up with weeding regularly.
to test your soil for nutrients, particularly to make sure your soil pH
around 6. If lower, you'll need to add
lime before planting. Soil test results
from your local Extension system can tell this as well as any other
needed. If you don't test your soil, add
a complete fertilizer (one to two pounds per 100 square feet) only when
plants have begun growth and the production of runners. Make sure to
not get on
leaves, and water in after application. Adding an inch or two of
compost on the
surface yearly helps growth.
you have a site picked and readied, choose appropriate cultivars
varieties) for your area. Buying ones
locally at a complete garden store or nursery is often an easy way to
get the right choices. If ordered from catalogs or online,
cultivars are better suited to warmer climates or uses
such as processing. Try and choose cultivars resistant to some of
diseases. Consider what you want to do with the fruit. When do
want to pick? Most cultivars are
good eaten, some are better for jams.
are familiar with picking strawberries, or seeing them for sale fresh,
June. The majority of cultivars are in
this group, called appropriately "June-bearers". Then there is a
"everbearers" (you may see the term "day neutral" too,
which is slightly different but usually lumped together). These
produce less, but often larger, fruits
in June and then more throughout summer for a total production similar
June-bearers. If you want to pick and
store your berries all at once, choose the former. If you want to
have fresh berries to pick
through the summer, choose the latter.
is the time to plant, as soon as soil is workable. Frosts seldom
damage the dormant plants, and
rooting can start before tops begin growth. When planting, there are a
of crucial activities, and a choice to make first. The choice is
whether to plant in rows or
hills. The "matted row" method
is so called since the plants send out runners that you push back into
forming a mat. This is the method most
use, especially for June-bearers. If
you plant in hills, the usual method for everbearers, you'll remove the
runners. This results in larger plants
and berries. The rows may be easier to
maintain and to keep weeded.
crucial points to follow when planting are depth and watering.
Plant the condensed woody stem, called the
"crown", at the soil surface.
Too deep and it will rot, too shallow and it will dry out. Then
when planted, water well and keep plants
well-watered through the season. Strawberry roots are relatively
shallow, so dry out
easily. Keep this in mind too when
weeding, so you avoid breaking too many with a hoe. Hand weeding
near plants is best.
keep weeds away, some use plastic between plants and along rows,
an organic material such as straw, or you can just use the latter
plastic below. Other materials are pine needles, shredded leaves,
chips. Avoid weedy hay and grass
clippings that mat down.
June-bearers, it is important to remove blossoms the first year so the
can get established. You can stop doing
this in mid-summer for the everbearers.
If using rows, keep the runners pushed or swept back into the rows
form their flower buds the fall prior, so it is important to make sure
are well-watered in late summer and early fall.
If you didn't use an organic fertilizer earlier, reapply an organic or
synthetic fertilizer then at the same rate as earlier.
strawberries are sensitive to severe cold, you'll want to cover plants
hard frosts begin to freeze the soil surface.
Straw is most commonly used, but evergreen boughs or other light and
fluffy materials work too. Once the
chance of hard frosts (below 28 degrees F) is over in spring, uncover
and use the straw for mulch. Keep a
spun-woven fabric for frost protection handy to throw over plants if
predicted. The flowers are most
sensitive to cold, and if frosted will develop black centers and of
plants well-watered before and during harvest results in the best
fruit. You may want to get some bird netting to
cover rows or your hills, held down with stakes (wooden stakes angled
the plants, tent stakes, or "ground staples" such as heavy duty bent
wire). Harvest fruit when they are ripe, as they wont ripen
further. You can often figure about one
two pounds of
yield per plant, 15 to 20 pounds for a 20-foot row.
plants are vigorous you can renovate rows of June-bearers for another 2
years of harvests. Everbearers in hills
can be left for 3 or more years before you'll need to replant.