Planting Strawberries

Here at Grow Sustainab-LEE in Lee County, Virginia, we gave out some Strawberry plants last year to our participants.  Since it is Strawberry planting time again, here is a rundown of the Strawberry Life Cycle, Strawberry Care and Maintenance, and Types of Berries.

Strawberry Life Cycle

Strawberries just planted in a vertical planter.

Make sure not to bury the strawberry crown when you plant.

Strawberries are considered a hardy perennial plant and so they will die back in the winter, but have renewed growth in the spring and summer after the soil warms in the planting zone.  Once the plants bear roots, they will produce runners with baby plants on the tips.  These runners can attach themselves in the nearby soil, but remain attached to the mother plant.  To get more and larger strawberry fruits, clip off the runners and allow the plants to focus on bearing fruit, especially for the first year of growth.

During the late summer and early fall, the strawberries will rest.  They may perk up and grow for a bit in the fall, but will concentrate on producing latent bulbs that will be the flowers in the spring.  For zones 6 or smaller, its best to plant strawberries in the spring so they can take root and focus on growth so they will have a well established root structure to rely on during the winter months.  Whatever zone you are growing in, strawberries can be allowed to grow into a beautiful green ground cover that you don’t really have to work very hard to obtain. The plants may not produce as much fruit as more closely monitored plants, but they will still produce fruit for years to come.

Care and Maintenance

Strawberries need full sun , at least 8 hours a day, and they prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8. If soils in your area are naturally alkaline–pH values above 7–it is best to grow strawberries in containers filled with potting soil, preferably with aged compost amendments. Strawberries don’t do great in heavy clay soil and will need a great deal of compost or manure added.  Since clay soil does not have great drainage, mound the dirt to help facilitate water moving off.  In sand, weed the area and add in some compost and proceed to the planting phase.

Plants should be put into the ground around 18 inches apart.  If the strawberry variety you use does not have a lot of runners, you can plant much closer together.  Make sure you do not bury the crown when you are planting, but be sure the roots are covered up. The central bud or crown should be exposed to light and fresh air as it can rot if buried under the soil.  You should water the plants well and where appropriate, you should mulck the plants to keep the soil moist and the plants clean.

Types of Berries

There are three types of berries that we will discuss: June bearing, Everbearing, an Day Neutral.  June-bearing varieties such as Allstar bear fruit all at once, usually over a period of about 3 weeks. The berries may appear earlier than June, depending on the climate.  Warmer areas will bear first. Everbearing varieties like Quinault produce a big crop from spring flowers, set light flushes of fruit through summer, and then bloom and bear again in late summer and fall.  Finally, day-neutral varieties produce fruit continually throughout the season, until the first frost. They are not sensitive to variations in the amount of daylight like other types of strawberries are.

There is no right or wrong type to plant.  Some may be sweeter or have bigger berries, but are shorter lived.  There are always drawbacks and benefits to every variety; therefore, just pick what works for you and grow some delicious strawberries.   If you plant today, you could be enjoying strawberries for years to come.

If you are interested in our program or would like to find out more about the work the Lee County Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners are doing, please visit our website.