What to Know If You’re Planning on Growing Strawberries

153166621Strawberries are a favorite fruit for many. They are relatively easy to grow, and most strawberry plants produce an abundance of fruit each year.

The Life Cycle of a Strawberry Plant

Strawberries start growing between February and June, depending on the region. A lot of strawberries produce runners that have baby plants at the tips. The runners root themselves nearby and stay attached to the central plant. Strawberries then usually take a break from producing during the second half of the summer. Keep your parent plant weeded and lightly watered, and it will grow again in the fall. In September, the plants develop latent buds that grow into flowers the next spring.

How to Care for Your Strawberry Plant

Your strawberry plant should have at least eight hours of direct sun every day. If your area has naturally alkaline soil, grow your strawberries in half-barrels or in another type of large container filled with potting soil. You can also sulk your strawberries in heavy clay.

Space your strawberries 18 inches apart, since they eagerly produce offspring. Some strawberries, like Loran, don’t produce many runners, if any at all, and they can be spaced 6 inches apart instead. Make sure the roots are well covered by soil, and that the central growing bud, otherwise called the crown, is exposed to fresh air and light. Water your strawberries well, and use mulch to keep the plants clean and the soil moist. Your plants will most likely start blooming in early spring, and once bees and other pollinating insects visit the flowers, they will start to set fruit. If you live in a warm, sunny climate, your berries will ripen about 30 days after the blossoms are fertilized.

Troubleshooting

Certain pests, diseases and climate conditions can keep your strawberry plant from thriving.

  • Slugs—If you notice slugs as your fruit ripens, use plastic mulch instead of straw mulch.
  • Fungal diseases—In the summer, you may notice dark spots on your leaves, which is an indication of a fungal disease. Clip or mow your strawberry foliage and rake it away in the summer. This disrupts the life cycle of some strawberry diseases, as well as pests.
  • Birds—Keep robins, brown thrashers, and other pests from stealing your berries by covering the plants with a lightweight bird netting as the berries begin to ripen.
  • Heat and drought—If you have a particularly dry year, the fruit should return to normal size once the weather improves. Also make sure to water your plant well.

Harvesting and Storing

Pick your strawberries in the morning, when the fruit is still cool, and put it in the refrigerator right away. Rinse the berries right before you cook or eat them. If you have extra strawberries, you can freeze them, dry them or make them into jam or preserves.

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