Planting Strawberries: A Fun and Easy Job that Pays Delicious Dividends
Planting strawberries is usually fun and easy work. Once you’ve prepared your soil for strawberries, and the best time to plant strawberries has arrived, just following a few tips about how to plant strawberries will get you off to a good start.
When is the Best Time to Plant Strawberries?
In general, plant strawberries in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Take care not to till the soil when it’s wet, though.
If you live in an area with mild winters, you can also plant strawberries in the fall. Plant a couple of months before the first frost date, and the plants will put on a significant amount of growth before winter hits.
And then even throughout the winter, the strawberry roots will continue to grow.
Planting strawberries in the fall can be a good way to harvest a significant crop the first season. (When you plant in the spring, you’ll be planting primarily for the following year’s harvest.)
Fall planting is not recommended for locations where winters are severe. The cycles of freezing and thawing and the soil upheavals that result make it too difficult for the young strawberry plants to establish themselves.
How to Plant Strawberries
Probably the most important consideration when planting strawberries is the depth at which they are planted. If you plant your strawberries either too deep or too shallow, they will under perform.
Strawberry plants set too deep may be susceptible to the crown being damaged, or even rotting. And plants that aren’t set deep enough expose too much of the crown or the roots to air, which may result in the crown drying out. (The crown is the part of the plant between the top of the roots and the base of the leaf stems.)
In the photo, I’m holding a bare root strawberry plant in my hand. The black line indicates where the soil level should be after planting.
When planting strawberries, it’s also important that the roots extend straight down. Make certain that the planting hole is deep enough that the tip of the roots don’t hit the bottom of the hole and curve back up, forming a ‘J’ shape.
It’s helpful to soak bare root plants in water for a few minutes before planting. If you’re planting strawberry plugs, make sure that they are thoroughly moistened before planting.
Strawberry Planting Systems
There are 3 primary growing systems used for growing strawberries in the ground (as opposed to growing in containers). The system you choose will dictate the layout and plant density of your strawberry planting.
Matted Row System
In the matted row system, you’ll space plants roughly 2 feet apart within a row, with about 3 to 4 feet between rows. You’ll allow the runners the plants produce (also called ‘daughter plants’) to grow and freely root in within a row width of up to 2 feet. As the daughter plants grow and send out their own runners, you’ll eventually end up with a dense ‘matted row’ of strawberry plants.
This system is particularly suited for vigorous June bearing strawberry varieties.
Spaced Matted Row System
Same as the matted row, except you’ll exert more control over the spacing and quantity of the daughter plants. Daughter plants are allowed to root no less than about 4 inches from other plants (both mother and daughter plants). Any excess runners that would produce a plant less than 4 inches from another plant are pruned off.
This system is obviously more work than the matted row system because of the spacing and pruning of runners, but the decreased plant density can actually result in increased production. That’s because there tends to be fewer disease problems with this system, and while fewer berries may be produced, they tend to be considerably larger, resulting in more poundage per row foot.
The hill system is often recommended as the best system for growing day neutral and everbearing strawberry varieties (though this system will also work for June bearing). This system is usually planted on raised beds, with plants spaced 12 inches apart in a row. Two rows to a bed are sometimes used, with the rows 12 inches apart and the plant spacing staggered between the two rows.
All runners are removed so that no daughter plants are grown. This allows the mother plants to grow with great vigor, resulting in multiple crowns per plant.
This system is often used in conjunction with plastic covered beds, and can result in very large yields the first season. Since the planting does not renew itself with daughter plants, this system is often used on a 2-year cycle, with the plants pulled out and replaced with new plants every 2 years (or sometimes every year).
It’s a Fun Process…
When it’s time for planting strawberries, you’ll already have a lot of the work behind you. You’ll have your soil ready for strawberries, and you’ll already have gone through the process of deciding which strawberry varieties to grow.
Once your plants are in the ground, you’ll enjoy watching them grow as anticipation builds toward the day when you’ll harvest the first plump, ripe berries from your plants.
You can be sure – the fruits of your labor will be sweet!
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