A well-tended strawberry patch is more than a source of fresh strawberries – it’s a source of joy. Seeing your strawberries grow nice and big can give you a sense of achievement and pride, but this only happens when you’ve done a good job taking care of your plants.
It’s definitely possible to grow big and juicy strawberries, and I’ve gathered all the information you need to achieve this goal. Follow all the advice shared here and you’ll be able to share bigger and better strawberries with your friends and family in no time!
1. Choose Your Plants Wisely
The very first thing to consider when it comes to growing strawberries is what kind of strawberry plants you will invest in. If you want to grow bigger, better, and more strawberries, you need the right plants.
There are hundreds of strawberry varieties, and they are divided into three groups: June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral. Every plant in these categories of strawberry types is differently affected by the climate it grows in and the temperatures it’s grown in.
You will have to do a bit of research to determine what variety grows best in your area and do your best to buy only that type of strawberry plant.
You’ll find that everbearing strawberries will give you two harvests a year, one in the late summer, and one in spring. June-bearing strawberry plants are very popular but won’t produce a very big production in their first year.
This is why it’s important to know the plants you’re growing – if you didn’t know that about June-bearing strawberries, you may have given up when seeing a less-than-stellar production.
You shouldn’t try to tell strawberries apart just by looking at them – that’s going to be just about impossible. Instead, look at the plants to determine what variety you’re looking at. When you know everything important about the plants you want to grow, you’ll be better at taking care of them properly, and get bigger and healthier harvests.
2. Ensure the Right Soil Conditions
The second factor to consider when it comes to growing big and healthy strawberries is the soil that will nurture them. It is best to go with an area in your garden that has adequate draining and contains loamy soil.
The ideal pH level of your soil would be either six or seven, as this is best for strawberry plants. You should run tests on your garden soil to make sure the pH level isn’t too high or low.
You should also look out for verticillium wilt, which is something that strawberry plants can pick up from other plants. To stay safe, don’t plant your strawberries in soil where the following previously grew:
If you’re planning to grow strawberries in containers, you need to invest in quality potting soil. For best results, buy a soil mix that contains aged compost.
3. Use Good Fertilizer
The fertilizer you use can also impact how big and healthy your strawberry harvests are. It’s recommended that you only use a fertilizer that is marked as having a 10-10-10 nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium content.
As for applying the fertilizer, you should go with a ratio of one tablespoon per square foot of soil. Don’t fertilize June-bearing strawberries in the spring because doing so can lead to diseases and you’ll have soft strawberries, which are more prone to rot.
When you apply the fertilizer, focus on the base of the plants and make sure you water it in well. You’ll need about an inch of irrigation for best results.
If you don’t want to use a chemical fertilizer, you can always stick to the natural and organic way of fertilizing. In that case, you can use fish meal, blood meal, alfalfa meal, soy meal, or feather meal.
4. Water Properly and Appropriately
Another very important factor that influences the quality of a strawberry plant’s production is how it is watered. The best way to water your plants is drip irrigation, and they should be watered immediately after you’ve planted them.
Don’t water your plants too much, or you risk causing fruit rot. You can water the plants when you notice the top one or two inches of soil is dry. Also, if there has been less than one inch of rainfall in a week, you should water your strawberry plants.
The best time of day to water your plants is late morning or early afternoon. For truly healthy strawberry plants, make sure that the soil remains moist all the time, but don’t allow it to become soggy.
5. Prune Off Runners
It is important that you prune off the runners that your strawberry plants produce. (If your plants don’t produce any runners or only a few, you don’t have to worry about this and move on to the next piece of advice on my list)
The runners I’m referring to are the long stems that grow off the main plant and their aim is to make more plants. It may sound counter-productive to prune off these runners, but they can interfere with the health of your main strawberry plants.
Runners will take a lot (if not most) of the main plant’s nutrients and result in a decline in the number of strawberries you’ll harvest. The quality of your strawberries will also be negatively affected.
Pruning off runners isn’t too difficult, fortunately. You should use good pruning shears to cut through the base of the runners, about a quarter of an inch above the point where they grow off the main plant.
You’ll start noticing the runners at the start of spring and you’ll have to remove them about once a week until harvesting is over.
6. Properly Weed Your Strawberry Plants
Weeds are terrible news for any plant, and strawberries are no exception. Those buggers compete with plants for nutrients and water and can really affect how big and bountiful your strawberry harvests are.
To avoid any such issues, pull the weeds from the soil around your plants and use a rake to spread mulch around. Mulch can act as a deterrent to weed growth, and you should spread about one or two inches of it where your strawberries are growing.
Grass clippings, pine needles, shredded leaves, and straw tend to make good mulch for strawberry plants. If you can, don’t use plastic mulch as this can lead to excessive heat and moisture.
7. Harvest Well
Harvesting ripe strawberries as soon as they’re ready is good for your plant because it encourages new strawberries and any unripe strawberries to grow bigger. It’s a good idea to check your plants every day as soon as you start noticing ripe strawberries.
You should not only pick the mature strawberries, but also any rotting, weak, or damaged berries. That way, your plants can focus on providing nutrients and water to the healthy strawberries still growing.
8. Replace Old Plants
Not many people realize this, but it’s a really good idea to replace your strawberry plants every three to five years. You should remove the old plants because their growth will begin to wane, which will lead to poor harvests.
Once you’ve removed the old plants, it’s time to plant new starts. They should be planted about 14 to 18 inches apart and with their crowns just above the soil level. Care for these new plants the same way you cared for your previous plants.
9. Ensure Your Plants Get Enough Sun
All gardeners know that plants need a good amount of sun to grow healthy and strong. For this purpose, it’s important that you plant your strawberries in the right location.
One of the keys to getting big and juicy strawberries is making sure that your strawberry plants get more sun. Unless the temperatures in your area reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit or more, you don’t have to worry about the sun damaging your plants.
If that is a concern for you, there are many ways to ensure your plants don’t get scorched. Use good shading, apply mulch, and have a regular watering schedule to keep the soil moist, and your plants should be fine.
As long as you make sure your strawberry plants get 10 hours of direct sunlight, you don’t have to worry about them getting enough sun. At the very least, your plants should get six hours of direct sunlight or they won’t grow as well as they should.
10. Protect Your Strawberry Plants Against Diseases and Pests
Last, but certainly not least, on our list is the health of your strawberry plants. Typically, they are susceptible to quite a number of diseases and pests, so you have to look after them carefully.
Because strawberries are so delicious and sweet, they are popular with many small critters. These critters, such as spider mites, snails, earwigs, sowbugs, weevils, and slugs, are all bad news for your plants.
Slugs and weevils will likely be your biggest problem. They can burrow into the buds and suck the pollen out. Slugs aren’t shy to bite big chunks out of growing strawberries.
Birds like robins and brown thrashers will also show up to do your strawberry harvesting for you, so keep an eye out for them. Bird netting will come in useful to protect your plants against these feathered fiends.
For the bugs, you can use horticultural oils and diatomaceous earth as a deterrent. Also, cut off any buds that seem to be damaged.
Diseases that affect strawberry plants include leaf scorch, verticillium wilt, leaf spot, powdery mildew, and leaf blight.
To avoid these diseases, keep the weeds away, and ensure that your soil drains well. Don’t water your plants at night, because doing so can create a breeding ground for diseases and even fungi.
Grow Your Own Delicious and Healthy Strawberries
There you have it – 10 great ways to make sure that your strawberry garden is healthy and produces yummy and big strawberries. Rest assured that if you follow the advice I’ve shared with you here, you’ll be able to delight in the fruit of your labor without working too hard!