Do you want to grow strawberries on your homestead? Almost every homesteader I have talked to grows strawberries and for good reasons, they are delicious, good for you, and fun to grow!
In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about growing this delicious fruit so you can get started today!
Why Would You Want To Grow Strawberries?
The best thing about strawberries is that you can grow them pretty much anywhere and in just about any climate. They are easy to grow, and as a matter of fact, they can grow in many places.
They can grow in a small raised bed garden or can be planted to take over a rather large garden plot. They also grow very well in pots and there are even pots designed especially for strawberries.
One of the best reasons to grow strawberries is the fact that they are perennials! Plant them once and harvest for a couple of years! What more reasons do you need now?
Varieties of Strawberries
There are 3 main types of strawberries you can grow. These are everbearing, June bearing and day-neutral.
June bearing usually produces quite a big crop over the course of a week or two, but also produce the biggest size of strawberries. These are most commonly used for canning and making jelly due to their larger sizes.
Day-neutrals provide strawberries throughout the season non-stop. Everbearing produces a larger crop early in the season and a smaller crop later in the season with some berries in between.
For some really interesting strawberries try these wild strawberry seeds from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds.
How To Start Your Plants
Strawberries can be started from seeds, runners from older plants, or from seeds or plants you purchase online or in an online gardening supply store. Starting these fruits from seeds can be difficult so I recommend you purchase some quality plants to start your garden with.
The average family who loves strawberries will need to start with around 20 to 25 plants. Each plant normally produces around a quart or so of fruit if grown under correct and ideal conditions.You can adjust the number of plants to your uses for them.
Choosing the Site
Strawberries require full sun in order to receive the highest yields. As far as the garden soil is concerned, these fruits prefer a deep, sandy loam type soil so its roots can spread, complete with a good bit of organic matter. You can create a perfect potting soil with this post.
Avoid a garden area where any of the following crops have been planted previously:
- melons of any kind
- stone fruit
- other strawberries
These are considered Verticillium-susceptible crops and can affect your new plants. A better choice is to grow your new plants after growing a green manure crop such as oats or rye.
Although they love and need moisture, the plants will rot if they are left in standing water. So make sure your soil allows for good drainage. The soil also needs to be acidic. A pH between 5.0 and 7.0, but 5.8 to 6.2 is ideal for maximum growth and production. Use a soil test kit that can be found on Amazon to check this.
They will not tolerate drought so if you live in a climate as I do here in Florida, you may want to consider adding extra compost or making sure they are constantly watered and kept moist.
Timing for Planting
Strawberries can be planted in most cases in the spring and in the fall. Most northern climates opt for spring due to summers being a bit shorter. In Florida we plant them in spring and fall because most parts of Florida, if we get a frost at all, is not until January or February.
Start by digging a hole twice the size of the roots. Now carefully mound up the soil in the center of the hole so the plant itself can sit on the mound and the roots drape down the sides. Basically you want the main crown to be level with the main ground of the garden.
Once your plant is where you want it, fill up the hole level to the ground and press firmly. Water thoroughly.
Mulching for Protection
Because your plants want moisture at all times a good mulching will definitely benefit them. You may use pine needles for mulching because as they decompose they will raise the acidity of the soil and that will benefit the plants. You may also use leaves, compost or even straw.
Mulch will keep moisture in the soil and will keep weeding to a bare minimum in your bed. Trust me when I say that weeding a full strawberry bed is a pain in the butt!
Watering Your Strawberries
Watering correctly is of the utmost importance for strawberries. They will require at least an inch of water when they are new plants and two inches of water while blooming and the fruit is forming until they are completely harvested.
Fertilizing Your Plants
When starting a large garden plot of strawberries it is best to fertilize the entire bed PRIOR to planting with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. This equals out to about one to two pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet. This fertilizer will increase the nitrogen level in the soil, the same as the green manure crops we talked about earlier.
You can repeat this process after the plants have been in the ground for around 4 to six weeks and again about 3 months later, almost fall if you planted originally around April.
If you are like me and want an organic strawberry crop, blood meal which can be found at Mary’s Heirloom Seeds can be used to increase nitrogen while bone meal can be used to increase phosphates. Using fertilizer in this way means fertilizing once per month from May through September.
Protecting your Plants
The two most common pests to strawberries are slugs and birds. Both are fairly easy to deter though.
Slugs can be deterred from your plants by simply hanging some copper ribbon or throwing some copper pieces of tubing on the ground beneath some of the plants. I have a friend that is a plumber and her husband outlines her raised beds with copper pipe. This can be expensive in a large bed though.
For protection from the birds, you can simply cover your beds with mesh screening or what is known as bird netting which can be found at Tractor Supply. This netting is great to keep the birds away but the sun shining on your plants.
For information on diseases known to affect strawberries, you might want to check out this post from strawberryplants.org which is all about strawberries and their diseases and pests.
Harvesting Your Berries
You need to keep in mind that with most strawberry plants other than June bearing, the first year of strawberries will not be as plentiful as subsequent years. The first year is more for the plants to become established.
The worst news for new strawberry growers is that during the first year you should remove all the blossoms from your plants. I know you are probably thinking “WHAT?!” I’m sorry but although most people do not do this it will make for a more bountiful harvest next year.
Although not necessary in June bearing strawberries, the runners of your plants should be removed or transplanted sometime around June or July in the first year. There are 2 ways of doing this.
The first is to simply cut the runners as close to the parent plant as soon as you notice them and discard them. The second is to pot the runners into new small pots of soil until they form roots, thus making new plants.
Potting up your runners can be learned in the video below.
In year two you can start harvesting your strawberries. It is best to leave them on the plant for a day or two after ripening for peak taste. Make sure your strawberries are dry when harvesting and keep in a cool, shady place until ready to eat or preserve. Strawberries should be picked weekly.
If you seem to have too many strawberries, you can always freeze them. Here is an article called How To Freeze Berries: No Stress No Mess from Milk Glass Home to show you how.
Luckily, strawberries are known to be cold hardy and can usually tolerate slightly freezing temperatures. This means if you live in an area like Florida there is very little you need to do to protect your plants during the winter months.
However, in a northern climate where the winters are much colder for longer periods of time, there is some work to do before those freezing temperatures hit.
Once your winter temperatures hit about the mid twenties, it is time to add a layer of mulch over your plants. 2 to 3 inches of pine needles or straw is sufficient for most climates. Potted plants at this point in time should be brought in to an unheated basement and should be fine there throughout winter.
Make sure your plant receives water throughout the winter season but keep it minimal. Once the temperatures start to rise, your plants can be brought back outside or mulch can be removed if left outside.
This cold dormant period will make for better and more proficient plants the following spring and summer.
Recipe Ideas for Strawberries
There are unlimited ideas for strawberry recipes! From drinks to desserts there is sure to be something you are going to want to make with your strawberry harvest.
Wanna try some delicious dehydrated strawberries? Try Preserving Strawberries on Your Homestead!
Here are some popular recipes using strawberries for you to try at home.
- Strawberry Shortcake from The Farm Wife
- Strawberry Spinach Salad from The Farm Wife
- Strawberry Spinach Roll Up from The Farm Wife
- Fresh Strawberry Salsa Recipe from The Self Sufficient Home Acre
- Strawberry Jam Low Sugar Recipe from The Self Sufficient Home Acre
- A Teeny Tiny Strawberry Jam Recipe from Shes Homebound
You should know enough now to start planting your own strawberries on your homestead for you and your family to enjoy! Do you have any tips or growing tricks to share or maybe a good recipe? Please share them in the comment below.