Red, ripe strawberries are delicious and good for you. They are native to both Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Today more than 30,000 acres of strawberries are grown in the United States. Each acre can produce up to 20 tons of strawberries.
Strawberries are not hard to grow, but many people plant them at the wrong time of the year. This results in small berries and a poor crop. The correct time to plant strawberries in the South is not spring, but fall. This allows the strawberries to become established before the winter sets in. In the spring, the strawberries can concentrate on producing fruit, not trying to recover from being transplanted. In the North, the strawberries will not survive the winter and should be planted in the spring.
At present, it is difficult to find strawberry plants in the fall to plant. They are available from a number of sources by mail order, however. Southerners should order your fall plants so they arrive about six weeks before the time of the first frost. This will give them time to get established before they go dormant for the winter.
Strawberry plants reproduce by producing runners that develop into daughter plants. Each strawberry plant produces the maximum strawberries the first spring after it is planted. For this reason, you should dig up the old plants in the fall and allow the daughter plants to produce berries that spring.
Strawberries come in two types of varieties: everbearing and June-bearing. Everbearing plants produce strawberries all summer while June-bearing varieties produce during May and June. Everbearing plants do not do well in hot areas of the country such as Texas. The heat stresses the plant and you get small berries that do not taste as good as the berries off of June-bearing plants. Northerners can plant either everbearing or June-bearing plants.
Strawberries must be placed in full sun. They prefer sandy or loamy soil that is well drained. If you have heavy soil, you will have to amend it with compost to loosen the soil and provide drainage. Once you have your soil mixed properly, mix in a time release fertilizer such as Osmocote. Follow the directions on the package and the fertilizer will last from three to twelve months. Water your soil before planting to begin the spread of the fertilizer throughout the soil.
Many people raise strawberries on raised beds. Whether you use raised beds or a ground planting, you want to plant two rows of plants that are 18 inches apart, then move over about two and a half to three feet and plant two more rows of plants. This gives the strawberries room to spread out and send out the runners with the daughter plants on them. Plant each strawberry plant one foot apart within the row.
Bury the crown, or root mass you get in the mail or the nursery, so that the midline of the crown is even with the top of the soil. This is very important. Planting too deep or too shallow will make it difficult for your plants to grow.
Mulch your strawberry beds to keep weeds at bay and to keep the fruit from touching the soil, which will cause it to rot. Mulching also helps hold in water. Water the crowns every day for a week to ten days to get them started, then make sure they have an inch of water a week while they are growing. During the winter when they are dormant, water less and only if it becomes too dry.
Most strawberry plants will produce a pound of fruit a year. Plant as many plants as you want pounds of strawberries.