Yard and Garden: Planting Strawberries

AMES, Iowa — Strawberries are well suited to home gardens. They are hardy, easy to grow and produce a good crop with moderate effort. Early spring is the best time to plant strawberries in Iowa. Gardeners with additional questions can contact the horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach at hortline@iastate.edu or 515-294-3108.

What would be a good strawberry variety for the home garden? 

Home gardeners can choose from three types of strawberries. June-bearers are the most widely planted type of strawberry. They produce one crop per year, the majority of fruit ripening in June. A second type of strawberry is the everbearing strawberry. Everbearing varieties (cultivars) typically produce fruit in June and late summer/early fall with little flowering or fruiting in the intervening weeks. Day-neutral cultivars are the third type of strawberry. Day-neutral cultivars flower and fruit throughout the growing season if temperatures are moderate. Flower and fruit production stop during hot weather.  

Suggested June-bearing strawberry cultivars for Iowa include ‘Earliglow,’ ‘Allstar,’ ‘Honeoye,’ ‘Surecrop,’ ‘Redchief,’ ‘Jewel’ and ‘Kent.’ ‘Fort Laramie’ and ‘Ogallala’ are good everbearing cultivars. ‘Tribute,’ ‘Seascape’ and ‘Albion’ are the best performing day-neutral cultivars. 

What would be a good planting site for strawberries?

When selecting a planting site, choose an area that receives full sun and has a well-drained soil. Planting sites should receive at least six hours of direct sun per day. Leaf and root diseases are often problems in poorly drained, wet soils. Raised beds are a good planting option for gardeners with poorly drained soils. Do not plant in areas that are heavily infested with perennial weeds. Perennial weeds, such as quackgrass, are extremely difficult to control in a strawberry planting. Also, avoid sites where strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers have been grown within the last two years to prevent possible root disease problems. 

When is the best time to plant strawberries? 

Early spring (late March through April) is the best time to plant strawberries in Iowa. Apply and incorporate the recommended type and amount of fertilizer (based on soil test results) into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil prior to planting. If the fertility level of the soil is unknown, apply and incorporate 1 pound of 10-10-10 or a similar analysis fertilizer per 100 square feet. 

What is the proper way to plant strawberries?

When ready to plant, trim off the older leaves, place the roots of the plants in water for an hour, then plant immediately. Set each plant in the ground so the crown of the plant is even with the soil surface.  

The type of strawberry determines plant spacing. June-bearing strawberries should be planted 18 to 24 inches apart in rows spaced 4 feet apart. Runners will develop and root freely to form a matted row about 2 feet wide. Everbearing and day-neutral strawberries are typically planted in beds consisting of two or three rows. Space rows 1 foot apart. Plants are spaced 1 foot apart within the rows. A 2-foot-wide path should separate the beds. Any runners that develop on everbearing and day-neutral strawberries should be removed and the plants maintained as large, single plants.  

Immediately after planting, water the strawberry plants and apply a starter fertilizer solution to aid establishment. Use a water soluble fertilizer following label directions or dissolve 2 or 3 tablespoons of a complete garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in one gallon of water. Apply 1 to 2 cups to each plant.

I can’t plant my strawberries because the soil is too wet.  What should I do with the plants?

If planting must be delayed after purchase, place moist material, such as wood shavings or sphagnum peat moss, around the plant’s roots and place the plants in a plastic bag. Store the plants in the refrigerator at 32 to 40 F. The strawberries can be safely stored in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.  


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