Yard and Garden: Planting Strawberries

March 20, 2019, 4:00 pm | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

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. ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists offer strawberry planting tips. 

What are the differences between the different types of strawberries?  

There are basically three types of strawberries grown in home gardens. They differ in growth, flowering and fruiting characteristics.  

Sprout of strawberry on a bed by Severe/stock.adobe.com.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 cultivars typically produce June and late summer/early fall crops 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 much of the growing season as long as temperatures are below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Flower and fruit production stop in hot weather.

Suggested June-bearing strawberry cultivars for Iowa include ‘Earliglow,’ ‘Annapolis,’ ‘Surecrop,’ ‘Honeoye,’ ‘Redchief,’ ‘Cavendish,’ ‘Allstar’ and ‘Jewel.’  ‘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 sunlight per day. Leaf and root diseases are often problems in poorly drained, wet soils. Do not plant in areas that are heavily infested with perennial weeds. Perennial weeds, such as quackgrass, are extremely difficult to control in strawberry plantings. Also, avoid sites where strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers have been grown in the last two years to prevent possible root disease problems.  

When is the best time to plant strawberries?  

Early spring (late March to early May) is the best time to plant strawberries in Iowa. Purchase virus-free strawberry plants from a reputable garden center or mail-order company. Plants from an old planting or the neighbors’ garden are often disease infested. If planting must be delayed after purchase, place moist wood shavings or sphagnum moss around the roots and place the plants in a plastic bag. Store the plants in the refrigerator at 32 to 40 F. They can be safely stored in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.  

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 are 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. Rows are spaced 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 5-10-5, in one gallon of water. Apply 1 to 2 cups to each plant.  

All blossoms should be removed from June-bearing strawberries during the first growing season.  Check plants once a week and remove the flowers by pinching or cutting. Flowering should stop by early July.  

Remove the flowers on everbearing and day-neutral strawberries for six weeks to allow for good plant establishment. Later flowers may be allowed to develop into fruit.  

Photo: Sprout of strawberry on a bed by Severe/stock.adobe.com

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