THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
Make the most of your strawberry harvest by choosing a spread of early-season, mid-season, and late-season varieties. Alternatively, grow everbearing (also known as day-neutral or perpetual) strawberries, which produce smaller quantities over a long period. A third type is the alpine strawberry, which produces tiny fruits with a very aromatic strawberry flavor. They can be grown as ground cover in beds between ornamental plants, and allowed to self-seed.
To choose strawberries in our Garden Planner, double-click on the strawberry icon then scroll through the drop-down list to select a variety. Or click the plus button and hover over the information buttons to view their catalog descriptions. You can also add your own variety with custom spacing, as well as planting and harvesting dates.
Choose a sunny spot if possible, but strawberries will also grow in partial shade. Fertile soil will promote better fruiting, so add plenty of rich organic matter, such as well-rotted compost, before planting. Space strawberries 18-24 inches apart in both directions, and plant them with the base of the crown, where the leaves emerge, at soil level.
Strawberries can be grown a little closer together in containers filled with quality potting soil. They will need to be watered more frequently because the soil in containers dries out quickly, but the fruits are less likely to be attacked by slugs.
You can force an extra-early harvest of strawberries by covering early varieties with a cloche or row cover from the end of winter. When the plants begin flowering, remove the covers on warm days to give insect pollinators access. This will give a crop up to three weeks earlier than normal.
Use special strawberry mats or straw to stop mud from splashing the fruits.
Water plants in dry weather to encourage the fruits to swell. Apply a high-potassium organic liquid fertilizer – for instance comfrey tea or a liquid tomato fertilizer – from when the first flowers appear until the plants have finished fruiting.
Keep the plants weeded, and in the first year remove any runners that appear. Once plants are mature, you can use some of these runners to grow new plants.
Pick your fruits as soon as they’ve turned red, and eat fresh as soon as possible after harvesting for the best flavor and aroma.
Cut the foliage back once your strawberries have finished fruiting. Remove any straw mulch to your compost heap.