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Growing Strawberries: A Low-Maintenance, Perennial Fruit

Strawberries are a valuable and easy-to-crop for the home garden. It is difficult to find high-quality, organic, local strawberries and if you can find them, the prices are usually outrageous. Because strawberries are a low-maintenance, perennial fruit that matures early, in late spring, so they are one of the first tastes of the new growing season.

Planting Strawberries

While garden centers often carry strawberry plants only in the spring, the ideal time to plant them is actually right now. They are cold-hardy, and will take the time before their fruiting season to store up energy, grow healthy roots, and absorb nutrients. With all this time to prepare, they are ready to explode with growth whenever nature says it’s time. Strawberries can be grown in raised beds, in the ground or in attractive containers like these beautiful strawberry planters.

Strawberries are easiest to grow from plants rather than seeds. Every year established strawberry plants put out runners and grow new plants on each runner, so they multiply quickly. So, if you have a gardening friend clearing out a strawberry patch, you might consider asking for the extra plants before they go to compost. Plants are available online, as well, such as these from Gardener's Supply. If these options don't work for you, strawberries can be started from seed.

Tips for Growing Strawberries

  • Strawberries preserve well by canning and freezing, so this is a good crop to grow more than you can eat fresh. Imagine enjoying freezer jam in January from your home-grown spring crop.
  • Strawberries are a perennial, so planting one time will reward you with years of fruit if they are taken care of. Plan well and choose a good spot in full sun.
  • Runners can be pinched to encourage the plant to put its energy toward fruit production, or can be left to grow to create more plants.
  • Pinching off blooms for the first growing season will encourage vigorous growth, but it’s a personal decision. Removing those blooms early will force the plant to put energy toward growing more foliage and roots, which will ultimately lead to larger harvests in a future season. Some of us, however, are all about instant gratification, and I tend to follow nature. In nature, even the first blooms become fruit. The best thing to do is to experiment, pinch blooms from some plants, while allowing others to fruit and decide which you like best.
  • Overwintering is simple. In climates with a harsh winter, cover the plants with straw in November to prevent frost damage, and remove layers as it warms up in the spring.In Northwest Arkansas, Zone 7a, I do not cover my plants, although I do keep the soil mulched.
While strawberries are low-maintenance, like all crops, they do have some pest issues. My biggest problems are slugs and squirrels, both of which eat my fruit. I put out cornmeal regularly for the slugs, and cover my strawberry plants with a floating row cover or bird netting to keep the squirrels out. Copper tape  or Ditomaceous Earth are a few organic options for slug control.

 What is your favorite way to enjoy strawberries?



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