Strawberry Plant Care

 Selecting a planting site  

Strawberries can be grown in most soil types; however a good well drained loam soil will consistently produce a better crop. Select an area that will receive full sun most of the day. Avoid shaded areas and any place where water will stand after a rain as standing water can greatly increase the chances for disease. Also avid areas prone to spring frost. Do not grow strawberries for five or more consecutive years on the same site without some type of crop rotation. Do not plant strawberries in areas where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant have been grown within the past four years. These vegetables carry the root rot fungus Verticillium, which also attacks strawberries. In addition, do not plant strawberries into recently plowed grass areas which can lead to devastating weed problems and damage by white grubs, a common turf pest that deeds on strawberry roots. Cultivate the soil several times 2 weeks prior to planting to eliminate weeds. Each time you do this you will eliminate many freshly germinated weeds. Plant too deep will smother and die; plants too high will dry out. Spread the roots and carefully firm the soil around the roots leaving no air pockets. If soil is dry, pour a pint of water around each plant. 

Planting Illustration

 
 


June Bearers should be planted 3 1/2 - 4 in between the row and 18" -24" in between each plant. 
DO NOT FERTILIZE AT THE TIME OF PLANTING
You should see new green growth in 7-10 days. 
June Bearers - Remove flowers the first year to eliminate fruiting. This will encourage more runners the first year. 
Once runners begin to from make sure the new plant on the end is kept in contact with the soil in order for roots to grow. Place the new plants that form approximately 6'' apart in the rows. Crowding will produce small fruit so do not allow your planting to overpopulate and form a solid bed. In the fall, mulch with straw after the third evening of hard frost or freeze. 
June Beaers in traditional matted row culture. 
1st year care - Set plants 1 to 2 feet apart within the row
The objective the first year is to establish a good row of plants. Approximately 30 days after planting the plant will produce flowers. these flowers should be pinched or cut off. Do not pull them off. Removing the flowers prohibits the plants from fruiting and as a result, encourages more runners earlier in the season - setting the stage for a higher yielding crop the second year. These runners need to be pulled into the row and then they "peg" or grow roots and become new plants. To properly peg a new plant you may have to help it by digging through the straw mulch and press the runner tip into the ground. The runner will only root when it comes in contact with the soil. These new plants are what will produce fruit next year. .You should try to place a new plant every 6" in every direction in a matted row that is 12 to 18 inches wide. Allowing plants to be closer than 6" will crowd the plants which will result in smaller fruit. Remove all new runners that form after mid-August as these will not have time to peg and produce a good plant.
DO NOT ALLOWED YOUR BED TO OVER POPULATE. Keep weeds under control. Unfortunately, the best ways to do this is by hand and hoe. In the late fall, after 3 hard frosts or a hard freeze, you should cover your planting with a straw mulch. This is typically around Thanksgiving in northern Indiana. This protects the plants from extreme winter cold as well as moderating the temperature to stabilize the plants environment. Mulch the plants by shaking the straw evenly over the row until you can no loner see any of the green of the plant through the covering of straw. 
Second Year - 1st Fruiting Year - Remove the straw mulch in early spring *when growth starts) DO NOT ALLOW PLANTS TO TURN YELLOW UNDER THE STRAW. Remove the straw by parting it slightly allowing for a narrow row 12 to 18 inches wide to grow up through the mulch. Keeping the parted straw up against the narrow row ill allow the fruit to sit on the straw bed while ripening.
This will create a barrier to protect the fruit from splashing dirt. This is important as many of the fruit rots come from the soil. The thick straw mulch between rows will also help in weed control. DO NOT APPLY ANY FERTILIZER IN THE SPRING. as it will soften the fruit.

Spring frost can often kill the blossoms, Even a light frost can have a devastating effect on yield. Remember to cover or protect your patch in some way just as you might sensitive flowers or tomato plants. Small green fruit are seldom damaged by frosts. Keep the planting well watered (1" per week) while the crop is maturing.
As berries ripen, keep them picked. Allowing over ripe fruit to remain in the patch can attract beetles that will become a nuisance. Go over the patch every 2 to 3 days picking the fruit at maximum ripeness. It is normal for berry size to decrease as the season progresses. The later fruit is smaller but the flavor is usually great and these make great jam and freezer berries.

Renovating
A crucial step in maintaining a productive berry patch is renovating. This is a 3 step process performed each year as soon after havest as possible that rejuvenates your planting and is essential if you want to have a long lived productive patch. 
Step 1: Set the mover blade on your lawn mower at a setting that will remove the leaves from the strawberry plant but won't damage the crowns. Trimming off the old leaves will decrease the disease problems for the rest of the summer. If this step is delayed and runners begin to grow, skip this step. Waiting too mow off the leaves will damage next year's yield. 

Step 2: Lightly fertilize your patch with a balanced 12-12-12 fertilizer at 2 lbs. per square feet. 

 Step 3: Till between the rows narrowing down the row to 10 to 12 inches. This is very hard for many people as they think they are destroying their patch. Thinning or narrowing the row will keep your plants healthy and productive by allowing more sunlight and airflow throughout the row. 

After renovation, keep your planting free of weeds and mulch with straw in the fall. Repeat each year for many years of great strawberries. Once you see a significant decrease in yield from one year to the next it is time to replant. For some people this is every 3 years but for others it can be every 5 to 7 years. 

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