Planting strawberries is becoming appealing to more and more gardening enthusiasts. The strawberry plant is a hardy plant that accommodates very well to temperate continental climate, and the thought of one day having the opportunity to pick their own strawberries is an additional motivation that drives people to take the plunge. Planting a strawberry plant is certainly easy, although some tips are necessary to ensure success.

The strawberry plant is a perennial of the Rosaceae family that, in its wild state, grows naturally in the underbrush. Large-fruit varieties are, on the other hand, improved versions of imported varieties native to Central America. The strawberry plant produces white flowers in early spring. Harvesting is usually performed in June and July. The strawberry is rich in vitamin C and is known to be one of the best fruits suitable for a slimming diet. Strawberries are used to make coulis, pies, jams, etc.

Techniques for growing and maintaining strawberry plants

The strawberry plant can be propagated by seed, especially for varieties that do not produce stolons. The division of clumps is also sometimes carried out. But it is usually by naturally layering stolons that young strawberry seedlings are obtained. Planting is best done in September and in early autumn. The roots will thus have sufficient time to grow, even during the winter. Contrary to what many people fear, winter will re-energize the seedling and stimulate its growth for better production. Strawberry plants can withstand the cold down to 14 ° F (-10 ° C).

Planting density varies according to variety, but it is advised to have less than ten plants per square meter.  The ideal distance between plants is 16 inches (40 cm). Briefly soak the seedling containers in water to facilitate transplanting. Shorten the roots before planting. Make the holes by using a weeding hoe or bulb dibble, and certainly not a sharp dibble so as to avoid compressing the roots.

The strawberry plant supports many types of land, but rich soil with a pH close to 6.5 is ideal. Prepare the ground thoroughly before planting. Amend it with supplies of fertilizer. A second supply of nitrogen fertilizer is required in early spring, as soon as new leaves appear. The last fertilizer supply is done at the end of the harvest. Within the month following planting, it is necessary to prune the scape to stimulate vegetative growth and the plant’s rooting. Similarly, it is recommended to cut the runners, so as to get strong plants and a bountiful harvest. As for lighting, an area well-exposed to sunshine is better in northern regions, while exposure to partial shade is preferable in the south.

At the end of flowering, strawberry plants can be treated with a fungicide. This will protect them against powdery mildew and botrytis. A second treatment can be performed two weeks later. Sometimes treatment against insects is useful in the early stages of flowering. However, strawberry plants are generally hardy and not very susceptible to diseases and insects. Keep in mind that spacing out seedlings at planting time helps prevent the progressive decay of plant tissue caused by Botrytis. Similarly, removing the first flowers systematically gives the plant more vigour.

Important tips for planting strawberries successfully

The strawberry plant does not like excess water. Thus, it is advisable to water it moderately in winter, otherwise the roots may rot. Good soil drainage is also very important. To avoid excessive evaporation, cover the planting area with a black plastic film. The plastic film will also offer the advantage of preventing weed growth, while storing the sun’s heat. During the fruiting period, it will also prevent the fruits from being stained by soil or fertilizer. A natural mulch made with hay, dry grass or pine needles can produce the same effect. In dry and sunny regions, the latter option is a preferable alternative to the plastic film. It may be wise to set up a drip irrigation system prior to covering up the layer of mulch with black plastic.

From February on, mini-greenhouses made of transparent PVC and shaped like small tunnels can also be set up This will temporarily store heat and carbon dioxide, while forcing the strawberry plants to produce. Harvest will thus be accelerated. This tunnel will also protect the strawberry plant against spring frosts. However, make sure that the tunnels are well-ventilated during flowering, and remember to water regularly.

What about organic plantations?

It is possible to maintain an organic garden by using biological treatment and care. For example, nitrogen fertilizers can be replaced by nettle manure diluted to a 10-20% solution. During flowering, it is necessary to water with comfrey manure diluted to a 25% solution, as it is rich in potash. Concerning the fungal treatment, a horsetail decoction, diluted to 20%, is known to be effective against the onset of powdery mildew and botrytis. This treatment should be repeated after a 2-week interval.

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Published in Strawberry by Alexander on 07 Sep 2011