Learn how to grow your own strawberries and pick them at the peak of ripeness and flavor right out of the garden. Grocery store strawberries can’t compare in taste and sweetness – the sugar in strawberries begins turning to starch after picking.
Find a sunny spot in your garden and learn how to grow your own strawberries. Check out the end of the post for extra tips on how to grow strawberries in the low desert of Arizona.
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Here are 10 Tips for How to Grow Strawberries
1. Choose the appropriate type of strawberry for your climate and preference
June – Sets one large crop of fruit in June (typically). June types set flowers when day length is less than 10 hours a day. You typically get a large amount of fruit at once. Varieties to try: Chandler, Camerosa, Sequoia, Tioga.
Everbearing – Sets fruit twice; one harvest early in the season with a smaller harvest in the fall. Less heat-tolerant than June bearing. Everbearing strawberries begin flower production when the day length is greater than 12 hours. Varieties to try: Quinault, White Carolina Pineberry.
Day-Neutral (a type of Everbearing) – Not affected by day length; bears full-size fruit all season. Remove runners and pick fruit regularly to encourage production. Varieties to try: Tribute, Tristar.
2. Plant strawberries at the proper time
Strawberries are frost sensitive; they prefer temperatures between 35-85℉. In most areas, plant strawberries in early spring when the ground is workable.
3. Choose the best location for planting strawberries
Strawberries need rich, well-draining, slightly-acidic soil and full sun. Work soil to a depth of at least 12 inches, and remove all weeds. Amend soil with organic matter and compost.
Check your soil’s pH level. I use this pH tester. Strawberries prefer soil between 5.5 – 6.8 pH. If necessary, apply a soil acidifier to lower pH. For the least stress to plants, a gradual reduction in pH is preferred.
4. Plant strawberries correctly
Purchase disease-free crowns and transplants from nurseries to avoid diseases common to strawberries. Plant strawberry plants 12 inches apart, taking care not to bury the crown.
If planting from crowns, follow these steps:
- Trim roots to about 4 inches long, and soak in compost tea.
- Just before planting, dust roots with kelp meal and bone meal.
- Dig a 6 inch hole with a cone of soil in the middle.
- Drape roots over cone, filling in hole with soil.
- DO NOT BURY CROWN. Crown should remain above the soil.
- Water in crowns with compost tea.
5. Mulch strawberries well
Mulch strawberries with a 3-4” layer of organic mulch (straw, newspaper, leaves, etc.). Reasons to mulch strawberries:
- Preserves moisture and prevents strawberries from drying out.
- Keeps leaves and stems off the ground.
- Regulates soil temperatures.
- Keeps weeds down.
- Provides a barrier for soil-borne pests.
6. Water and fertilize strawberries correctly
- Water strawberries to a depth of 12 inches.
- Let top of soil dry out a bit between waterings.
- Strawberries grown in poorly-draining soil are more prone to pests and diseases.
- Keep soil moist while fruiting.
- Fertilize with a kelp mixture when flower buds appear.
- Apply organic fertilizer monthly (if needed) throughout the growing season.
7. Grow sweet strawberries
One of the best reasons for growing your own strawberries is the taste! There is nothing better than eating a ripe, sweet strawberry picked fresh from the garden. However, when homegrown strawberries aren’t sweet, it is disappointing. There are a few things you can do to encourage sweet strawberries:
- Check the pH level of your soil. (Ideal soil pH for strawberries is 5.5 – 6-8).
- Give strawberries plenty of sunlight. (Morning sun is best).
- Strawberries need compost-rich soil high in nutrients; fertilize as needed.
- Smaller types of strawberries tend to be sweeter than larger berries.
- Wait to harvest strawberries until they are completely red.
- Harvest berries first thing in the morning.
8. Encourage strong strawberry plants
- To encourage root production, remove flowers for 3 months after planting.
- Remove runners from plants immediately to keep energy in plant. If desired, pot up runners with potting soil and keep well-watered while they develop roots.
- After 3-4 years, harvests may diminish. At this time, it’s best to remove old strawberry plants and begin again with new crowns from the nursery in a different location (avoid locations where strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, or potatoes grew previously).
9. Prevent and manage common strawberry pests
We aren’t the only ones who enjoy fresh strawberries in the garden. Here are a few common pests, and tips for managing them:
Pill Bugs: Grow strawberries in containers. Straw mulch keeps fruit off of dirt and away from bugs. Use strawberry supports to lift strawberries up off the ground. This garden hack also helps manage pill bugs.
Slugs: Remove slugs by hand at night, and set beer or yeast traps. Use strawberry supports to lift strawberries up off the ground.
10. Harvest strawberries correctly
Harvest when the strawberries are ripe. Strawberries do not ripen further once picked. Cut strawberries off the plant, leaving a small stem attached. Lay picked berries in a shallow pan to prevent bruising.
Pick rotting berries off the plant and discard. Leave caps of berries attached until just before eating. Use harvested strawberries as soon as possible.
How to Grow Strawberries in Arizona:
It is difficult but not impossible to grow strawberries in Arizona. If you decide to grow strawberries in the low desert of Arizona, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:
- You may need to plant new plants each year. Arizona summers are very hard on strawberry plants and they often die.
- Strawberries in Arizona need afternoon shade.
- Water strawberries every day in the summer.
- Mulch strawberries well.
- Strawberries are salt-sensitive, which can make them difficult to grow in Arizona’s salty soil. Regular deep watering can help wash salts from the soil.
- Plant strawberries in the low desert of Arizona from mid-September through January. Planting strawberries by November 15th allows plants to become more established by spring.
- Varieties to try in the low desert of Arizona: Camerosa, Chandler, Quinault, Sequoia, Tioga.
- Plant asparagus and sunflowers as companion plants to shade strawberries during the summer.
Want more information about gardening in Arizona? This blog post shares 7 tips for how to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona.