With pound for pound more Vitamin C than an orange, strawberries; protect your heart, lower your blood pressure, increase good cholesterol in your blood and prevent cancer. Strawberries are among the top 20 fruits highest in antioxidants. So if you love strawberries, as you can see, they love you too. In this day and age, when soils have been stripped off of all to most of their minerals and non-ethical farm practices have become commonplace. Store bought strawberries ranking as one of the most contaminated produce item. It’s all for the bag and none for the man, we all need to move towards growing our own food.
A Bit Of History
Strawberries are perennial, meaning you can enjoy fruits from the same plant for years. If well taken care of, you can harvest strawberries from the same plant for up to six years, with its peak bearing years being two to three years.
My friend lost an investment of $3650 and his half acre spent a whole year being unproductive. Not to mention a constant source of stress when drug after drug his strawberries just wouldn’t get healthy. That’s probably what will happen if you’re not careful with your strawberry farm. Growing healthy strawberries needs meticulous care. Plus, you can do it for much less of an investment than that.
Before embarking on this satisfying journey of harvesting, nurturing, and growing strawberries in 2021. You’ll need to decide on which type of strawberries you’d like to have.
Types Of Strawberries to Plant Strawberries in 2021
The three types include;
- June-bearing: This variety is day-length sensitive. It produces buds during the autumn season and flowers and fruits in the beginning of summer. The runners come out to play in the longer days of summer. In warmer climates, the strawberries can bear earlier than June.
- Ever-bearing: Produces a large harvest in spring, a lighter yield in the summer and another harvest in the late summer to fall. They form buds in the long days of summer and in the shorter days of autumn. The buds formed in the summer flower and fruit in the fall while the buds formed in autumn flower and fruit in spring.
- Day-neutral: This variety produces fruit continuously except during the winter. They have a lower production than June bearers but are insensitive to day lengths.
The June bearer is the most recommended but be sure to look into what would be best for your location.
Soil Preparation to Grow Strawberries in 2021
A healthy crop starts with healthy soil. Before planting anything, make sure to treat the soil well. In the case of my dear friend, the soil was infected. Any topical application was like pushing a wall with your hands, the disease wouldn’t budge. There are many ways you can choose to treat your soil including spraying multiple chemicals on it to kill off destructive microbes. Sadly, that would also kill the soil and you’d end up spending a lot to artificially revive the soil with multiple “supplements”.
The simplest and safest way would be compost therapy. Rich, bioactive compost helps suppress soil- borne diseases by introducing microbes that antagonize the current non-beneficial residents of the soil. A lot like fermenting food; where the more the good bacteria, the healthier it is and consequently the better it tastes. Similarly, in soil the more the good microorganisms (in this case from the compost) the healthier the soil will be.
Take Soil Test
A soil test is imperative! We can start this off by first finding out what your soil type is. Scoop out some of the soil and examine its texture. Is the soil:
- Dense and heavy, clumping together especially when wet? Then it’s clay soil.
- Loose and free flowing like sand in an hourglass? You guessed it! It’s sandy soil.
- Somewhere in between? Sticky but easily crumbles. Then it’s loamy soil. This, as you already know is the best type of soil for farming.
If you find out your soil is either clay or sandy soil, do not despair for there’s always hope in this wretched world. One word, COMPOST! This seems to be soil’s end-all be-all natural elixir.
- For clay soil, mix in at least 4” of compost.
- For sandy soil, mix in a 1” layer of compost.
Organic matter improves the water and nutrient-retention capacity of sandy soils while loosening up the minerals in clay soils. It also provides a heavily rich supply of slowly released nutrients to your plants and other beneficial soil life.
Over time, soils that have been well amended will provide a wide range of nutrients to your plants, reducing their dependence on fertilizers. Aim for 20% of the soil’s volume to always be compost. Beware though, animal manure, fresh and composted often contains high levels of phosphorus so it can raise the phosphorus levels to excessive levels. Strawberries don’t need a lot of phosphorus.
Test pH of Your Soil To Grow Strawberries in 2021
Now let’s test the pH of your soil. You can do this by purchasing a DIY Soil Test Kit. For new gardens that have never been tested, opt for a professional soil test. This will analyze your soil pH, its nutrient capacity as well as its ability to retain nutrients.
The optimum pH for strawberries is 6.2 but a pH of between 6.0 to 7.0 is also fine. Take soil samples from different areas of your garden because the pH may vary from spot to spot. If you find out your soil is too acidic, add lime. If it’s too basic, add Sulphur. This pH balancing business takes time, so I suggest you give it a year or at the very least, since I know most of us have the patience of a 5 year old, two to three months for the reaction to properly take place. But like they always say, good things take time, so I’d wait the year if I were you. Please don’t add any more than 400 lb. of Sulphur per acre at a time to established plants.
Check out this table for pounds of Sulphur per10 square feet to lower the Soil pH to the recommended level from Home and Garden Information Center.
Once your soil is happy, now let’s get to planting. Although many people are convinced of its benefits, soil conservationists discourage land tilling. Earthworms act like free laborers, loosening up the soil but for conscience’s sake you can do an initial deep tilling down to 6-8 inches to loosen and pulverize the soil and then let nature do the rest. Remember to use a piece of land that had a different botanical family from strawberries to reduce chances of diseases and depletion of micronutrients in the soil.
Purchase the plants from reputable garden centers. When choosing the plants to buy, go for those with large crowns and healthy, light-colored roots. If you can’t plant them right away, wrap them in wet paper towels and store them in your refrigerator until you’re ready to plant.
The Best Time Of The Day To Plant
Plant them on a cloudy day or in the late afternoon. Nevertheless, find a location where they’ll be exposed to a good amount of sun; strawberries need 6-10 hrs. a day of direct sunlight. Dig a deep and wide enough hole to comfortably accommodate the entire root system of your healthy strawberry plant. The crown should sit right at the soil’s surface. Create a mound from below the hole that the strawberry might sit on a “hill”. Space them at 18” (1-1 1/2 feet) apart. This leaves enough room for runners. Leave four feet in between rows. Be sure to plant them at a time when they will be well established before the temperatures rise in the summer months. Preferably in spring around March or April as soon as the soil is dry and workable.
Water the plants after planting and keep the beds mulched to avoid moisture loss, prevent weeds and to keep the fruit clean; therefore less likely to rot. Mulching also helps keep the soil temperature down which is conducive for strawberry roots. Another thing, you have to be aggressive about weeding. Weeding using only your hands in the first few months is necessary to avoid rooting out the plants. Quench the ground with about one inch of water per square foot per week. Strawberries especially need lots of water when developing flowers or runners and also in the late summer when the plants are mature and getting ready for the frost.
Add a balanced (10-10-10); i.e. 10-percent nitrogen, 10-percent phosphate and 10-percent potash fertilizer before planting your strawberries at one to two pounds per 100 square feet to increase nitrogen levels. Add another round at 4-6 weeks. For an organic farm, use blood meal to raise nitrogen levels and bone meal to increase phosphates. Apply once a month from June all the way through September.
Keep the fertilizer off the plant and only on the soil. Brush off any wayward fertilizer particles with a soft broom or any other tool of choice to prevent phytotoxicity. Do not fertilize your strawberry plants in the spring of a fruiting year. Too much nitrogen at this time will cause the fruit to be overly soft and easily damaged.
Cover your planting area with bird netting and use copper ribbons to keep the slugs away.
It is advised to remove all the flower buds in year one so the plant can focus on establishing a healthy, strong root system. This will lead to higher yields in the subsequent years of production. Use first and second generation runners to propagate as those produce a higher yield. Eliminate the rest of the runners.
Plants which are healthy and strong are less likely to fall sick. In any case, if a plant succumbs, get rid of the sick plant immediately and clean and sterilize gardening tools that have been used on infected plants. Seek help from an agricultural expert to diagnose and treat the problem as quickly as possible.
Harvesting begins at about 4-6 weeks after flowering and you can harvest every other day for up to 3 weeks.
Strawberries should be completely ripe before harvesting since they don’t ripen any more after plucking. To check this, you can wait one to two days after the fruit has acquired its full color. For more accurate results, you can just taste it. Handle the strawberries with utmost care. In fact, legend has it that the word “strawberry” came from woodland pickers who strung strawberries on pieces of straw to take to the market.
Be sure to cut the stem with your forefinger and thumb fingernail instead of pulling the fruit off. The cap and part of the stem should still be attached to the fruit.
Now sit back, get on your hammock and enjoy your hard earned delicious strawberries. I believe you will grow strawberries in 2021 in style.