Do you want a “can’t miss” crop for your homestead?
Strawberries, Strawberries, Strawberries…
Strawberries are one of the crops on my list of “plants that work for you”. Unlike vegetables that require planting each year, a well-tended strawberry patch will yield gobs of fruit for three to five years after they are established. The plants aren’t expensive and the value of the berries they produce easily exceed their cost. Plus, each plant produces runners, additional plants that sprout from the original root system, so they multiply and bear fruit year after year.
They are more labor-intensive than tending your young orchard, but strawberries will reward you endlessly for your efforts. Have you ever eaten a home-grown berry? If you haven’t, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s March, and already our bottomless pits (aka Elijah and David) are asking when the berries will be ready. They can’t wait to graze in the patch while we “pick” – five berries hit their mouth for each one they put in the bowl. We love it.
Top 7 Guidelines for Raising Strawberries
Here are some of our top guidelines and tips when it comes to growing your strawberries:
- Choose June bearing varieties. These varieties bear fruit for several weeks starting in June and then take the next 11 months off. You’ll hear that Everbearing varieties are supposed to bear through out the growing season, but they take a lot of water and care. Most people growing Everbearing varieties never see fruit after the first harvest happens in June. We certainly never did, making Everbearers not worth the effort for the rest of the summer. Plus, they don’t produce as many runners or as many berries as the June bearing varieties.
- Stagger your harvest by choosing early and late June bearers. Check the website at Nourse Farms where they list varieties by when they bear in June: early season, early midseason, late midseason, and late season. This will make managing your fruit much easier. When berries ripen, they come in bunches and don’t last for more than 36 hours on the plant. You can be overwhelmed when they are ready, if they all come at once.
- Choose a site that has dry soil. Damp soil promotes disease and berry rot.
- Have your soil tested for pH and nutrient content before you plant. It’s easier than you think. Most major universities test soil and you can mail your samples to them. Here at Penn State, the test costs less then $10.00. They have a check list for your crop. I choose strawberries, and ask for their fertilizer recommendation to be given for each 100 sq. ft. not PER ACRE. If not you’ll wonder why they recommend half a ton of agricultural lime.
- Kill all weeds before you plant, and be prepared to mulch your plants throughout the growing season. Weed early and often. Mulching around your plants with grass clippings will kill weeds while they are young, tiny and helpless. Have no mercy.
- Strawberries will produce berries in their first year, but resist the temptation to allow the plants to produce. Clip the blossoms from the plants except for a berry or two per plant if you must. This allows your plants to produce strong root systems and store energy for the next year’s crop. You won’t regret it.
- Again, follow the Extension guidelines for growing your berries to the letter, especially removing foliage later in the season and mulching with straw over winter. This will help you maximize your production and minimize disease and loss.
Finally enjoy, enjoy, enjoy… and don’t be afraid to plant more plants that you think you need. Strawberries freeze well and you can enjoy them all during the year. We make smoothies and jam during the winter, smother fresh cheese cake at Christmas. You get the picture.
If you are thinking about strawberries, you have to think about weeds. Don’t miss our next post which is the key to having gobs of worry-free fruit.
- The Ole Saturday Homesteading Trading Post Ed. No. 41 (lilsuburbanhomestead.com)
- Be~YOU~tiful, A Holistic Approach to Beauty and Wellness (standupongrace.wordpress.com)
- 9 Fruit Trees To Grow On Your Homestead for Fresh Fruit. (emergencyhomesteader.com)
- Homesteading Basics: Planting & Growing Fruit (crossroadshomestead.wordpress.com)
- Love Strawberries? Grow Your Own (modernhomesteaders.net)