Even the pickiest eaters have to admit that everyone loves strawberries! They are truly nature’s dessert. If you have only ever tasted strawberries purchased in a grocery store, shipped from who knows where and warehoused for who knows how long, then you have never really tasted a strawberry.
Strawberries are one of those natural foods that taste its absolute best when picked fresh from the earth. Because strawberries are not that difficult to grow in certain climates, there is no reason why you can’t experience the real pleasure of this sweetest of summer’s bounty.
If you follow a few simple steps you should be well on your way to yummy, fresh strawberries this summer.
Prepare Your Soil
It is important to get your growing area well prepared before placing your strawberry plants. The soil should be well dug up, loamy and well drained. Mixing in manure will ensure the best quality soil for your plants. Your strawberry beds should be about 6 inches high. It is best to place the rows about 6 inches apart as well. There should be about 28 inches of space between individual beds.
Pay special attention to the holes your plants will go in. You should use a trowel to dig a triangular hole and then place a teaspoon of slow release fertilizer in each hole. Cover the fertilizer with about an inch of soil before placing your plant in the hole. This will create a buffer between the roots of your plant and the fertilizer. Direct exposure of the roots to the fertilizer can cause root damage. Pay attention to spacing instructions for your specific variety of plant. Most plants need to be spaced about eight to fifteen inches apart.
Place the strawberry plant gently into the prepared hole. You should take time to spread the roots out in a way that they are not tangled together. This will ensure that each root can function properly. Keep in mind how deeply the seedlings were planted in the containers in which you purchased them and try to place them at approximately the same depth. If a plant is planted too high it will not have the strength to stay erect and if a plant is planted too low it can develop problems with its roots.
Strawberry plants should always be watered from above. In the beginning your plants will only require about one inch of water a week. Once the plants have matured you can change to a drip irrigation type of watering. This is important to make sure your plants to not develop fruit rot. When the plants start developing runners, you should prune them away. Runners will compete for water and nutrients from the main plant. This will result in smaller, less tasty fruit on your main plant.
Humans are not the only ones that find strawberries tasty. Squirrels, birds and a host of other critters love them too. The best way to protect your crop is to drape a net over the entire patch. This will keep out the animals but still allow enough sun to reach your plants.
After Harvest Care
Strawberries are a great garden investment because once you have planted your strawberry patch you can enjoy it year after year. With proper care your strawberry patch could bring enjoyment for your kids and grandkids for many years to come. To ensure a long life for your berry patch, remove your protective netting after all the strawberries have been harvested for the season.
Take time to trim away all old leaves so that only new growth leaves and the plants top crown remain. Allowing these parts of the plant to remain gives the plant the chance to continue to soak up the sun which will actually ensure its producing potential for the next season. Keep the netting off of your plants during the non-producing season. This will allow the critters to do you a favor and keep your plants free of bugs until it’s time for yummy strawberries again.
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