There’s nothing better than home-grown strawberries. If you’ve never grown your own, you won’t believe the difference in taste between home-grown strawberries and those purchased in the store. Home-grown berries are sweeter, and they are red on the inside, not white as store-bought berries often are. You can pick your berries at the peak of ripeness. Growing berries in containers is fine, but I’ve never had too much success with this, possibly because pots tend to dry out quickly and need to be watered daily to achieve much success. So: how to start a strawberry patch?
Plan Your Patch
Make sure you plan for an adequate space for your patch. My first strawberry patch consisted of 50 strawberry plants planted in two rows, each about 20 feet long. Be sure to choose a spot with well-drained soil, in a location that gets plenty of sun. Since so many critters enjoy strawberries, you may also want to choose a location that may be less hospitable to these animals.
Choosing Strawberry Varieties
Your next decision is what type of strawberries to buy. You can research various varieties of strawberries to choose one that meets your needs best. The most popular choice are classified as June-Bearing. These berries produce fruit for about 3 weeks around June each year. typically, June-bearers produce the largest berries. Some popular June varieties include Honeoye, Jewel, and Surecrop.
Everbearing varieties don’t produce all year as you might suspect from the name, but usually produce a spring harvest, and another in late summer. Tribute and Seascape are varieties that are often purchased.
Day-neutral strawberry plants produce fruit when the temperatures are between 35 and 85 degrees, and unlike the other varieties, they will bear fruit the first year planted. The downside to day-neutral berries is that they are smaller than either everbearing or June-bearing varieties.
Where to Buy Strawberry Plants
You have several options for buying the plants for your strawberry patch. You can mail-order your plants or buy them in a store, and they also come in two forms.
Bare Root Plants are available both in stores and online, and they look like just that: bare roots. In fact, you may think they’re dead when you open them up. For best results, soak these plants for a few hours before planting them, in the spring after frost danger has passed. The plants should green up within a week or two of planting.
Strawberry Starts look more alive than bare root plants, and the tradeoff is that they’re usually more expensive. However, they’re green from the start.
Planting a Strawberry Patch
Be sure to leave room between plants in your strawberry patch, because the plants will put out “runners” which will form additional plants. During your first season, don’t harvest June-bearing varieties, but let the plants put all their energy into sending out runners so you’ll have plenty of plants to produce berries in subsequent years. Arrange the runners as they appear, so that they are evenly spaced around the original plant. Keep the patch weeded as well, so that weeds don’t choke out your plants. The extra work you put in that first year will be worth it when you’re rewarded with a delicious crop of strawberries in years two and beyond.
If you grow strawberries — particularly in Indiana — what varieties have worked best for you?