Watering: During the growing season, strawberries need about 1 inch of water per week. Water transplants immediately after planting and thereafter any time they receive less than an inch of rainfall per week. Help prevent leaf diseases by watering early in the day, giving foliage a chance to dry before nightfall.
Strawberry plants love water but they can't swim! Keep the soil moist so that your strawberry plants can get a drink when they need one, but never leave them standing in water.
Fertilization: Strawberries are what they eat! Along with the characteristics of your strawberry cultivar, how often you fertilize and the ratio you use determines the size of your strawberries.
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Strawberries need regular feeding. For big, plump berries, fertilize your strawberry bed at least twice a season. In the spring fertilize before the plants flower and in the fall fertilize shortly after harvest.
Fertilizer has three major components: Nitrogen (N- promotes leaf growth and forms proteins and chlorophyll), Phosphorus (P- contributes to root, flower, and fruit development), and Potassium (K- contributes to stem and root growth and the synthesis of proteins.) So a balanced fertilizer (equal parts of each element i.e. 10-10-10) will encourage over-all growth while one with more phosphorus (i.e. 10-20-10) will help produce bigger berries.
IMPORTANT: Do not fertilize strawberry plants during flowering or fruit production.
Cultivation: Hand weeding is best because strawberry roots are shallow. If you use a hoe or other tool, be especially careful not to disturb the roots of the plants.
Mulching: As well as protecting your strawberries from killing frosts, a 3 to 4-inch layer of hay or straw helps equalize temperatures to protect them from thawing and refreezing after an early spring or mid-winter warm spell. Don't mulch with fallen leaves since they tend to compact and smother new growth. Although many cultivars are hardy to 15F (-10C), your winter mulch layer should be applied before the temperature dips to 20F (-6C) to protect new growth from killing frosts.
Strawberries are very susceptible to spring frosts. Although winter coverings of straw or mulch should be removed in early spring, rake them to the aisles to re-cover the blossoms in case frost is in the forecast. Old blankets or sheets can also be used for protection against frost.
Although strawberries are sun-lovers, their roots need cool, moist soil. Mulch is the best way to achieve this compromise and it also helps keep runners in check and weeds under control. Nevertheless, do not use the straw that covered your strawberries over the winter. Instead, when danger of frost is past, either remove it or work it into the soil. Apply fresh mulch, keeping about one inch from the crowns to prevent damping off.
Harvest strawberries as soon as they ripen. Grasp the stem just above the berry between your index finger and thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion. Once fruit has begun ripening, check your strawberry bed every other day or daily during hot weather. Pick all ripe berries. Once ripe, fruit quickly decays if left on the plant and invites disease and insect problems.
Don't overfill your containers, jiggle them, or try to pack down the berries. Heaping strawberries results in bruised berries. Avoid washing fruit until just before you use it, to prevent softening and decay.
Pick berries for immediate use any time, but the early morning of a cool, cloudy day is the best time to pick fruit that you intend to store for a day or two. Keep picked berries in the shade and cool them as soon as possible after picking.
"Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did."
Today's contemporary gardener reaps the benefits of centuries of strawberry lovers. Although a few of the old-time cultivars such as the Alpine strawberry plant still remain, most strawberry varieties we find at our local nurseries are developed to be the largest and sweetest berries money can buy! In addition, technological advancement in disease control helps horticulturalists develop ever-stronger disease resistant strains of the strawberry plant.