Have you ever tried to grow strawberries but been disappointed by a harvest of only a few tiny berries? Strawberries are actually not difficult to grow, but they do require a lot of patience and a little strategy. I’ve learned how to grow and reap a harvest of strawberries throughout the summer by applying a few tips and planting multiple varieties.
There are three primary types of strawberry plants: day-neutral, everbearing, and June-bearing. June-bearing strawberries are the most common type sold in stores and tend to produce the largest fruit. Since they are readily available, most people plant June-bearing starts in their garden. But there’s an important trick to get them to produce a solid harvest. They need a solid six months to get established before you allow the fruit to grow.
Therefore, June-bearing plants put in the ground in early spring need to be pruned. It’s important to snip off all of the flowers that grow on June-bearing varieties the first year you plant them. If you are getting a tiny yield of strawberries, it’s probably because you didn’t give the plant time to get established. If you pull off all the fruit the first year, you can enjoy a nice harvest of larger berries for about three weeks around the month of June in their second year (they may bear fruit earlier or later depending on your garden zone).
Plant June-bearing varieties 15 to 24 inches apart in rows that are 3 feet apart. June-bearing strawberries will produce runners (little offshoots that will turn into a fully producing strawberry plant). I allow several runners to root in that first year so I end up with a 2-foot-wide row of strawberry plants. I pull off all the flowers and buds the first year but let them grow into a bountiful June harvest in year two. Plants can continue to produce for two to three years. They can be pulled and composted after two years and replaced by their own runners.
You can allow day-neutral and everbearing plants to produce fruit in their first year. Everbearing strawberry plants will produce a crop of berries in the spring (in the month of May here in Arkansas) and under the right conditions produce another crop in the fall. Day-neutral varieties will start to produce around the month of June and continue to bear fruit in July and August. Plant these strawberry plants 15 to 24 inches apart in rows that are 1 foot apart. These plants also produce runners, but they really need to be cut off to ensure the berries have enough space to grow with proper air circulation. Day-neutral and everbearing plants typically produce fruits that are slightly smaller than June-bearing varieties.
If you plant all three varieties, you’ll end up with a harvest of everbearing strawberries in the spring, June-bearing strawberries in June, and day-neutral varieties in June, July, and August. Those who live where conditions are favorable can also get another harvest of everbearing strawberries in September or October. If you love strawberries, this is a great way to keep the harvest going throughout the growing season. I usually allow a few extra runners to grow and dig them up and give them to friends in the spring to start their own patches.
Strawberries are a wonderful perennial plant that are well worth the effort and patience required to get them going. Once you get a patch growing, you’ll be able to keep it producing for years with a little management.