Strawberry Plant Care
Learn about strawberry plant care here! Lots of strawberry care info for strawberry pests and strawberry diseases, weeding, watering and more!
Growing strawberries, and gardening generally, requires lots of attention for the plants. Unfortunately, there is lots of contradictory information available on how to take care of strawberry plants, and it's easy for people who are raising strawberries to become confused. But don't worry, because proper care for strawberry plants is simple once you know how.
Strawberry Plant Care: Proper Planting
Properly caring for strawberry plants really begins with proper planting. This page assumes you already have a properly planted strawberry bed. If you haven't yet planted your strawberry garden then you should go to the
"Tips for Growing Strawberries"
page on this site and visit the other pages listed there first. Those other pages offer information on getting the strawberry plants that you need, how to properly prepare a strawberry bed for planting, and when and how to plant strawberries.
Strawberry Plant Care: Feeding and Watering
Besides proper planting, taking care of strawberries involves proper feeding and watering. Correctly planted strawberry plants typically need to be watered about once per day, in the late afternoon or early evening, when the sun is low or setting. Water each plant until all the soil within 12 inches (30 cm) is wet, then stop. With properly prepared soil, this should be enough water.
You can tell more accurately if you are giving the right amount of water by looking at the soil around the plants just before you water them. If you are giving the plants the right amount of water then the surface of the soil will be dry or just barely damp by watering time--if it is wet, then you should give less water.
However, just below the surface of the soil (depth of about 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm) the soil should still be nicely damp. If it is not, then you need to give the plants more water, and perhaps even water them a bit more often (perhaps watering early in the morning).
You also may need to water more if your soil drains quickly (i.e. an overly sandy soil), or if the humidity is very low. You may need to water less if the soil drains poorly (i.e. the bed is too flat; the soil has too much clay) or on days when it rains.
As for feeding the plants, fertilizing strawberries should be done twice per year. For more information about this, please see the "What is the proper fertilizer for strawberries?" section on the
"What Is the Best Soil for Strawberry Plants"
page of this site.
Strawberry plants also need lots of sun to make food for themselves. If your strawberry bed has been started in the proper location, this shouldn't be a problem. Properly locating a strawberry bed is explained on the
"How to Plant Strawberries"
page of this site.
Strawberry Plant Care: Disease and Pest Control by Preparation
Care of strawberry plants involves more than just providing for their basic needs, of course. Weeds, pest worms and insects, and strawberry plant diseases must be controlled, too. The most important thing for controlling all of these is preparation: using disease-resistant plants; picking an appropriate site for your strawberry bed; and properly preparing the soil in that bed, or adding good soil (free of weed seeds, fungal spores, and worms, insects, and their eggs and larvae).
This is the same sort of preparation that professional strawberry farmers do for their own strawberry farms. It is much cheaper to keep these problems out of a garden than to get them out once the strawberries are planted.
Many large-scale farmers rely on fumigating the soil of their fields to kill all of the weeds, pests and diseases. Following the directions supplied with the chemicals, they cover the soil with sheets designed to help hold the chemicals in the soil, then treat the soil, and finally wait the required time for the chemicals to evaporate back out of the soil. After this they plant their strawberry fields.
The point is that proper strawberry plant care must include proper preparation.
Strawberry Plant Care: Other Controls
Once weeds, pests or diseases are in your garden, there are still some things that you can do to try to lessen the damage. Tilling the soil in the aisles between the strawberry plant rows is one of the most important strawberry plant care techniques for controlling all weeds, pests and diseases. Try to do this at least once a week.
Herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides are also available. Beyond any health dangers that might be posed by these chemicals, they also cost money. It is best to avoid using them as much as possible. If you must use some of them, be sure to read all of their instructions and follow those instructions carefully.
Also, remove any strawberries on the plants (including unripened fruit) before you do any spraying. This will prevent you from spraying the berries, then later harvesting and eating them.
Besides weeding, herbicides are an option for killing unwanted plants. Of course, most herbicides kill strawberry plants, too, so applying them carefully is critical.
Insecticides can be used for insects and worms. However, not all worms are pests: earthworms, for example, help maintain air spaces in the soil. Not all insects are bad, either: bees are necessary for pollinating the flowers, and some other insects actually kill pests.
Nevertheless, some worms and insects will eat large portions of your plants, and many plant diseases are spread through their feedings. If you see any kind of insects gathering in your strawberry bed in sizeable numbers (especially if you start noticing unhealthy-looking plants), you will need to do something. Worm problems are often detected by observing an area of injured plants that grows in size rather slowly (because the worms tend to spread through the soil somewhat slowly, too).
If the plants need treatment with an insecticide, you may want to consider treating them with a fungicide as well. The open sores inflicted on the plants often become points of fungal infection. Fungicides can also be used if mold starts appearing on plants or their fruit.
Preventing fungal infestations is generally easier than healing them. Strawberry plants need lots of water, but excess water promotes fungal growth and should be avoided. It is also important to clean dead leaves and other dead organic matter off of the surface of a strawberry bed.
This includes straw! As you water your plants, the straw will get wet, and wet straw is a perfect food for molds and other fungi.
Strawberry Plant Care: Mulches and Covers
People use straw around strawberry plants as a mulch to help hold moisture in the ground, and as insulation for strawberry plants during cold winter months. Actually, really good soil should hold water quite well without a mulch, and the dry soil surface will help prevent fungal growth in the bed.
Nevertheless, if you really want to cover the soil to help hold in water, consider using plastic sheeting. Plastic sheeting... or even plastic shopping bags... placed around plants will slow evaporation of water from the ground even more than straw, without giving fungi so much of their favorite food.
Black plastic sheeting, thick enough to block sunlight, will also help to prevent weed growth in your strawberry bed. And plastic sheeting placed under strawberries can help to keep them off of the ground and protect them from fungal damage.
Whatever plastic you might use, be sure to put enough bricks, small rocks, chunks of soil, etc. on it to keep it from being moved by the wind. Also, plastic will block water from getting into the soil, too, so be sure your plants still get enough water. You may need to lift the plastic while watering.
Strawberry Plant Care: Renovation
If you live far enough north or south for your strawberry plants to go dormant in the winter, then you should "renovate" your bed in the autumn, after the strawberry plants' leaves have died. "Renovating" a strawberry bed involves removing all of the dead leaves and strawberry runners from it; giving the aisles (not the rows) a final tilling for the year; and covering the bed with something to help insulate the plants from cold winter weather.
Removing the dead leaves and strawberry runners is very easy if you have a matted-row bed, and a lawn mower with a bagging attachment: just "mow" over the bed, and then dump the mower bag somewhere else.
Traditional strawberry plant care calls for using straw to cover strawberry beds during renovation. If you decide to use straw, be sure it really is straw, and not hay. Real straw has very little seed in it, and the tiny amount of seed that straw does retain will sprout plants like wheat or rice which can be weeded out of the bed relatively easily.
Hay, however, contains lots of seeds, usually including weed seeds. Never use hay. If you can get enough alfalfa (hopefully a disease-resistant variety) to spread on your strawberry bed during renovation, that would be preferable to straw.
Whatever you use to cover your strawberry bed during the winter, you should layer it over the plants to a depth of about 6 inches (15 cm). The plants should be covered before the first frost of autumn, if possible, and should remain covered until after the last frost of spring. Check periodically during the winter to insure that the depth of the cover is maintained (some of it will likely blow away over time).
When the time arrives to remove the covering material, try to gather as much of it as you reasonably can, and put it somewhere well away from the bed. The material will undoubtedly be full of fungi and fungal spores after being exposed to water and fungi all winter long.
Besides strawberry plant care, you also need to care for all those beautiful strawberries you'll be harvesting! For information on how to wash and care for picked strawberries, please see the
page on this site.
Following these strawberry plant care tips will help your plants reach their full productive potential. Enjoy your strawberry gardening experiences, and please remember what you've learned here at
StrawberriesForStrawberryLovers.Com, Home of the World's Happiest Fruit!
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