What is the best soil for strawberry plants?
Like most garden plants, strawberries prefer a "loam" soil, a soil-type made up of roughly equal amounts of clay (i.e. microscopic particle size material); sand (small-grain size); and silt, or organic matter (i.e., compost, manure, straw).
The organic material provides most of the nutrients for the plants; helps the soil retain air spaces (which allow roots to spread more easily); acts as a spongy material to hold water for the plants; and adds slight acidity to the soil (strawberry plants prefer a slightly acidic soil). The clay also slows water loss, as well as acting as a glue to make the parts of the soil stick to each other (thereby reducing soil erosion from rain and wind). The sand allows excess water drainage from the soil, and also makes it easier for roots to grow and spread.
While a standard loam soil (i.e. equal parts sand, clay, and organic matter) is acceptable for strawberries, a 30% clay, 30% organic matter, and 40% sand blend is actually closer to the perfect strawberry soil mix. So if you really want to know what is the best soil for strawberry plants, it's this slightly "sandy" loam soil.
What is the Best Soil for Strawberry Plants?: Clay
If you need clay for the soil in your strawberry garden, it is likely that you can obtain some for a reasonable price at a building site. Clay is often removed from the ground as it is leveled for a building, or after an excavation is made for a basement. The owners of the property are often wanting to rid themselves of the leftover (clay) soil, so they may be willing to sell it cheaply--or even give some of it away! But try to get clay that is not mixed with the topsoil, so you don't have weed seed contamination.
What is the Best Soil for Strawberry Plants?: Sand
Don't be tempted to take sand from a beach! Besides making the beach ugly, it will cause the water to become muddied and unfriendly to nearby wildlife. Beach sand is likely contaminated with weed seeds, too. And if the sand comes from an ocean beach it will have salt in it, and you don't want that salt in your garden.
What is the Best Soil for Strawberry Plants?: Organic Matter
The best organic matter for strawberries (and most other garden plants) seems to come from animals. Crushed egg shells; meat and cheese trimmings and leftovers; crushed shells from crabs, lobsters, and shrimp; fish scales; animal fur; bird feathers--any animal material that is compostable makes great organic matter for your soil! Be sure to compost the material before using it, and leave out bones and animal hides (things that you don't want to linger in your garden). This material tends to suppress soil diseases quite well, but it may be difficult and/or expensive to get enough of it.
Animal manure is used quite successfully by many strawberry gardeners. This manure can be very effective in controlling disease pathogens in the soil, and it adds nitrogen to the soil as well. The downsides of animal manure include the smell, and the fact that it can add too much nitrogen, thereby reducing the quality of the fruit or even harming the plants. Also, the strawberries that are harvested must be carefully cleaned to insure that any of the manure on them is removed.
Plant manure (often called "green manure") is another good source of organic matter for your strawberry patch. Disease-resistant alfalfa, popular among many gardeners, is typically grown on the garden as a so-called "cover crop". When the alfalfa has reached maturity it is tilled into the soil, and the garden is ready to be planted with strawberry plants. Similar cover cropping is done with various clovers and certain grasses (such as rye grass).
Plant manure does not have the smell of animal manure, and tends to release it's nitrogen more slowly (causing less harm to your plants). It can also be relatively cheap compared to other sources of organic matter. And cover crops can simply be tilled into the soil, whereas animal material requires spreading over the garden before it can be tilled in.
The biggest difficulty with plant manure is that it is generally less effective at controlling soil-born diseases than animal-derived organic matter. This is due to the fact that many of the things that attack strawberry plants are also attracted to plants used for manure.
Perhaps the best compromise between these different sources of organic material is the following:
The composted alfalfa will have much less chance of spreading disease to your strawberry patch, and you will be using any animal matter you have as well.
The amount of compost that you will need will depend on the size of your garden, of course. Just remember that the best soil is a 30% organic (compost) - 30% clay - 40% sand mix.
What is the proper fertilizer for strawberries?
An answer to "what is the best soil for strawberry plants?" would be incomplete without considering fertilizer. Fertilizer for strawberries should be balanced. If the fertilizer is applied correctly, it really doesn't matter whether the fertilizer is a 5-5-5, a 10-10-10, a 15-15-15, etc., just as long as the numbers are all the same. One exception: the first number, nitrogen, can be 5 or 10 less than the other numbers if you are using a lot of animal manure in your soil.
If you have 5-5-5 fertilizer, you will need 1/8 cup (30 ml) of fertilizer for every strawberry plant per application. In general, for an X-X-X fertilizer, you will need (0.625 divided by X) cups, or (150 divided by X) milliliters of fertilizer for every plant.
If you are using a "slow-release" fertilizer (one that dissolves slowly in the soil) then it is acceptable to simply spread the fertilizer evenly over the ground, being careful to keep the chemicals off of the plants' leaves. Otherwise, put 1 pint (500 ml) of water in a bucket for every plant that you have, then stir in the fertilizer for the plants until it dissolves. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the ground, being careful not to spill it on the leaves of the plants.
Fertilize the strawberries once in the spring, just after the last frost, and one more time following the last harvest of the year.
Now you know how to answer the question "What is the best soil for strawberry plants?" You also know the right fertilizer for strawberries, and how to use it. Enjoy your strawberry plants, and remember you learned this information here at
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