In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage strawberry plants from fruiting. If not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots. The yields will be much greater in the second year.
Eliminate daughter plants as needed. First and second generations produce higher yields. Try to space each plant about 10 inches apart.
Moisture is incredibly important due to shallow roots. Water adequately, about one inch per week. Strawberry plants need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing and again in the fall when the plants are mature.
Keep the beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion.
Be diligent about weeding. Weed by hand, especially in the first months after planting.
When the growing season is over, mow or cut foliage down to one inch and mulch plants about 4 inches deep with straw, pine needles or other organic material. This can be done after the first couple of frosts, or when air temps reach 20° F.
Remove mulch in early spring, after danger of frost has passed.
Row covers are a good option for protecting blossoms and fruit from birds.
Keeping beds weed-free and using a gritty mulch can deter slugs and bugs. Spread sand over the strawberry bed to deter slugs. (This also works well for lettuce.) Pine needles also foil slug and pill-bug damage.
For bigger bugs such as Japanese beetles, spray your plants with puréed garlic and neem seed oil.
When birds threaten your strawberries, position balloons with scare-eyes above the beds and use reflective Mylar bird tape to deter them.
Fruit is ready for harvesting 4–6 weeks after blossoming.
Harvest only fully red (ripe) berries, and pick every three days.
Cut by the stem; do not pull the berry.
Harvest will last up to 3 weeks. You should have an abundance of berries, depending on the variety.
Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator for 3–5 days.
Strawberries can be frozen whole for about 2 months.
Try planting more than one variety. Each will respond differently to conditions, and you will have a range of different fruits to enjoy.
‘Northeaster’ is best suited for the northeastern US and southeastern Canada. Fruit has strong flavor and aroma.
‘Sable’ is hardy to zone 3, early season, great flavor.
‘Primetime’ is a mild-flavored, disease-resistant variety, best adapted to the Mid-Atlantic.
‘Cardinal’ is a good variety to try in the South.
‘Camarosa’ is a good variety to try on the West Coast.
‘Tristar’ is a day-neutral variety that’s very well-suited for hanging baskets.