Organic Strawberry Growing for Dummies

My strawberry plants are very happy right now, and I am harvesting strawberries. In clearing space for some plants, I had to pick a lot of strawberry plants out. Most people just compost old plants, but I decided to have some fun by giving them away. I put them in pots and gave them to strangers who walked by, as well as friends as family. I’d like to share my knowledge with anyone who is interested in strawberry growing.

I’ve learned some strawberry knowledge, and I am going to bless you with my knowledge from my EXTREMELY limited experience.

Gardening is a great way to use up free time, and it’s very rewarding and therapeutic. Mother Nature is powerful, and who knows what horrors you can put your plants through that they might bounce back from. But is that what you want? That’s the beauty of gardening. There’s no right or wrong, and nature has a wonderful way of adapting to things in unexpected ways. Plants need soil, light, and water. Mulching and fertilizing are two things that might seem expendable. And, you might be right. It really depends how well you want to take care of your plants. Do you just want to keep them barely alive, or do you want as many strawberries as possible? Do you just want them to be green and look pretty?

Okay, so, let’s say you have bought the most beautiful strawberry plant in a pot that comes with nice soil. If you just want to keep it alive, you have to put it in light and water it an inch a week. That’s the bare minimum.

June-bearing, Everbearing, or Day-neutral?

These are the three types of strawberry plants. But also more. It’s super confusing. Honestly I don’t get it. But here’s what the internet says: June-bearing is the most common, and produces the most and the largest strawberries for only a 2-3 week period around June once a year. Everbearing has 2-3 harvests per year, with a smaller harvest. Day-neutral varieties are the new fancy kind that produce berries throughout the summer. It’s super confusing, but if you’re looking into buying strawberry plants, I would do more research, because the kinds produce fruit at very different times.

Pot or Ground?

You can plant your strawberry plant in the ground, but the strawberries will be MUCH easier to pick if the plant is in a pot. If you plant them, they will spread everywhere. The berries themselves can’t touch the ground at ALL, or the entire strawberry will be ruined. While they are bearing strawberries, it is necessary to dig around the plants deep into the ground so the strawberries hanging off the plants don’t touch soil. Going from pot to soil and expecting non-moldy strawberries requires a bare minimum of digging deeply around the plants. The advantage of putting your plant in the ground, however, is that it will spread. The original plants will put out shoots that will root and create more plants. More strawberry plants means more strawberries (yay!). But more strawberry plants also means more work. Because they put out shoots and spread, every year it will become a thick strawberry tangled mess. You will have to remove a bunch of the plants to make space and dig around them. If you are willing to put in a lot of work, ground is a great way to get more crops. If you know you’re not going to put in the extra effort, pots are MUCH easier because they keep the berries off the ground as they hang over the edge.

Cut off Dead Stuff

If something happened to your berry plants and they’re looking very brown, cut off ALL the leaves and vines, and they will make new, more productive leaves and shoots leading to new plants. Every year after the growing season, you’re supposed to cut off all the leaves so new ones grow. It’s up to you if you want to do that, but I would advise it. Old strawberry plants don’t produce many berries, and the few berries get smaller and smaller as years go by. Plants are also very susceptible to disease, unfortunately. Berries you buy in the store are covered in chemicals because growing huge, red, glossy berries requires them to be eaten within an hour of being picked, not touch the ground, and all organisms to stay away. The reality of organic growing is lots of VERY ugly strawberries that go bad within 20 minutes. Cut off dead stuff as frequently as possible. If a tiny bit of a leaf in grown, just cut off the whole thing. That leaf is diseased and will just create more diseased leaves, and then diseased strawberries. If your strawberries look funny research strawberry diseases to try to help your sick strawberries.

Mulching?

Mulching is when you put something around the base of the plant to retain moisture, such as straw. Strawberries love this consistent moisture. Hence the name. STRAWberries. So, yes, mulching your plants is a great idea. Look up some mulching materials and mulch your berries to really see why they put the straw in strawberry! But honestly the plant will survive if you don’t. It’s worth the extra effort, though.

Fertilizing?

Strawberries really like nitrogen, so look up online ways to make your soil nitrogen-rich. Blood meal is a great, organic source (if you buy organic blood meal) of nitrogen.

Harvesting!

The basics are to harvest strawberries every 3 days, pick strawberries by clipping them a 1/2 inch from the stem of the berry, and pick them when ripe. Picking them when ripe is the hard part. Organic strawberries are some of the most difficult crops to grow. Once you pick them, they will not ripen anymore. So picking them before they are ripe will lead to strawberries that don’t have much flavor. The longer they ripen on the vine, the sweeter they get. They are ready to pick once they are a deep red. Even if they are deep red and smaller than a blueberry, they will unfortunately not get any bigger once they turn that dark red. I eat the tiny ones, but even if you don’t want to eat them, pick the tiny dark red strawberries so the plant doesn’t keep putting energy into them. After they turn dark red, all berries will rot and be eaten by other animals. Once they get that deep red pick them right away. Pick strawberries at least every 3 days, cutting away old berries you missed as well as ripe ones. They are frustrating to grow because sometimes bugs or birds or whatever get to them before they achieve a nice deep red. It’s an imperfect science at best. You’ll learn as you go. You got this.

Watering

Probably the most important thing, but also the simplest. Water your plants a little bit every day, about an inch a week. Think about an 1/8 cup of water a day. They have a reputation of rotting when overwatered, and people are hesitant to water them frequently. But in Southern California it is very hot, so please just water them a teeny bit every day if you are not good with watering plants. Ideally, don’t keep track of how often, because the most important thing is how the plant is doing. Maintain consistently moist soil around the roots. Check by putting your finger in the soil to feel the moisture the roots are experiencing. Having a 24 hour period of no water will damage the plant, and having a 24 hour period of too much water will cause the roots to rot and severely damage the plant. Thus, constant light moisture.

In a perfect world, you should put your plants in full sunlight, water them, cut off dead stuff, mulch, and fertilize them with nitrogen-rich soil. Do what you can. Happy strawberry growing!

2 thoughts on “Organic Strawberry Growing for Dummies

  1. That was a really cool read! I don’t think I’ve ever read a gardening post on this blog, and I love strawberries

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