How to Grow Strawberries

Posted by on April 29, 2018 in Food, Drink & Nutrition, Health with 0 Comments

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Story at-a-glance

  • Strawberries can be grown in containers or in your garden bed, and can produce for up to five years if well-tended. They can even be grown in a reusable shopping tote
  • Common strawberry varieties and general growing guidelines for matted rows and hills systems are included
  • Strawberries are high in immune-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, phenolic and ellagic acids that help fight infections. They also contain manganese, folate, potassium and copper
  • Commercial strawberries are heavily contaminated with pesticides and there’s no guarantee that organic strawberries are truly organic when bought at the grocery store
  • While an organic grower will not use chemical fumigants, the nurseries where the plants are started do. These plants are then sold to both conventional and organic growers, and despite their toxic start, they qualify for organic certification when harvested on an organic farm

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | mercola.com

Strawberries, a symbol of love, also have a lot to offer those passionate about their health. High in immune-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, phenolic and ellagic acids, strawberries help fight infections. They’re also packed with manganese and folate, potassium with its co-factoring enzyme, superoxide dismutase, and minerals like copper for the healthy development of red blood cells.

A culinary favorite and summer staple among people of all ages, strawberries are best grown at home, seeing how commercial strawberries are heavily contaminated with pesticides and the fact that there’s no guarantee that organic strawberries are truly organic when bought at the grocery store.

While an organic grower will not use chemical fumigants, the nurseries where the plants are started do. These plants are then sold to both conventional and organic growers, and despite their toxic start, they qualify for organic certification when harvested on an organic farm.1,2

Grow Your Own Strawberries

Strawberries are easy to grow either in a garden bed, or in pots as small as 10 inches in diameter.3 Hanging planters provide the added advantage of keeping slugs and other critters away from the precious berries. When using a planter, make sure the pot drains well. Loam potting mix is recommended to ensure good drainage, and Day neutrals (see strawberry selections below) tend to be the best for container growing.

You can even grow strawberries in a reusable shopping bag — a $10 project that will take less than 20 minutes. All you need is six to eight plants, one unused reusable shopping tote, one 32-quart bag of organic potting mix, a bottle of organic tomato food, and a sturdy outdoor table. Rodale’s Organic Life provides the details.4

“[Cut] drainage holes in the bottom of your bag. Cut a horizontal slit about 2 inches long in the center of the bag's front and … back. Next, cut similar slits in the two long sides of your bag … Make the first slit a few inches above the base and the second slit at least 6 inches above the first …

Now fill your bag with potting mix to the level of the lowest slits … Pick up the bag and thump it down firmly to settle the soil. Then, working from inside the bag, poke the leaves and the crown (the thick center section between the roots and the leaves) of one plant out through each slit and spread the roots out inside … continue filling the bag with potting mix up to the next level of slits, and repeat step 4.

Fill the remainder of your bag with potting mix to within 2 inches of the top … Spread out the roots of your last two plants on top of the mix, and cover the roots with mix, filling the bag within one-half inch of the top. Just make sure the crown of each plant is out of the potting mix and its roots are completely covered.

Water until the potting mix is evenly moist. Water every two or three days to keep the soil evenly moist … Rotate your bag 180 degrees every two to three days, so all the plants get sun exposure. Once a week, feed the plants with the organic fertilizer according to the label directions.”

Strawberry Selections

The three basic varieties of strawberry plants you can choose from are:

June bearing, which produce a single large spring crop per year. Most will bear fruit in early summer, around June, although there are also mid- and late-season varieties. To extend the time of your harvest, plant a couple of each. Varieties include the following. For a more comprehensive list, see The Spruce strawberry growing guide:5

Allstar (late-season and resistant to red stele and verticillium wilt)

Annapolis (midseason; resistant to red stele; grows well in mid-Atlantic area)

Cornwallis (midseason, resistant to red stele)

Cavendish (midseason, resistant to red stele and verticillium wilt)

Northeaster (early-season with some resistance to red stele and verticillium wilt)

Everbearing, which produce up to three harvests per year during spring, summer and fall. Popular varieties include:

Fort Laramie

Quinault

Day neutral, which produce smaller quantities of fruit throughout the growing season. The size of the berries is also smaller than the June bearing varieties. Day neutral varieties include:

Seascape (continental U.S.)

Selva (California and Florida)

Tribute (suitable for cooler climates)

Tristar (suitable for cooler climates)

As a general rule, strawberry plants need between eight and 10 hours of sunlight during the day and well-draining soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.2. In cooler climates, strawberries are best planted in early spring, while fall plantings are better in warmer areas like California and Florida.

If you’re rotating crops, which is a core strategy in organic gardening, avoid planting your strawberries in an area where you’ve previously grown raspberriestomatoespotatoespepperseggplant — or previous batches of strawberries. This will cut down the risk of verticillium wilt.

General Planting Guide: Matted Rows System

There are two different ways to plant strawberries in your garden: matted rows and hills. Regardless of the method you choose, amend the soil before you start by working 1 to 2 inches of compost into the soil. June bearing plants, with their profusion of runners, work best in matted rows, which is done as follows:

Create several 2-foot rows. Place two plants in each row, spaced about 18 inches apart. Space rows at least 4 feet apart.
Apply a balanced organic fertilizer (10-10-10) at the time of planting, and again after renovation (see below). Avoid adding fertilizer late in the season so as not to promote new growth that will be prone to frost damage.
Mulch between plants to cool the soil, promote water retention and deter weed growth. Mulching will also prevent the berries from rotting when they touch the ground.
Be sure to give the plants 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
During the first year, remove all flowers on June bearing varieties to encourage vigorous growth and runners. While this means you will not get a harvest the first year, you’ll get greater yield in the years to come.
As the runners appear, train them so that they start filling in the row, making sure to space them about 6 to 9 inches apart. To do this, simply press the runner into the soil and either cover with a small amount of soil or a small rock to keep the runner in place until the roots form. Do not cut the runners from the mother plant. Eventually, all of these runners will form a mat that covers each row.
In cooler climates, add several inches of mulch over the plants during winter if temperatures drop below 20 degrees F to protect the crowns. Straw is ideal.
To ensure vigorous production for up to five years, renovate the bed annually. After you’ve harvested all the berries, cut the plants down to a height of about 3 inches and add a balanced organic fertilizer.

Till the area between the rows. Narrow each row to 18 inches by removing the older plants growing on one side of the row. (By training the plant runners along one side, you can alternate the row sides during renovation, leaving the youngest plants to continue growing each year.) Thin plants in the remaining row so they’re spaced about 6 to 9 inches apart.

General Planting Guide: Hill System

The hill system is best for Everbearing and Day neutral varieties as they do not send out a lot of runners. Here’s how:

Create a raised bed about 8 inches high and 2 feet wide. Staggering the plants, place them in double rows, spaced about 1 foot apart.
Apply a balanced organic fertilizer (10-10-10) at the time of planting, and again during the second harvest. Avoid adding fertilizer late in the season so as not to promote new growth that will be prone to frost damage.
Be sure to give the plants 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
Mulch between plants to cool the soil, promote water retention and deter weed growth. Mulching will also prevent the berries from rotting when they touch the ground.
Remove all runners and flowers that appear before July 1 in the first year.
While both Everbearing and Day neutral will produce berries for several years, plants should be replaced once their vigor slows — typically after three years or so.
In cooler climates, add several inches of mulch over the plants during winter if temperatures drop below 20 degrees F to protect the crowns. Straw is ideal.

Avoid Poison Berries by Growing Your Own

As mentioned, strawberries are ideally grown at home if you want to avoid toxic pesticides and other chemical exposures. Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,6 and this year, strawberries are at the top yet again. According to the EWG:

California data show that in 2015, nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries — an astonishing amount, compared to about 5 pounds of pesticides per acre of corn, which is considered a pesticide-intensive crop.”

Tests done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015 and 2016 revealed an average of nearly eight different pesticides per strawberry sample, compared to just two for other produce. Ninety-nine percent of samples had detectable levels of at least one pesticide, and 1 in 5 samples had residues of 10 or more chemicals. The most contaminated sample had 22.

Combined, no less than 81 different pesticides were found in the samples, which came from growers in the U.S., Mexico and the Netherlands. Among the most hazardous of these pesticides are carbendazim, a hormone-disrupting fungicide linked to male reproductive damage, and bifenthrin, a pyrethroid insecticide classified as a possible human carcinogen.

Disturbingly, 40 of the 1,174 samples contained pesticides that are actually illegal for use on strawberries. Conventional strawberry growers also use large amounts of toxic fumigants to sterilize the ground before planting, and nurseries fumigate their soil as well. So, unless the organic grower is also starting their own seedlings, chances are they’ve purchased starter plants from a nursery that used fumigants.

So, if you buy organic strawberries, make sure the grower can guarantee the starter plants were purchased from an organic nursery, and is using crop rotation and anaerobic soil disinfestation7 — the organic alternative to soil fumigation for strawberries that allows the grower to control soil borne pathogens without the use of toxic fumigants.

Read more great articles at mercola.com

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