1. Sunny spot. One of my strawberry beds had partial shade and did not produce well at all. Strawberries love full sun. Pick a spot that gets lots of sun and has extra room for your strawberries to sprawl.
2. Watering: Less is more. The first year I over-watered my berries (or Mother Nature did). This made them soggier and less sweet. Yuck! Here in New England, I rarely water my strawberries now. Everything I had read said to water them more than I do, but I have found that less is more. If you live in a warmer zone (I'm in USDA Zone 6a), you may need to water your berries more often.
3. Clip and clean up. Your berry plants will send out runners. Clip off a good bit of them. The plant will put more energy into making delicious berries instead of making more plants. The runners that you leave will be good producers in the following year. When the season is over, set your mower on a high setting and mow off the tops of your everbearers.
4. Move to improve. Relocate younger and healthier plants either in fall or very early spring to a new area and amend with rich compost. If you don't have a home compost bin, consider starting one. It helps everything in the garden grow happier and healthier. I now have other plants (peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes) growing in the areas where I started my strawberries that first year, but I expect to move some young strawberries back there this fall after I pull out the current plants and amend the soil. Crop rotation really does work!
5. Variety. Include both June- and ever-bearing varieties; that way you will have a sizeable crop in June, and a steady stream of daily strawberries through September (maybe longer, depending on your zone). Some varieties may produce better in your area than others.You can even add wild yellow strawberries for something different! They have a slightly tropical flavor and don't sprawl, so you can grow them in spaces that don't have room for expansion.
Strawberries are by far my favorite thing to grow in my garden. Why?
- They require little maintenance,
- they are perennial,
- they are easy to preserve (jam, puree, freeze whole on a cookie sheet then drop in a ziplock bag), and
- they are delicious!
I started with 32 strawberry babies in 2010; 16 each of two varieties. We got a small number of berries the first year, but nothing worth counting. Since 2011 I have had my kids help harvest, count, and weigh the berries daily. Here are some stats for the last few years:
2011: Picked 1052 edible strawberries (11.5 kg)
2012: Picked 945 edible strawberries (10.8 kg)
2013: Picked 1670 edible strawberries (18.3 kg)
Good luck growing this fantastic crop. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to add them to the comments below.