Strawberries need well-drained soil
April 26, 2015
By Gerald Bludau/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA.ORG
The Chandler strawberry is widely grown in this area and is known for its color and taste. The plant is vigorous with a high yield.
PHOTO BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
The new “Berries Galore” strawberry plant is compact in growth and suitable for container gardening, in small flower beds and in baskets all of which have well-drained soil.
This new hybrid “Berries Galore” strawberry plant is an Everbearing variety currently available in some area garden centers. It is marketed as producing fresh, tasty berries every three to four days all season long.
PHOTO BY GERALD BLUDAU/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
This June-bearing Chandler variety strawberry plant has fruit that is beginning to ripen. It is shown here in a well-drained and mulched flower bed of Master Gardener Gerald Bludau.
If a mockingbird could plant a garden, the first thing it would plant would be strawberries. The reason I say this is because in my experience at raising this fruit, I have had to fight the Texas state bird and most often, the mockingbird won. However, don't let this discourage you because one can successfully raise strawberries in the Texas Gulf Coast Region.
Shallow root system
The strawberry, a small plant of the rose family, has three basic parts - the roots, crown and leaves. About 90 percent of the roots are found in the top 6 inches of soil.
Because of the shallow root system, managing moisture is critical for best production. Strawberries do not tolerate poorly drained soil. This is why commercial growers always plant their strawberries in raised beds. The berries prefer slightly acidic soils but can be raised with pH units up to 7.5 to 7.8.
Strawberries come in three types: day-neutral, everbearing and June-bearers. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the June-bearers. The June-bearer is length-of-day sensitive. This variety produces buds in the autumn, flowers and fruit the following spring and runners during the long summer provided they have adequate moisture. These berries will produce plants that can be set out the following fall for your planting; however, in my experience it its more prudent to purchase new plants.
Strawberries should be planted in a well-drained, sandy loam-type soil for best results. Working in aged manure or compost is also beneficial. Your soil should be worked up, free of weeds and preferably in a raised bed.
There are varying thoughts on spacing of plants. Since strawberries are a sprawling plant, some experts recommend planting 20 inches apart. In my experience, I generally set them about 8 to 10 inches apart. Your berries will require 6 to 10 hours of sunlight, so select your site accordingly.
The best time to plant is in the fall - generally October through November - although there are some new varieties of the everbearing-type that are favorites now for flower beds, containers and baskets. Sometimes, you may have difficulty locating plants. Check with local nurseries to see if they have plants available or if they can order whatever variety you choose.
As previously mentioned, moisture is very important because of the shallow root system of strawberry plants. Keep beds/soil mulched to prevent weeds and conserve moisture. Be diligent about weed control because of competition for available moisture.
Strawberries are susceptible to the following pests and diseases:
Pests: slugs, bud weevil, and especially birds and pill bugs
Diseases: leaf spot, root rot, anthracnose fruit rot, molds/fungus, powdery mildew
Management begins with good Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This includes cultural practices that reduce population and minimize diseases. Use pesticides when these cultural practices fail to achieve the level of control or as a supplement to the management methods.
I have had to back off from raising strawberries in my garden because of an untreatable, indigenous soilborne fungus that causes the leaves and berries to turn brown and eventually damp off. However, that doesn't mean you can't raise them in your garden with different soil and conditions.
It will benefit you to pinch off the first blooms to allow nutrients to produce a stronger, more vigorous plant, and thus, have greater production.
Generally, strawberries are harvested four to six weeks after blooms appear. Pick only fully ripe berries and pick every two to three days.
Harvesting of berries usually lasts about four to six weeks. Unwashed berries can be stored in the refrigerator for no longer than three to five days. Strawberries can be frozen for a four- to six-month period.
The best varieties for zone F are the following:
Enjoy your strawberry shortcake with your homegrown strawberries and an extra dollop of whipped cream. Happy planting and happy eating.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or email@example.com.
• NAME: Berries Galore
• KIND: Everbearing
• WHERE: In a container, basket or small bed
• WHEN: Now
• Manage moisture by planting in well-drained soil
• Keep plantings mulched
• Control weeds
• Dispose of old leaves and debris
• Use pesticides when cultural practices fail or as supplement to IPM methods
• Mockingbirds and pill bugs are among the worst strawberry pests.
• Place a layer of bird netting over the berries to prevent mockingbirds from pecking away at the fruit.
• The strawberry got its name from the practice of placing straw under berries so that pill bugs and ground moisture would not damage the fruit on dangling stems.
• A pot with holes in the sides is called a strawberry pot originally named for a pot where stems with berries could dangle out the sides.