To grow strawberries successfully, there are a few things to know: which type and variety to select, the correct growing conditions, how to rejuvenate a bed and how to protect those succulent fruits from the critters.
There are three types of strawberries: June-bearing (which often ripen in July here), everbearing and day-neutral. June-bearers give the largest and most flavorful fruit, but only for a week or two. June-bearing varieties good for our area include “Guardian,” “Kent,” “Honeoye,” “Redchief,” “Delite” and “Jewel.” Everbearers usually produce a large early crop and a small late crop with a few berries in between. Hardy varieties include “Ogallala,” “Fort Laramie” and “Ozark Beauty.” Day-neutrals, such as “Tribute,” “Tristar” and “Fern,” produce throughout the growing season. The last two generally produce fewer smaller berries overall than June-bearers. Some gardeners plant all three types to spread the season out. Whatever you select, pick varieties that are certified free of insects and diseases.
Strawberries need full sun for at least eight hours per day, so a south-facing area works well. They do best in a bed without competition from the roots of other plants, one you do not plan to cultivate each year. The ideal soil is a sandy loam soil with good drainage and high amounts of organic matter.
Plant June-bearers in a matted row system where the plants are spaced 2 feet apart in rows 4 feet apart. Then, allow the runner to fill each row. Leave an 18-inch pathway between rows by removing or relocating runners in the path back to the appropriate row. Plant the everbearing or day-neutral types one foot apart hilled in three rows that are also 1 foot apart. Keep 3 feet between each set of three rows. Remove all runners as they develop. Remove the first blossoms on the plants in a matted row system twice and once on the hill system. This will encourage stronger plants that will bear more fruit.
Generally, keep a strawberry bed for three years. Remove it when it stops bearing in the fall. In the matted row system, take the healthy rooted runners and replant them in a new bed in late August. In the hill system, you may want to start over with new plants in a different location.
Covering fruit as it develops with row covers will help keep the birds away. You will have to be creative with fencing to keep ground squirrels out.
For information on planting, fertilizing and harvesting strawberries, go to https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/strawberries-for-the-home-garden-7-000/.
JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.