The harvest that develops from your own garden space not only fills you with a great sense of pride and accomplishment, but it also just tastes so darn good.
Everything tastes better coming from your garden when compared to standard grocery store offerings, but that is particularly true with strawberries. Commercially sold strawberries are bred to have a thicker exterior skin, keeping them tough for shipping, while negatively affecting the taste. The strawberries you grow at home will melt in your mouth.
There is no hard skin, instead just an indistinguishable layer between you and supreme juiciness. The flavor experience is completely different.
Growing strawberries is one of those no-brainers for us, and I think it will be for you too:
Does Growing Strawberries Fit the Formula?
It’s a dream to someday have 5 plus acres of land we can farm, but right now that isn’t a reality.
Like so many of you reading we have full-time jobs and live in the suburbs, both of which challenge our ability to make farming our primary focus. We are limited in time and space, but that doesn’t stop us, it just forces us to be more focused with what we have.
These limitations inspired our formula, a simple metric for determining what we should grow. You can find more details on our formula here, but suffice it to say it comes down to an analysis of three major points scaled from 1-5 with 5 being top notch:
- How Much Space Does It Take Up?
- How Cost-Effective is it to Grow vs. Buy?
- Does Our Family Eat it and How Healthy is it?
Here’s how growing strawberries stacks up in our formula:
Not off to the strongest start here! Strawberries take up a lot of space, with sprawling vines and a large canopy of leaves, they own the space where you plant them…and then some.
Growing strawberries is also pretty high-maintenance, but it’s not their fault. They taste so darn good, that everything in the animal kingdom wants their share – squirrels, birds, bunnies, bugs, slugs – you have to have a plan to protect them or else.
Check out the grocery store strawberries, as I mentioned above they are bred tougher to survive shipping, but they are also cost-prohibitive: $5.99 for a pound of conventional strawberries, $6.99 for organic!
A fully developed 5×5 strawberry bed in your garden will produce 15-20 strawberries per day for the month of June, and for some breeds again in September. You are quite literally saving yourself upwards of $6 per day.
Strawberries are one of the most prolific sources of antioxidants in the world! In a ranking of the top 50 antioxidant foods common to US diets, strawberries came out 3rd. Only walnuts and blackberries scored higher.
Another argument for growing your own – two days after being picked strawberries endure a major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. Growing strawberries makes sense on many levels.
Strawberry Growing Guide
Before we get into the exact method for growing strawberries let’s do quick primer on the three major types:
Everbearing: Produce two or three main crops per year, in my experience this has been in June and September, but your region will affect that.
Day-Neutral: Developed from Everbearing varieties, Day-Neutrals have a longer growing period, producing buds and fruits as long as the temp stays between 35 and 85 degrees. Harvests are smaller, but consistent.
Junebearer: Produce the most fruit, but in a concentrated period of time…June. They also sprawl more than Day-neutral or Everbearing which tend to be more compact.
- Strawberries are best started as a plant rather than from seed, so source from a reputable local grower or shipping from nurseries that specialize in berry production and sell online.
- Get your plants in the ground early in spring, as soon as the ground can be worked.
- Choose your spot wisely, strawberries like full sun!
- When growing strawberries spacing is important, the plants will throw out runners and those runners will throw out runners. Plan for this!
- Plant the young strawberry plants 20 inches apart and keep rows 3 feet apart. You can condense these numbers some, I’ve planted them much more intensely and had great results because the canopy of leaves shades out weeds.
- That said, individual fruits will be smaller if planted intensely, more spacing means larger fruits.
- In the first year, some suggest you pick off the blossoms and prevent the plants from fruiting. This forces the plant to use its energy toward root production and will result in a better year two harvest. Sounds like a smart plan, but I’m not that patient, I wanted year one production! We didn’t get much in year one, maybe 3 lbs total, but it was worth it and didn’t seem to harm year two yield.
- Strawberry plants have shallow roots, so they need consistent moisture, about 1 inch per week.
After Season Care
- Strawberries plants will produce for multiple seasons, adding to their cost-effectiveness, but they do need some off-season maintenance.
- After the growing season, cut the foliage down to about 1 inch and cover with 4 inches of mulch. This will protect the plants through winter, and set them up for a successful spring!
Companion Plants for Growing Strawberries
The culinary herb Borage is the primary strawberry companion. Borage deters the insect pests that attack strawberries, while attracting pollinators which will help turn buds into fruits.
Caraway is also a beneficial companion, attracting parasitic wasps which feed on the insects that plague strawberries.
Keep Your Distance
Avoid planting the Brassica family – which includes veggies like Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts and Kale – near strawberries. Strawberries stunt their growth!
Strawberry Recipes That Will Rock Your Senses
Our strawberries don’t often make it into recipes, instead falling prey to anxiously waiting mouths. But, when they do survive the gauntlet of awaiting children, these are some of the incredible things you can do with these flavor popping fruits:
- Coconut French Toast Bake – As if that doesn’t sound good enough… now picture it with fresh strawberry syrup on top!
- Strawberry, Basil and Goat Cheese Panini – Strawberries aren’t just for sweets, in this recipe they add a brightness to an otherwise savory sandwich
- Jalapeno Strawberry Ice Cream – I’m a sucker for the ying and yang of spicy and sweet – usually you see combos like this in a spread…but can you go wrong with ice cream?
- Strawberry, Mache and Pepitas Salad – Salads are perfect for strawberries, and this one featuring tamari roasted pepitas adds a nice textural element to the dish
- Strawberry Margarita Recipe – We’ve covered sweet, savory, appetizers and entrees…now onto the mini umbrellas category!