"Seventy dollars! You spent seventy dollars on strawberry plants!"
This was my wife talking not too long ago, looking over the bank statement. Now, if you ask me, there was a tiny bit of over-reaction there. It wasn't like I took money from our children's mouths to feed my strawberry habit. It was more like ... it was more like ... I got a little carried away.
The thing is, growing strawberries is so clearly worth it. It's not especially hard, and there's nothing--literally nothing--like a fresh strawberry.
So here it is ... in no particular order, my best tips for growing strawberries:
- Buy transplants and use containers. Don't be a hero. Forget about growing them in the ground and starting from seeds. You'll just make yourself miserable. You can grow a single strawberry plant in a smallish container, six in an EarthBox, or if you want to go crazy, up to 36 in a stackable container, like the one I use from AgroTower. These stackable towers are all the rage nowadays, especially in South Florida, and they work great for strawberries. A single tower costs about $60, you don't need fancy irrigation systems, and it looks pretty cool.
- Snip off the runners as they grow. You might think more runners would equal more strawberries, but it doesn't actually work that way. You'll get bigger, better fruit from plants with no runners. You can also snip off the first set of flowers if you want, but this isn't mandatory.
- Don't forget to fertilize! Why is it that so few people use fertilizer? Here's the thing: if you're growing any plant in a container, you have to feed it for it to perform. This is doubly true of plants you want to, you know, eat. Use a good vegetable fertilizer. Follow the label directions.
- Give them lots of sun. The more, the better.
- Keep the dirt evenly moist, but not soaking. This will probably mean watering once or twice a week, depending on the size of the container.
- Don't let the developing strawberries rest on dirt. You'll end up with rotted fruit. Let the berries hang over the edge of whatever container you're using as they swell and ripen.
- Harvest early and often. Pick the berries as they become ripe, but don't wait too long. People aren't the only animals that like vine-ripened strawberries. You'll have competition from birds, squirrels, and even rats. And if you live in my house, children.
Florida is actually a major strawberry producing state, and right now is full-on strawberry season. So don't settle for commercial fruit--grow your own. Because like they say, homegrown is always the best.