Strawberries, whose scientific name is Fragaria ananassa, are hardy perennials in the U.S. They can survive through multiple seasons in North Texas in USDA hardiness zones 5-8. These fruits are also grown as cool-season annuals in USDA zones 9-10, i.e., you plant them in the fall, and they bear fruits in the spring. You will till them under in the summer and wait to replace it with new ones next fall.
In East and Central Texas, including Dallas-Fort Worth, you can plant strawberries in September, while for hotter parts of South Texas, you need to wait until November. For North Texas, plant your strawberries in early spring or late winter.
How to Choose Varieties
Spring-bearing strawberries ripen in February in Texas’s hotter areas, while in North Texas, they ripen as late as June. The best varieties of spring-bearing strawberries to grow in Texas include ‘Sequoia,’ ‘Douglas,’ and ‘Chandler.’
If you are a Texas gardener, avoid day-neutral and ever-bearing varieties as they are best suited for cooler climates, and they don’t do well in this region.
Best soil and planting
Strawberries thrive well in full sun, but they will also withstand some afternoon shade. They require neutral to acidic soil that is well-drained and whose pH values range between 6.5 and 7. These plants can even tolerate alkaline soils whose pH is between 7.5 and 7.8, but they may require supplements since they will suffer iron deficiency.
Plant the crops in raised rows to help improve air circulation and drainage. Space the rows 12-inches apart and let individual plants be 12-inches apart within the row. Your plants should be deep enough for their roots to be fully covered, but don’t bury the crown where leaves emerge.
Fertilizing and Watering
At the time of planting, mix 2-cups of a 15-5-10 fertilizer into every 25-foot row soil. Apply about 3/4-cup per row of a 21-0-0 nitrogen fertilizer after every three weeks as the plants grow.
Water your plants daily during the first two weeks for the transplants to be established. Minimize the watering frequency after a fortnight through the winter, but ensure there is enough water to keep your soil evenly moist, especially in South and East Texas.
Do not water fruits and crowns as this may lead to diseases.
Tips to growing strawberries in containers
You can successfully grow strawberries in containers as well as in the gardens. Here are some tips to help your fruits produce better in containers;
- Avoid overcrowding
Strawberry plants are tiny and can fit in pots and other containers, but they need space when growing. Avoid putting more plants in the pot than the small area can accommodate. Do not plant more than 3 or 4 plant roots per square foot of the soil. Strawberry plants have shallow roots, and you can use the surface area to calculate.
Too many plants in one pot will produce fewer fruits, even if they look lush and green.
- Trim the runners
Strawberries produce runner plants that are not ideal for containers due to limited space. Runners give a beautiful cascade from a hanging basket, but they hinder your plants’ production capacity.
Snip the runners as soon as you spot them to let the plants make more strawberries.
- Provide shade
Strawberries thrive well in temperate regions above and below the equatorial tropic zones. They cannot tolerate tropical conditions without some climate control as they are exposed to heat, fungi, and pests. Growing the fruits in containers expose them to warmer temperatures than those found in the ground.
Container-planted strawberries lack the thick and insulating properties to the roots that are found in the ground. The room temperature rises, especially in dark pots or containers, and this affects the production. You can shade the containers or cover with a reflective material such as aluminum foil to dissipate heat and provide shade to the pot.
You can also spray the pot with some water to cool it off as the water evaporates as it will take some residual heat with it.
- Water regularly
Exposing your plants to heat makes the soil dry out faster than you water it. Ensure that you water your strawberries more often with less water to prevent dryness and sogginess. You can water several times a day, especially in summer. Make sure also that the container drains adequately.
Wet soil promotes the growth of microbes, which could kill your plants.
- Give attention after harvesting.
Strawberries have a complicated life cycle since they originate in the springtime. These plants start growing in the fall of the previous year and after producing a bountiful harvest, they get busy reproducing through runners.
At the beginning of next fall, they start forming buds within their crowns that eventually become next year’s flowers. The flowers will subsequently turn into strawberries, and there is a need to give them tender care through the fall.
Ensure that you provide your plants with proper nutrients to maximize bud formation, which will be harvested as strawberries in the next spring. Use a suitable fertilizer such as 10-10-10 conventional or an ideal organic one in August. Apply approximately 1/3-ounce per square foot.
- Provide more insulation
Your above-ground container plants may get icy in winter, just like they get heated up during summer. If the winter is mild and the temperatures remain in their twenties, you need not worry as your plants will be unscathed. If temperatures fall below the twenties and stay there for a while, your plants could freeze and eventually die.
When the temperatures are too low, wrap your strawberries snugly with an insulating material and place them in your garage to shelter them from harsh winter conditions.
Growing strawberries in Texas can be both fun and fulfilling if you follow the general principles explained here. You can grow them successfully as in-ground plants or as container-strawberries. Pay proper attention throughout their growing season and enjoy a bumper harvest.