Strawberries are easy to plant and nurture so long as they are planted in the right conditions and at the right time. In Florida, the best time to plant strawberries is in early fall between September and October. if you live in the southern part of the state, you would consider starting a bit later.
Strawberries are low maintenance, and with the right variety, you can harvest a lot of berries in no time. Different varieties do well in Florida, but our best varieties to grow are Festival, Chandler, Camarosa, and Selva. In this post, we’ll equip you with all the information you need to start growing healthy and delicious strawberries. Read on and become a transformed gardener and strawberry farmer.
Step by step guide on how to grow strawberries
1. Choose an ideal strawberry variety
How well your strawberry grows and produces fruit is dependent on its type and environment that it is planted in. If you are in Northern Florida, camarosa variety will grow best there. For central Florida, Festival is best for that area. Other varieties that you can grow in any part of Florida are Chandler, Selva, Oso Grande, and sweet sensation. There’s a breeding program by the University of Florida that comes up with new strawberry varieties meant for planting in Florida climate.
2. Select a suitable spot for planting your strawberries
Whether you choose to plant strawberries directly on the ground or in containers, location is key. Strawberries need sufficient light for about 12 hours a day and warm temperatures between 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Choosing a spot with all these conditions will enable you to have quality and succulent strawberries. Ensure the spot you choose has fertile and well-drained soil. If you are planting strawberries directly on the ground, raise some rows of soil where your plant will grow. This system where soil is raised is referred to as hill system. Ensure your hill in about 8 inches high. These terraces help to keep fruits clean even when it rains because soil won’t splash on them.
3. Plant like a professional
When you already know which variety you want and where to plant, it’s time to get to the actual planting. You can choose to start with seedlings from a local nursery and transplant them since its easier and less involving. If you want some thrill and risk-taking, then growing strawberries from seeds is for you. Germinating strawberry seeds until they grow into seedlings that are ready for transplanting is a delicate, involving but fun process.
When your seedlings are ready for planting, ensure you water the soil for sufficient moisture. Experts advise planting your seedlings in the evening or when the weather is chilly for them to transition effectively from indoors to the outside. When planting, dig a hole and put in your seedling, ensuring the crown is at ground level. Inspect to confirm the hole is not too shallow to cause drying of the roots, which kills a strawberry plant.
4. Caring for your strawberry plant and providing necessary nutrients
Once your plant is planted and well established, its time for pampering as you wait for flowering and fruits. Strawberry plants don’t need special care routines, but they thrive on some love.
Mulching is a process you shouldn’t ignore if you are looking forward to a bountiful and clean harvest. You can use either compost or straw to mulch your strawberries. Mulching helps to keep soil cool while inhibiting weeds and at the same time keep the fruits clean.
It would help if you also watered strawberries regularly for them to thrive. When a strawberry plant is blooming and forming fruits, it needs about two inches of water. When watering your plant, put your finger in the soil to feel the depth of moisture. Strawberries need well-draining soil to keep their roots from rotting due to too much water.
Another essential part of caring for strawberries is by applying fertilizer. You can opt for organic fertilizer such as bone meal or a balanced fertilizer to boost nitrogen levels in soil. A well-fertilized strawberry plant will produce healthy fruits that are not soggy. When using organic fertilizer, applying once a month is recommended. For other fertilizers, you can apply just before planting and add only when your plant demands. You need to be careful when applying fertilizer to growing strawberries since too much fertilizer leads to overgrowing of leaves, which inhibits fruit production.
Pest and disease control are a crucial part of caring for your strawberries. In Florida, the main pest concern is birds, which eat your fruits as soon as they appear. To control them, you can use a simple net to keep them outside your garden area. Strawberries are also prone to insect infestations by caterpillars, aphids, and spider mites. These insects can be eradicated using organic and environmentally friendly insecticides. Diseases such as nematodes, verticillium, and mildew are also common in some parts of the state. You can control diseases by ensuring you plant healthy seedlings from a reputable nursery and using recommended fungicides. For pests and diseases, it is advisable to consult a specialist early enough to help eradicate them.
After all the hard work, it’s time to reap your strawberries. This is by far the most exciting part of planting strawberries. In Florida, harvesting is done between February and March when berries start ripening. When harvesting, only pick strawberries that are red since they won’t sweeten after they are plucked. If more than three-quarters of the fruit is ripe, then the strawberry is ready for harvest. Strawberries do not stay long after harvesting, and you should therefore freeze or preserve any surplus to prevent spoiling. During harvest, it is advisable to keep a close eye on ripe berries and harvest them before they go bad. Harvesting after every three days is the best practice to ensure all fruits are picked before they go bad.
In case you have an overflowing harvest, you might need to preserve some strawberries and store them for use in future. We researched and compiled a few tips to help you preserve and store strawberries. Read on and choose one that works best for you.
Tips on how to preserve and store strawberries
- Strawberries require proper storage to prevent mold and keep them from withering. For short -term storage, you can put strawberries in a tin and place them in the coldest part of your fridge
- If you plan to store your strawberries for months, then freezing is a better option. Frozen berries can last up to five months and can be thawed for baking or making juices and smoothies. Ensure you store berries in a freezer bag to prevent freezer burns
- You can choose to dry or dehydrate strawberries and use them on your cereal. You can either dry them in an oven or use a dehydrator for the best results. After drying for about 12 hours, store them in an airtight container, and they can last for up to a year or two if you put them in a freezer
- If you are open to trying out new things with strawberries, you can make a home-made strawberry jam or preserve. You can search for recipes online and try out one that excites you. Some people also make strawberry wine, which takes up to a year to ferment, but the results are worth waiting for.
Whichever method of preservation you choose will help you enjoy your strawberries to the fullest without worry about them going bad.
Fun facts about strawberries
Here are some interesting facts that you might not have heard before concerning USA’s most popular fruit:
- Strawberries contain 90% water and 8% carbohydrates with very little proteins and fats
- They have numerous health benefits, including improved brain function and relief from high blood pressure
- There’s a strawberry museum in Belgium that is solely dedicated to strawberries and their by-products
- An average strawberry has about 200 seeds
- Strawberry plants are members of the rose family
- Strawberries are different from most fruits since they do not continue to ripen after plucking
- In every 100 grams of strawberries, there are 30 calories
Whether you are a first-time strawberry farmer or you’re planning to do it again, but with more knowledge, this information will come in handy. Planting and nurturing strawberries in Florida and other parts of the world is exciting, especially with the right knowledge.
It would be best if you consulted a professional before you start to have your soil nutrient level checked. If you just want a few berries for yourself and your family, the information in this guide is probably all you need to have a bountiful harvest.
That’s all you need to know about planting strawberries in Florida; we wish you all the best as you embark on this exciting journey.