Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Soil and Sun Requirements for Growing Strawberries

Planting strawberry seedlings

Planting strawberry seedlings

Strawberries require full sun to thrive—a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight and up to 10 hours is ideal. Your soil should be slightly acidic, about 5.5 to 6.8 pH. A soil test is your best bet for making sure you have the right pH and nutrients.

If not, amend your soil to the correct levels, and work 2 to 3 inches of compost into the soil before planting to add nutrients, improve drainage, and increase microbial activity, all of which benefit your plants. You can also use a general all-purpose slow-release fertilizer, preferably a 10-10-10 variety, or consider special strawberry food that’s formulated just for this purpose.

There are also some other considerations you need to make when choosing a site for your plants. The right site will help lower disease and insect pest attacks.

Choose a spot away from trees and buildings that cast shade for more than a few hours a day. Also, plant beyond the root zone of large trees—roughly the same size as the tree canopy—to make sure your strawberries don’t have to compete for water and nutrients.

Your planting spot should also include loamy, well-drained soil that doesn’t accumulate standing water after a rainstorm. In addition, higher ground minimizes frost damage and increases air circulation, which allows berries and leaves to dry out faster and reduces the prevalence of some diseases.

Strawberries will grow in part shade and heavy clay soils with poor drainage, but growth and fruit production will be disappointing. Be careful not to plant in areas of the garden that have recently hosted eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes. These are all prone to verticillium wilt, which can also infect strawberries.

Strawberries do not grow well next to fennel or brassicas plants such as cauliflower, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts. Consider planting companion plants to help your strawberries thrive. Best bets to grow alongside strawberries are garlic, beans, lettuce, spinach, peas, or thyme.

Be sure to thoroughly weed your new strawberry patch ahead of time, as well as keeping it weed-free throughout the growing season, so that weeds won’t compete with the shallow roots of strawberries for water and nutrients.

Where have you planted your strawberries? What criteria for site selection has worked for you? Please share your ideas with us.

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