A commenter asked for tips on growing strawberries recently. This is an important subject! Because although strawberry plants are one of the easiest crops to grow, getting a consistent harvest of berries in any significant quantity takes a lot of work.
First of all, let’s talk adaptation of species.
There are two different ways that plants pass their genetics into the future, one is by making seeds, the other is by spreading “vegetatively”– essentially cloning themselves through runners or rhizomes. Strawberries are the latter. This is important because it means that although they do make seeds (and the fruit that carries the seeds) what they really love to do is make runners. I like to say that strawberries are their own weeds. Left to itself, a strawberry bed will quickly become so thick with plants that you can hardly see the soil between them.
And when this happens, the plants stop making berries in any significant way.
To fulfill its potential, each strawberry plant needs about one square foot of space all to itself. If you want to grow actual berries, not just lots and lots of strawberry plants, rule #1 is clip the runners whenever they appear!
But, you will doubtlessly miss that moment, frequently, and the runners will touch down and grow into cute little “daughter” plants. So rule #2 is be ruthless and rip those cute baby plants out. I know it’s hard but, take a deep breath, be strong. Think about strawberry shortcake.
The next important thing about strawberries is that the plants are short lived, designed to be replaced (or over-run) by their offspring. The first year after planting you will get a few berries, but mostly this is the establishment year. The second year will be the banner year, the third year should still be decent, but by the fourth year the plants are basically spent.
What this means is that you can’t pick a place, plant a strawberry bed and that’s it forever and ever, amen. Nope. Rule #3 is to keep things moving, keep things fresh. Every year, you have to take some of those babies that you pulled up and plant them somewhere else. They will be next year’s strawberry shortcake.
And if this all sounds like a lot of work, wait until harvest comes! It’s all well and good to dream of growing enough strawberries to binge on in season, and still put a few gallons in the freezer, but the reality of that is spending 30-45 minutes squatting in the strawberry patch, every other day for a few weeks in June. And then another 30-45 minutes processing each batch for the freezer.
Like I said a few weeks ago, likely the most time consuming crop I grow.
But 100% worth it.