University of Illinois Extension

Strawberries

SelectionStrawberries

Two types are available; spring (June) bearing and everbearing. The best use of everbearing varieties would be for container gardening. In general, they do not produce as well as spring bearing varieties. In choosing spring bearing varieties, consider not only dessert quality but also disease resistance. Red stele and verticillium wilt are major diseases caused by fungi which live in the soil. Spring bearingvarieties with resistance to these diseases and featuring high quality fruit include 'Earliglow,' 'Allstar,' and 'Delmarvel.' Suggested June bearing strawberry cultivars for northern Illinois, in order of ripening, include 'Earliglow,' 'Annapolis,' 'Honeoye,' 'Delmarvel,' 'Seneca,' 'Jewel,' 'Kent,' and 'Allstar.'

Planting

Strawberries should be planted in spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant at a depth so the tops of the roots are just covered by soil. Within a month or so, strawberry plants willStrawberries start producing runners that produce the new daughter plants.

The most popular method of growing strawberries is called the matted-row system. Strawberries are planted 18 to 30 inches apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. These new daughter plants are allowed to grow into a matted row up to about 2 feet wide. Plants growing beyond this boundary should be removed. Another growing method, which requires more care, is called the spaced-row system. With this system, the daughter plants are spaced no closer than 4 inches apart, with all others pulled out or cut from the mother plant. Yields may be higher and berries may be larger with this system because sometimes strawberry rows get too dense in the matted-row method.

When growing everbearing strawberries, the hill system is suggested. With this method, all runners are removed to only leave the mother plant remaining. Another method for using everbearing strawberries is to plant them in terraced beds, pyramids, or barrels. These methods will not be as productive as conventional systems, but they have ornamental value.

StrawberriesCare

For the first season, remove flowers as they appear on strawberry plants. This helps develop more runners and a better crop in future years.

Weed control is necessary when growing strawberries. Methods include carefully hoeing, cultivating, and mulching. Cultivate frequently but shallow to avoid damaging roots. Straw can be used as mulch. Usually herbicides are not suggested for small gardens. If using a herbicide, make sure it is labeled for use on strawberries.

Strawberries are best fertilized about early August in northern Illinois and earlier in other parts of the state. Use ammonium nitrate (33 percent nitrogen) at a rate of 4 to 6 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. Avoid excess nitrogen fertilizer, especially in spring.

Mulching is suggested in late fall to protect strawberry plants for the winter. Severe cold and frost heaving are two potential problems mulching can help prevent. Apply straw to the planting in late November at a rate of about 2 to 4 bales per 1,000 square feet. This gives a depth of 3 to 4 inches over the planting. Gradually rake straw between the rows as weather warms in spring, but be ready to cover plants if a late frost occurs.

Strawberry plantings will need to be renovated periodically to keep them productive. Immediately after harvest, mow down all the foliage with a power mower so leaves are cut about one inch above the crowns.

Rake away all the foliage and debris and remove it from the site to avoid any disease problems. Then spread 10 to 15 pounds of a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12, per each 1,000 square feet of planting area. Using a cultivator, narrow the row of plants to 6 to 12 inches wide. Remove any weeds. If the weather is dry, irrigate the plantings. Make sure to start the renovation process within 7 to 10 days after harvest has finished.

For more information on strawberries, visit our Strawberries & More website.

Small Fruit Crops for the Backyard - University of Illinois Extension