Strawberries: Now is the Time
Now is the time for Northwest Florida gardeners to plant strawberries for bountiful production of fruit beginning in January and continuing into May. The following procedure will lead to a successful strawberry garden if followed:
The best location for strawberry production provides well-drained, moist, sandy soil with substantial organic matter. It must not be too wet. A fertilizer scheme of 2 lbs of a 6-8-8 fertilizer per 100 sq ft should be broadcasted over the plot, and spaded or disked in. Prepare the bed by leveling out the soil. Commonly, a preferred system is the development of a hill system, which entails making a raised bed 6-8 inches high and 24 inches wide. A raised bed can be filled with well-rotted compost mixed at a 50:50 rate with soil. After bed preparation, provide another application of fertilizer in a single, narrowband in the middle of the bed, 4 to 8 inches deep, but DO NOT apply fertilizer directly below the plants, as the fertilizer may burn the young transplants. Do not use fertilizer with more than 6% nitrogen on strawberries, so that they have less chance of burning and greater chance of setting sweet, quality fruit.
Short day, certified disease free plants for Florida such as Sweet Charlie and Camarosa should be purchased from a reputable nursery.
If growing the plants using plastic mulch or grow fabric, put drip irrigation underneath in the form of drip emitters or bubbler type soaker hose.
When setting out the transplants:
- Keep plants moist before planting
- Spread roots out in fan-shape
- Set plants in moist soil at the correct depth. Do not cover the plants crown with dirt or leave its roots exposed above the soil.
- Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart.
- Pack the soil firmly around the roots, then sprinkle with water. Overhead sprinkling may keep the tops from drying out until the roots can get established.
For best results, strawberries should be mulched. Black polyethylene plastic mulch at 1 to 1½ mil thick is best (completely cover the top and sides of bed before planting). Be sure the bed is firm, formed correctly, moist, and fertilized adequately. Place soil on the edges of the plastic to hold it in place. Cut slits in the plastic for the transplants.
When using alternatives like straw, bark or other natural organic materials mulch to a depth of 1 to 2 inches, but do not completely cover the plant.