Growing, Selecting, Planting, and Training Strawberries
Updated: April 8, 2021
The strawberry plant is composed of leaves, a crown (compressed, modified stem), and a root system.
In heavy clay soils, 90% of the roots may be located in the top 6 inches of soil.
This shallow root system is largely responsible for the plant’s sensitivity to water deficit or excess.
Strawberries are the ideal fruit crop for growers with very limited space. The plants are low-growing perennials that can be grown successfully in rows, beds, or even pots, and make an attractive groundcover when not fruiting.
Runners (or stolons) are the strawberry plant’s device for asexual propagation. They arise from buds at the base of leaves in the crown. As the runners grow away from the original “mother” plant, their nodes root and, where they touch the soil, produce “daughter” plants.
Recommended strawberry varieties for Maryland home gardens
Very early maturing variety. Fruit size is small to medium and highly flavored. The standard for early varieties.
Medium to large size fruit produced at the same time or just after Earliglow. Firm, light red fruit with good flavor.
Very large, firm fruit with good flavor. Mid-season harvest. Rated very high in Maryland field trials.
Has Earliglow parentage. Highly colored, conical-shaped fruits. Medium to large size, but bears for a short time in relation to other varieties.
Large, bright red, firm berries. Susceptible to verticillium and red stele.
Productive mid-to-late-season cultivar with very large elongated, flavorful berries.
Has Earliglow parentage. Fruits are quite large, but not highly colored. A high yielding variety in Maryland field trials.
Vigorous plants with medium to large size fruit.
Both of these varieties will give a light harvest over a longer period than the June-bearing varieties. They will generally stop bearing when the weather becomes hot.
University of Maryland release. Sweet, medium-size fruit. Good disease resistance. Most productive in the fall.
Vigorous, disease-resistant plants with medium size berries. Somewhat acidic flavor.
Characteristics of a good site for strawberries
Soil testing is recommended. And soil should be amended with organic matter.
Well-drained soil, as strawberries will not tolerate “wet feet.” If only poorly drained soils are available, build a raised bed.
Daughter plants or “runners” can become rampant, so you may want to consider growing strawberries in borders, containers, or restricted beds.
Set out field-grown plants in March or early April when the soil begins to warm.
Tissue-cultured plants are grown in a greenhouse and are more cold-sensitive, so plant them only after the last frost date. If they arrive early, store them in a refrigerator until planting time.
Trim roots to within 4- to 6-inches of the crown and set plants with half the crown below the soil level with roots fanned out.
Keep new plants well-watered.
Broadcast fertilizer when foliage is dry, and brush residual off leaves. Once plants are in the ground, do not disturb shallow roots by working fertilizer into the soil.
Setting strawberry plants: a) too deep; b) correct; c) too shallow; d) cut roots here before planting
June-bearing varieties typically are trained using either of two systems
Hill system—Space plants 1 ft. x 1 ft. and remove all runners to encourage more flower stalks.
Matted row system—“Mother” plants are spaced 18 to 24 in. apart in rows at least 36 in. apart. Runners are allowed to root freely in all directions and fill in with “daughter” plants. Keep beds narrow (12 in.) if possible, to maximize light penetration. Plantings will be most productive on the edges. At renovation time thin daughter plants to 6 in. between plants—covering the ground but not too crowded.
For June-bearers, flowers are removed the entire first season. This sacrifices early fruit production to encourage strong growth, runner production, and winter survival.
Do not runner profusely, so are planted more closely—about 5 to 9 inches apart in hills. Remove flower buds and runners through early July of the first year and then allow plants to fruit. They can be treated as annuals, or mulched and overwintered to produce a second year before replacement.