Site Selection

Strawberries grow best in a sunny location with deep, well-drained sandy loam soil with a pH of approximately 6.2. The plants do not tolerate extremes in pH, either below 5.5 or above 7.0. Determine pH by testing the soil, and follow recommendations to adjust the pH accordingly a year before planting. (Contact your county's Cornell Cooperative Extension office for more soil test information. See www.cce.cornell.edu/local_offices.cfm.) Lime and other soil amendments that are used to adjust pH require at least two months of warm weather to work, so don't wait until the fall before planting to apply them.

Plants can be productive over a broad range of soil types, but avoid extremes. Heavy clay soils retain moisture but are often poorly drained, while sandy soils drain well but require irrigation. Add organic matter to sandy or clay soils to reduce those shortcomings.

Adequate drainage is essential for healthy strawberries. If your site is poorly drained, plant on ridges or in raised beds. Strawberry plants are shallow rooted and benefit from irrigation. Consider using irrigation to prevent yield reductions caused by drought, particularly on raised beds, which can dry out quickly. Drip irrigation works well for home gardens.

Keys for Success

Cover plants with mulch when nighttime temperatures approach 20 degrees F. In early spring, rake mulch off the plants into the space between the rows.

To get good production and a long-lived planting, renovate the planting by mowing it after harvest.

When the planting starts to decline, generally after about the third year of fruiting, start a new planting with virus-indexed plants purchased from a reliable nursery.

Do not plant strawberries in an area where they were recently grown. Also avoid planting them where crops in the tomato family (Solanaceae, including eggplants, potatoes, and peppers) have been grown.

Before planting, find out about the soil and its history. It may harbor troublesome pests, particularly perennial weeds or weed seeds, insects, soilborne diseases, or nematodes. Control insects that reduce strawberry yields, such as white grubs, strawberry root weevils, and European chafers, by growing a crop other than strawberries for a year before planting.

In soils where the fungi causing red stele and verticillium wilt are known to be present, plant only resistant cultivars. Northeaster, Allstar, Cavendish, Redchief, Scott, and Lateglow are resistant to both red stele and verticillium wilt. Honeoye, Kent, Raritan, and Jewel are susceptible to these two diseases.

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