Strawberries are low-growing herbaceous plants with a fibrous root system and a crown from which arise basal leaves. The leaves are compound, typically with three leaflets, sawtooth-edged, and usually hairy. The flowers, generally white, rarely reddish, are borne in small clusters on slender stalks arising, like the surface-creeping stems, from the axils of the leaves. As a plant ages, the root system becomes woody, and the “mother” crown sends out runners (e.g., stolons) that touch ground and root, thus enlarging the plant vegetatively. Botanically, the strawberry fruit is considered an “accessory fruit” and is not a true berry. The flesh consists of the greatly enlarged flower receptacle and is embedded with the many true fruits, or achenes, which are popularly called seeds.
Key benefits of Strawberries:
Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving — about eight strawberries — provides more vitamin C than an orange.
- Strawberry plants require 6-10 hours a day of direct sunlight, so choose your planting site accordingly.
- Strawberries are tolerant of different soil types, although they prefer loamy soil that drains well. Ideally, begin working in aged manure or compost a couple months before planting. If you have clay soil, generally mix in 4 inches or more of compost, and rake the clay soil into raised mounds to further improve drainage. If your soil is sandy, simply cultivate lightly to remove weeds, and mix in a 1-inch layer of rich compost or rotted manure.
- Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7. If necessary, amend your soil in advance of planting. If soils in your area are naturally alkaline, it is best to grow strawberries in half-barrels or other large containers filled with compost-enriched potting soil.
- The planting site must be well-drained. Raised beds are a particularly good option for strawberry plants.
- Practice crop rotation for the most success. Unless you plan to amend your soil each year, do not plant in a site that recently had strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant.