How Do I Plant Strawberry Seedlings?

Eugene P.

Planting strawberry seedlings can be a simple and rewarding process if some basic rules are followed. One of the most important things to know is that the location of the plantings is vital for success. The soil must be prepared properly, have the right nutrients in it, not be overly fertilized and should be in full sun. The way the plants are prepared for and then put into the ground also can contribute to a successful harvest. Strawberry seedlings can bear fruit for anywhere from three to seven years in the right situation.

Strawberries.
Strawberries.

The first thing to do is choose where to plant the strawberry seedlings. This area should be in full sun, meaning it gets at least six hours of sun every day without obstruction. It also should be an area where no strawberries, eggplants, tomatoes or other nightshade plants have been grown in at least three years, to ensure that the soil has regained the elements the seedlings need and to prevent the occurrence of a disease that could kill the strawberries. The soil also needs to be well aerated and turned and all weeds removed.

Strawberries must be picked by hand.
Strawberries must be picked by hand.

The soil in which the strawberry seedlings will be planted can be fertilized, if desired, although the type of fertilizer is important. The fertilizer should be balanced and should not be too strong so the plants will not be burned, or over fertilized. This means the fertilizer should have a nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) level of about 5-5-5, but no more than 10-10-10, information that is usually found on the fertilizer bag. There are fertilizers that are advertised to promote incredible amounts of growth in plants, but these are very strong and heavy in chemicals and can cause problems in the garden in later years.

Location is very important when planting strawberry seedlings.
Location is very important when planting strawberry seedlings.

The strawberry seedlings themselves also should be prepared for planting. If the plants were purchased as seedlings, a gardener should ensure that they were hardened off at the nursery. If they were not, or if they were raised from seed, they need to be slowly exposed to daytime conditions and sunlight a few hours every day for a week or two before being planted permanently outside to ensure that the shock does not harm the plant. When it is time to plant the strawberry seedlings, it is important to make sure the roots are loose and airy, with any chunks of soil broken up. A plant that has become root bound in a container might not do well once planted unless the root system is gently broken up and freed.

Specifically formulated fertilizer can improve the health of strawberry seedlings.
Specifically formulated fertilizer can improve the health of strawberry seedlings.

Finally, planting strawberry seedlings is fairly easy. The roots should be planted deep enough so the crown of the plant, the swollen area just above the roots, is level with the soil. The plants also should have a sufficient amount of space between them, because some varieties of strawberries can spread out quite a bit. Once planted, they should be watered regularly and the soil should be checked to make sure it is loose enough for the water to drain properly and prevent the roots from rotting.

In certain growing zones, some varieties of strawberries can either be left to overwinter in the ground with some hay or tarp tossed over them, or they can be uprooted and stored in a cool, dark place for the winter. Most strawberry plants will produce fruit for three to seven years but, after that, will only produce green foliage and eventually die. It is important to rotate strawberry crops so the soil has a chance to rejuvenate itself from year to year.

Strawberries should not be planted where tomatoes, eggplants, or other members of the nightshade family of plants have been grown.
Strawberries should not be planted where tomatoes, eggplants, or other members of the nightshade family of plants have been grown.

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