Strawberry Growing Guide

Strawberry Growing Guide

Grow Fresh Strawberries In Northern Michigan

There is truly nothing better than fresh strawberries on a summer day! Heading out to our garden to pick fresh strawberries is a summer tradition in our household, and it can be for yours as well! 

Growing strawberries can be fun and rewarding. The best part is they keep coming back year after year, increasing in both size and fruit yield. Our goal is to get you started with this easy-to-follow strawberry growing guide!

(Featured Image: Strawberry Plant by Julie Magro)

What You Need To Get Started

Prep for success! You’ll need the following supplies to start your own strawberry patch:

Select A Site For Growing Strawberries

Strawberries love full sun, so selecting a space that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day will ensure your plant is producing as much fruit as possible. As a smaller plant, strawberries need frequent watering. Select a site that has built-in irrigation, or has easy access to water.

As a fast-growing perennial, strawberries prefer well-draining and sandy soil. The soil we have here in Northern Michigan is a good match for most strawberry plants. If you choose to plant your strawberries in a raised bed or container, be sure to add an organic garden or potting soil that has organic material. Additional compost can be beneficial for both containers and garden beds.

Humans are not the only ones who love strawberries! Rabbits, squirrels, birds and deer will all be eager to visit your strawberry patch. Covering your berries with a lightweight net, or placing your containers in a location that is not easily accessible by animals will help to protect your fruit crop from unwelcome foragers.

How To Plant Strawberries

Select at least two plants to start your strawberry patch. The more the merrier! Multiple plants will encourage cross-pollination, which can greatly increase your fruit yield. Follow the steps below to successfully establish your strawberry plants:

1. Prep

Prep your chosen planting area. Clear out any weeds or foliage in the area, trim back any tree branches that block sun.

2. Site Selection

Pick a large open patch for your strawberries, or choose a container that will allow the plants to spread. Strawberries send out ‘shoots’ that will form new plants.

3. Turn The Soil

Till the spot of land you’ve chosen and amend the soil with a high quality garden soil, compost, and granular fertilizer. Mix well and spread evenly along the surface of your selected area.

4. Dig

Dig a small hole about twice the size of the root mass and space each plant 18”-24” apart so they have room to spread. Pack the soil blend firmly around the stem of the plant and water thoroughly.

5. Water

Keep soil consistently moist throughout the warmer months. In the first season, it is wise to pluck at least 50% of the flowers before they fruit, leading to increased berry yields in the coming years.

6. Fertilize

Top-dress with compost 1-2 times throughout the summer months. Mulch with dead leaves and other organic material in the winter to protect the roots from frost.

A bundle of hand-picked straberries

Strawberries by Kahvikisu

Do Strawberries Need Fertilizer?

For the most part, strawberry plants thrive in our climate and soil here in Northern Michigan. Fertilizer is not absolutely necessary to grow strawberries. However, applying fertilizer can significantly help increase fruit yields and the size of your fruit when it comes to harvest time. 

Strawberries are smaller plants and do not require as much fertilizer as berry bushes like blueberries. ½ tablespoon spread among 2-3 plants is plenty. When using fertilizer, we recommend using an organic, granular fertilizer. 

Be careful to avoid any leaves when spreading fertilizer, as it can kill the leaves. The first application of fertilizer should be at least 4 weeks after the initial planting, as fertilizer can burn young plants if their roots are not yet established. Apply fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the summer, with the last application in August.

When To Harvest Strawberries

Strawberries will ripen at different times depending on the plant. Most strawberries are either June-bearing or everbearing varieties. June-bearing varieties will have a single, large harvest early in the year (most often in June) and will produce a lot of large berries. Everbearing varieties will produce several harvests 2-3 times per season that are smaller than June-bearing varieties.

For a strawberry plant’s first year, it is recommended to pluck 50-75% of the flowers on the plant. Removing these blooms pushes nutrients down to the root of the plant and encourages robust growth before the first winter. It is ok to harvest the strawberries that will grow from the remaining flowers.

Should You Prune Strawberry Plants?

Strawberry plants typically require very little pruning. Any pruning that is done should be on carefully selected leaves. Strawberries spread by ‘runners’ which can sometimes look like a typical leaf and stem. You do not want to cut these runners unless they are spreading in a direction you want to avoid.

You can prune your strawberry plant if you notice unhealthy leaves or stems. Leaves that look dry or brown can but cut at the stem. If you notice any powdery, white mildew, it is important to cut the plant back down to the roots. This can sometimes mean mold or mildew is growing and needs to be removed right away.

Where To Buy Strawberry Plants In Michigan

Strawberry plants in both garden beds and containers can thrive in Northern Michigan. With patches increasing each year, you will be rewarded with more and more berries as time goes on. Starting with fresh, healthy plants is key to growing a thriving strawberry patch.

Bright Lane Gardens sells hundreds of strawberry plants to the local community each year. Offering both June-bearing and everbearing varieties, we can complete your strawberry patch with exactly the plants you are looking for.

Our shop also sells all soils, soil amendments, fertilizers, and tools that are needed to start your berry project. If you’re interested in learning more about our strawberry plants, and other berry plants that we sell, reach out on our contact us page and let us know what you’re looking for!

Strawberries droop over the edge of the container they are planted in.

Strawberry Planter by Sally Butcher