A Three Year Pruning and Management System For Growing Strawberries In The Home Garden

Growing strawberries in the home garden is a great way to get your own supplies for strawberry shortcake. (well, at least the topping half of those supplies- growing cake is a little past our home fruit garden). :-)

Growing Conditions

Like all small fruit, growing a great strawberry means paying attention to a few small details.

Like full sunlight. Berries really want full sunshine- or at a minimum 6-8 hours of hot sun a day- to grow a good crop.

Like adequate water. These fruit are over 95% water and if they don't get enough, the berries will be small and tough.

Organic matter in the soil. This helps the berries in a wide variety of ways- from feeding to evening out soil moisture and berries grown on high-organic level soils will be a sweeter tasting berry because of the lack of stress these soils create.

Good fertility. The strawberry is fairly shallowly rooted and providing adequate nutrition in the form of compost or composted manure is key to growing large berries.


Strawberry plant just starting to flower.

Growing Instructions

Plant new shoots from the nursery into rows- plants approximately 18 inches apart and the rows 3-feet apart.

Feed and water them. The mother plants will produce runners after flowering and fruiting. These runners are your next season's crop of plants and each will- as they mature- turn into a mother plant.

Expect to get 3 years (give or take) from each mother plant before it starts to lose productivity.

Training The Berries- System

The problem of course is that strawberries continue to produce runners - and the runners produce runners and sooner than later, the strawberry patch is a mess of runners and fruiting plants and dead plants. It's a mess.

So. Establish a bed system. One such system for a small garden is described below.

In year one

Allow the mother plants to send out runners to both sides of them. This will spread the bed out to approximately 3 feet wide.

Year Two

Take a crop from the patch and after the crop has been done, dig up (discard) all the original mother plants. Add compost to this soil, remove weeds and rake it smooth. Allow (and train) runners from the outer two rows to colonize the inner row. Dig up/destroy runners trying to go outside rather than towards the middle.

Year Three

after fruiting harvest, remove the plants from the outer foot of each side of the row and clean up and compost those beds.

Allow / train the runners from the middle to colonize the outer rows again.

In this way, your bed is constantly renewing itself.

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Longer and Higher Yielding Cycle

Note this can be done on a two or three year cycle as well - fill in the center of the bed - allow to sit for several years while keeping the outside clean of all runners. When ready to renew - allow runners to establish to outside and remove the central row.

It moves from one wide row to smaller thinner rows and you should obtain roughly the same crop each year from this system.

You get rid of weeds (always a problem in strawberry patches) and always have young and vigorous plants producing berries for you.

If you want to establish a new bed, simply dig up a few extra rooted runners in the spring and move them to the new row.

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