As spring approaches, we can envision the warm sun, bountiful harvests and the longer days ahead.
Flowers start to show up outside, baby chicks make their arrival in feed stores, and seeds and starter plants pop up in nurseries. Strawberries are not only a pretty fruit to plant, but a sweet treat, too!
Strawberries can be a fun fruit to get started with in your home garden that all can enjoy, especially because they are a perennial, meaning they can come back next spring if cared for properly. Of course, March is too early to start planting our spring plants, but we can start to prep our gardens now and gain ideas of what we want to grow in the warmer months ahead.
Strawberries do not do well with freezing temperatures! Planters should be aware of when the last date of frost is in our area, as the frost can damage blossoms reducing fruit yield. When looking for an area to plant your strawberries, there are a few recommendations.
Strawberries planted with northern exposure can help delay blooms if there is risk for a late frost, much of our area can experience a late frost. Mulch and straw can be used to protect the plants from cooler temperatures, retain soil moisture, reduce weeds, reduce fruit rot, and even prevent mud from getting on the berries. Of course, strawberries love the sun. If the summer sun becomes too much for your plants, you can add afternoon shade.
Strawberries can be sensitive, especially in our typical high pH soils in New Mexico. Have your soil tested for pH and nutrient levels before planting. Strawberries like a neutral to a pH of 6.5, any higher and they tend to exhibit signs of iron deficiency (yellowing between leaf veins).
Strawberries do not do well with salinity present in water or the soil and prefer a well-drained sandy loam. Adding in a layer of organic matter several inches into the bed can help with nutrients and water retention, allowing your strawberries to thrive.
Strawberries that are tolerant for our area, regarding high soil pH levels are Wendy (poor winter hardiness), Brunswick, Cavendish, Jewel and Honeoye. More sensitive varieties are Allstar, Chandler and Darselect.
Raised beds can be helpful with soil drainage but will warm up quicker than flat ground. Strawberries should be planted when the danger of frost has subsided and when the weather is still cool.
The strawberries crown should be planted level to the soil surface and have soil placed firmly around the base. Then water should be applied. Plants should be placed roughly 18 inches apart from each other in rows. Avoid overcrowding.
Avoid planting strawberries after tomatoes, okra, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. This can reduce your plants susceptibility to Verticillium wilt. After you have prepped, planted, and watered your strawberry plants, then does the reward come. Berries should be picked in the cooler temperatures of the morning. Strawberries do not increase their sugar off the plant, so pick when they are ripe. The berries should be completely red from top to bottom. Dispose of any damaged or overripe fruit.
Once picked, refrigerate the berries and store between 2-6 days. Remove the tops when you are ready to enjoy!
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 505-565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
- Ready, Set, GROW! Free gardening classes are being offered virtually. “Seed Propagation, Transplanting, and Seed Storage” will be held at 3 p.m., Wednesday, March 15. Registration required; please visit desertblooms.nmsu.edu/grow.html
- Hoop House Construction Workshop: May 4, 2023, located at Wagner Farm in Corrales, N.M. This is a hands-on workshop for hoop house construction and use. Registration required, please reach out to the Extension Office for more information.
- Soil Health Workshop for Small-Acreage Producers: May 22, 2023, located in Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center. Learn soil health principles and different soil management techniques.
Registration required; please reach out to the Extension Office for more information.
If you are an individual with a disability who requires auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 505-565-3002 two weeks in advance of the event.
(Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.)
Sierra Cain, guest columnist
Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.