While other parts of the country have just wrapped up their strawberry-growing season, here in South Florida, we’re just getting started! These low-growing herbs don’t do great in our hot summer weather, but they love the cooler temperatures that fall brings. If you get the plants in the ground now, you’ll have fresh, tasty strawberries in just a few short months!
When to Plant Strawberries in South Florida
Since strawberries can’t survive the summer heat in Fort Lauderdale, we have to grow them as annuals rather than perennials. Transplant the strawberries you picked up from a garden center from October to December. The berries will be ready to harvest in 90 to 110 days after planting them in your garden.
Choose Your Location
Pick a spot in your yard with well-draining soil and that gets plenty of sunshine, about eight hours each day. Consider working organic matter, like compost, into the soil a couple of months before planting.
Raised beds are suitable for strawberries since this ensures the soil is well-draining, so the roots will get plenty of oxygen. Spread some mulch like straw or shredded bark on the surface. This creates a dry barrier between the berries and the soil, so they don’t get mushy, plus it retains moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from growing. It’s also important to practice crop rotation every couple of years. When you change locations of your strawberries, avoid growing them where you previously planted strawberries, eggplants, peppers, or tomatoes.
Strawberries also grow well in containers, even in hanging baskets, which are perfect if you’re tight on space. Plus, if in hanging baskets, the plants are well off the ground, making it more difficult for garden pests to get at them.
How to Plant Strawberries
When growing strawberries in hanging baskets or other containers, you can put about three plants in each one. If planting in a garden bed, space strawberry plants 10 to 18 inches apart. For each plant, dig a hole deep and wide enough so that the roots aren’t squished. The crown—where the stems and roots meet—should be right at the soil surface. Once you’ve filled in the gaps with soil, water well.
If you find that birds, rabbits, and other critters are troublesome in your garden, you can protect your strawberries by covering the plants with netting.
Strawberry Plant Care
When about three-quarters of the surface of a strawberry has turned red, it’s time to pick it!
Water your strawberry plants often, regularly use a well-balanced fertilizer, and keep up on weeding to make sure your strawberries get all the nutrients they need. If there happens to be a chance of frost, cover the plants with a sheet or lightweight blanket to prevent damage to the plants.
When to Harvest Strawberries
When about three-quarters of the surface of a strawberry has turned red, it’s time to pick it! Leaving part of the green stem attached will help the berries last longer. Strawberries stay fresh for only a few days after harvesting, so eat them soon or add to your favorite recipes. If you don’t think you’ll get through all your delicious strawberries within a few days after harvest, you can freeze them to use at a later time.
Are you already dreaming of the strawberry-inspired jams, desserts, and cocktails you’ll be serving in just a few months’ time? Stop by Living Color Garden Center to get everything you need for a productive strawberry harvest this spring!