Garden Basics: Florida Strawberries
One of my favorite plants for fall here in Florida is strawberries. The tasty berries are worth the labor of love that it is to grow strawberry plants here.
What are Strawberries?
Even though strawberries themselves are commonly considered a berry or fruit, the plants are actually herbs. Regardless of classification these amazing little herbs make fruit that is many times the weight of the plant itself, often up to a half pound or pound of fruit!
#DidYouKnow #DYK Strawberries are the only fruit with their seeds on the outside of the fruit!
Strawberries in Florida – A Special Situation
When people think of strawberries here in Tampa, they think of springtime harvests, strawberry shortcake dessert, and the annual Plant City Strawberry Festival in March.
In other more northern places, strawberries are planted after the last frost in the spring to pick strawberries in June, hence the popular types of “June-bearing” plants. Down here, it’s way too hot by June for most strawberries to survive in the ground without heavy chemical intervention (and who wants that?). The same strawberries that are left in the ground year after year further north have to be taken out of the ground after they start to succumb to heat, fungus, and insects in Florida. Strawberries here are actually planted in September and October for spring harvests.
Making Great Strawberries in Your Garden
Here’s my recommendations for getting great strawberries!
- Soil – Soil needs to drain well and should be watered every morning before intense sunshine reaches your plants. If you’re using a container, Fox Farm Strawberry Fields soil is wonderful.
- Fertilizer – Shell’s Feed 12-12-12 for Strawberries is my favorite. It’s a natural-ingredients fertilizer created by the owner of Shell’s specifically for strawberries.
- Amendments – Aside from fertilizers, worm castings can be added to any soil for an organic boost. Castings are available to purchase, could be in your soil if you naturally have lots of earthworms, or you can make your own with a vermiculture bin. Working in peat moss or vermiculite will give soil some loft and air. Bone Meal added around each plant and watered in really boosts foliage and flower production.
- Sun – Strawberries like cooler days and lots of sunshine! They need 6-8 hours of sun minimum per day to thrive. If your plants are in a container, make sure they don’t get too dry on warmer days.
- Mulch – industrial growers use landscape plastic to keep weeds at bay, which is an option. But, I truly love using straw. At the end of the season you can till it under for low effort, instant compost and aeration! No plastic in the landfill and happy soil.
- Freeze warning – If there is an upcoming freeze in the winter months, you will need to protect your plants by keeping them dry and either covering them with freeze cover, or bringing their containers inside a covered space like a garage.
Be Mindful when Planting:
- Planting – Do not cover the crown when planting, or the plant will die. If you bought plugs (like we sell at Shell’s Feed) plant the plug at the level of your soil. Pretty easy! We have a Strawberry Planting guide at the store, and can answer any questions.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Despite your best efforts, a few of your strawberry plants may not make it for any number of reasons. Don’t fret! Forgive yourself, and the plant, and put it in the compost so it can contribute to the greater good of the next garden.
For the rest of your strawberries, enjoy the zen experience of watering and fussing over them. It’s not that you actually love them more than your family, but what they give you in return for your devotion is so delicious, it’s hard not to spend lots of time with them. They love the doting, and so will you! Enjoy!
Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply
I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child.
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me. The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!) Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.