A Comprehensive Guide for Fertilizing Strawberries

fertilizing strawberries

Strawberries are easy to grow due to their high resilience. A few basic mending techniques, along with proper watering and fertilizing, is enough. However, adequate knowledge about all caring and fertilizing techniques will help you get an excellent yield.

Continue reading this article for the best tips on fertilizing strawberries. You will find information on how to fertilize strawberries and learn the fertilization needs of strawberries. You will also find reviews of some of the best fertilizers available in the market for strawberries. This article is your one-stop-solution to all your strawberry-related informational requirements.

Different Kinds of Strawberries

Before you get to understanding the different fertilization requirements of strawberries, you need to know the different types of strawberries that you can grow.

June-Bearing Strawberries

These are the most common strawberries as most cultivars available for commercial use are June-bearing.  In only two to three weeks, these plants can produce a massive crop. Fertilizing only twice or thrice in a season is enough for even June-bearing strawberries.

Everbearing Strawberries

The size of the berries you will get with this type is smaller than June-bearing strawberries. These plants produce crop twice in a season. Therefore, even though their yield is smaller, it is on par with June-bearing strawberries. Caring for everbearing strawberries is similar to June-bearing strawberries. However, you have to do everything twice since the flowers bloom twice a season.

Day-Neutral Strawberries

The berry size of day-neutral strawberries is the smallest. These strawberries grow throughout the season. The yield and berry size are small but evenly distributed throughout the season. Caring for day-neutral strawberries is the most ambiguous task since they grow so fast. If the right amount of nutrients is supplied to the plants, they might grow to produce bigger berries.

How to Care for Strawberries

Even though strawberries are resilient, there are a few things that you need to consider to ensure a good yield.

Understanding Strawberry Roots

It is important to note that all variants of strawberries have shallow roots. What this means is that they absorb all the water and nutrients that are near the surface. It is necessary to keep the soil well moisturized and fertilized since if the water or fertilizer goes too deep, the roots will not be able to carry the necessities to the plants.

Understanding Fertilizer Requirement Clues

Much like any other plant, strawberries, too, display fertilizers’ requirements in a very distinct manner. If you see that the leaves of your plants are getting yellow or pale, the plant requires fertilization as it is not getting enough nutrients needed to thrive. A lack of berries in the plants is indicative of a severe lack of potassium and nitrogen.

Avoid Getting Pests in Your Crops

Most pests feed away on fruits because they are an excellent source of life-sustaining nutrients. Some ways to treat pest infestations are discussed below.

  • You can spray an organic pesticide such as a puree of neem seed oil and garlic. This is specifically great for commercial strawberries that have developed large bugs, such as Japanese mites.
  • Using gritty mulch to keep the soil free of weed. Most weeds take up the fertilizer nutrients that are supposed to help the strawberries grow. Therefore, the target plants themselves are not able to deter bugs and slugs.

Getting Rid of Weeds

Even though there are many pesticides available that can help you do away with weeds altogether, organic farmers do not like using them. Using chemical pesticides lead to compromised quality of the crop.

The best way to get rid of weeds is by either applying organic pesticides such as citric acids or by plucking them manually. You can apply much around the plantation to deprive the weed of any nutrients that they might require to grow.

Avoiding Runners

Since strawberries are perennials, they send out runners that will grow more plants during the next season. While they seem to be positive that the plants personally take care of, they cause more harm than good. Removing runners is vital to ensure that the plantation does not get overcrowded, producing small berry sizes.

Common Problems Faced in Strawberry Plantations

It is only once we understand the issues that need to be avoided that we can see what kind of care strawberries require to thrive.

Grey Mold

Grey mold is not a strawberry-specific disease, and it is a problem that arises in many plants. Grey mold occurs when fungi attack the fruits, flowers, leaves, petioles, and stems of the plants. This is a devastating disease that rots the entire fruit. Low temperature and high humidity are the primary reasons why grey mold frequents strawberry plantations.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew attacks all kinds of strawberries and generally occurs when the soil is not prepared correctly. If the leaf margins are curled or if they have some purple blotching on the surfaces, they are in the early stage of catching the disease. Plucking off affected leaves and putting some pesticide over the plantation is the best way to go about solving the issue.

Pests

Some common pests that occur in strawberry plantations are Japanese mites, slugs, and spider mites. All these pests find their way when the soil does not have enough nutrients to sustain the health of the crop. Improper and over-fertilization can also increase the chances of problems in crops.

Watering Strawberries

Strawberries are perennial plants. However, even the best of strawberry seeds will start to wither in three to four years and will stop producing fruits. Strawberries grow the most fruit in their first season. This is when their roots are the shallowest. Therefore, they require frequent irrigation and fertilization that does not seep too deep into the soil.

Irrigation Requirements

Strawberries are a type of plant that requires frequent watering. The more that water is poured into the strawberry plants, the juicier the fruit you will get. On average, you can provide about one to two inches of water to strawberry plants on a weekly basis. New strawberry plants should be given at least one inch of water every week to help them establish robust roots.

How to Irrigate

Overhead watering of new plants ensures that the water will stay on the surface of the soil for a more extended period of time. However, once the plants have established their roots properly, it is best to use the drip irrigation method. You can also irrigate strawberries by using a soaker hose. Placing the drip hose or tube about two inches away from the plants is the right way to irrigate.

It is important not to continue with overhead watering over time because it allows moisture to stay on the fruits and leaves. When there is too much water on the top of the fruits, it is easier to catch grey mold and rot.

When to Irrigate

During the growing season, watering strawberries every alternate day will help you meet the right water requirements. However, during the non-growing season, it is recommended to water strawberries-only once a week. That much is enough to keep the soil moist while not attracting any moisture-related disease in the plants.

You should always water your strawberry plants in the morning and avoid watering them in the evening. When the plants are watered in the morning, the excess water slowly evaporates towards the day. This is a great way to prevent the plants from sitting on too much water for a long time.

Watering with Caution

You can check if your soil has enough water by inserting your finger into it. If the soil is moist till the depth of about 2-inches, you are good to go. Any more than that will lead to soggy soil, which can be detrimental to plant growth. It can cause the roots to rot and the plants to grow fungi.

Atmospheric Requirements for Growing Strawberries

Even though strawberries are resilient, there are a few things that they strictly require to grow properly. Given below are their soil and atmospheric requirements.

Soil Acidity

The optimum pH level that is required by strawberries is between 6 and 7. A pH level of 6.2 is the optimum level for strawberry plantations. Low pH levels can be fixed by adding lime to the soil. However, high pH levels can be regulated by adding Sulphur to the soil. Whatever solution you require for improving the pH level of the soil should not be applied deeper than 6 inches into the soil.

Temperature

Strawberries are able to grow in a wide variety of temperature ranges. While the optimum temperature requirement is between 60o and 80o F, they can sustain at even 22o F. However, if you are growing strawberries at a low-temperature range, you will have to take proper care to make sure that they do not die to frost.

Humidity

Even though strawberries prefer a fair amount of watering, high atmospheric humidity is not ideal. If strawberries are put under too much humidity, their chances of getting powdery mildew increase drastically.

Nutrients Required to Grow Strawberries

Given below are some of the nutrients that are required by strawberries to grow correctly.

Nitrogen

Strawberries require a large amount of nitrogen to grow correctly. Nitrogen acts as the building block of protein development in plants. The optimum level of nitrogen ensures that the plants are able to grow and yield in the right manner.

The peak seasons when they require extra care and fertilization is during late fall and early spring. Lack of nitrogen during early spring leads to the plants not developing any fruit. This is because the spring season is when the plants require a lot of energy to produce berries. The preferred type of nitrogen that can be used on strawberries is nitrate since it promotes better uptake.

Phosphorous

The reason why phosphorous content is crucial for healthy strawberries is that it promotes cellular division. With the help of cellular division, plants are able to grow energetic and robust roots and structures. This is a critical element to ensure that the plants do not catch diseases easily.

A good amount of phosphorous in the soil ensures that the plants do not wither in mildly unsuitable conditions. The formation of robust roots also helps in better uptake of water and nutrients from the soil.

Potassium

While phosphorous avoids disease formation by strengthening the plant, potassium does so by increasing the immunity of the plant. Potassium in the form of potash is also great for strawberries to produce better fruits.

When the soil has the optimum amount of potassium in it, plants are able to transport sugar from the roots to the fruits easily. Potassium also helps in controlling the stomata and cofactors of many enzyme formations in the plants.

Calcium

Calcium is another nutrient that helps in reducing the susceptibility of strawberries to catching diseases. Calcium helps in building sturdy cell walls that ensure that the plants stay supple and strong to withstand foreign bodies.

Other Nutrients – Micronutrients

Compound nutrients such as Sulphur, magnesium, manganese, boron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, and iron play significant roles in strawberry growth. All of these nutrients help provide the strength and development that is required by strawberries to thrive.

All of these nutrients can be found in most chemical fertilizers. However, natural sources can also help in providing these sources in small quantities in an organic manner.

Organic Matter

Well fertilized soil usually has a lot of organic matter. Strawberries thrive on organic matter. If the soil has plenty of organic matter in it, you will not have to fertilize much as the nutrients from things such as fresh chicken-, horse-, or cow manure.

Fertilizing Strawberries

By now, we know what things need to be taken care of while growing strawberries. We also know the nutrients and soil conditions required by strawberries. Keeping all that in mind, let us look into the fertilization requirements and procedures in strawberry plantations.

Fertilizer Requirements

All three basic nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are required by strawberries in more or less equal quantities. Since we already know the nutrient requirements, it is best to prepare the soil beforehand by using either compost or manure. Doing so will reduce your requirement of using chemical fertilizers on the soil.

Even after preparing the soil, if you see that some nutrients are lacking, you can add some chemical fertilizers to the soil. Commercial fertilizers with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 are ideal for strawberry growth since they provide all the nutrients in equal amounts. However, you can also use 10-05-10 fertilizers for robust plant and berry growth.

Natural substances such as feather meal, soy meal, blood meal, fish meal, alfalfa meal, and manure are great for strawberries. All these substances help to increase the nitrogen and organic matter level in the soil. You can also crush eggshells in the soil to release calcium that will fight slugs infesting the crop.

Fertilization Quantity

Fertilizing strawberries is necessary for better berry growth. However, if you end up over-fertilizing the plants, you will run the risk of excessive leaf growth. The right amount of fertilizer is about one pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer for every 20-foot strawberry row. However, as the plants grow older, only half a pound per 20-foot row will suffice.

Fertilization Timing

The first time that fertilizers should be added to the soil is a month after the strawberries are planted. After the plants have produced fruit, you should add half a dose of fertilizers to help the perennial plants sustain for the next year. This should be done either in late summer or by September end.

June-bearing strawberries should not be fertilized during the spring season. Excess nutrients at the time of growth can invite diseases and increase the foliage size without benefitting the berries. Day-neutral strawberries and everbearing strawberries should be fertilized after the second harvest.

Regardless of the recommended intervals, if you can see any of the fertilization requirement clues, you should immediately provide the nutrients to the plants. Another factor to consider the fertilization recommendation of the commercial fertilizer you will use for your strawberry plantation. However, in such conditions, fertilizers should be added only in moderation.

Fertilization Methods

The best way to fertilize strawberries is by digging holes around the plants and applying fertilizers in these holes. Make sure that the fertilizer is applied at least two inches away from the plants to ensure that they do not absorb too many nutrients at once by coming in direct contact. Side dressing strawberries is the best fertilization technique to be employed.

You should only add fertilizers at a depth of about 8-inches to avoid them being inaccessible to the strawberry’s shallow roots. Make sure that you irrigate the soil well after applying the fertilizer. Irrigation helps the soil in absorbing the fertilizer quickly. Applying mulch surrounding the plantation will help the nutrients stay restricted to your strawberry plants.

Top Fertilizers for Strawberries

We have shortlisted the best fertilizers that you can use to fertilize your strawberry plantations. You will find reviews of each of the fertilizers below.

Fruit&Berry Food

NPK ratio: 4-3-4

If you are a fan of growing different berries and fruits in your field, you will like this product. The low proportion of nutrients makes it ideal to be used on almost any fruiting plant. Since this fertilizer is specifically designed for berrying and fruiting plants, it is sure to be beneficial in your strawberry plantation.

Since this product is completely organic, you do not have to worry about tampering with the purity of your plant’s berries. It is completely safe to use on commercial plants.

Pros

  • Complete organic
  • It is specifically designed for fruiting and berrying plants.
  • Slow releasing formula

Cons

  • The nutrients provided through this fertilizer are too low in quantity.
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Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Plant Food

NPK ratio: 10-5-15

The best thing about Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Plant Food is that it has a slow-releasing formula. With the help of this property, you can go through 3 months interval of fertilizing your strawberries without worrying about them not imbibing the required nutrients.

This fertilizer is rich in micronutrients and nitrogen. The formula is great for promoting larger berry growth. This fertilizer is also rich in calcium. Therefore, your strawberries will be able to grow into strong disease-fighting fruits.

Since the fertilizer is free from any chemicals, it will not interfere with the natural components of the final products.

Pros

  • Rich in nitrogen and calcium
  • Supplies micronutrients to the plants
  • Slow releasing formula

Cons

  • Low phosphorous content
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Winchester Gardens Organic Granular Fertilizer

NPK ratio: 2-3-4

Not all strawberry plantations require high nitrogen fertilization. Some soil profiles are naturally abundant in nitrogen. Therefore, if you are growing strawberries in such soil, this is the right fertilizer for you.

The lightweight formula of this fertilizer is great for providing balance to strawberries if you do not have any deficiency in the soil. It is easy to apply fertilizer due to its sand-like texture as compared to the common coarse texture of such fertilizers.

The fertilizer is water-soluble. This property makes it easy to apply to plantations that require minimum fertilization. Another great thing about this fertilizer is that it provides good organic composition to the soil that helps in quick strawberry production.

Pros

  • Easy to apply
  • Promotes balanced growth
  • Rich in organic matter
  • Can be applied frequently

Cons

  • Not suitable for soil that has nutrient deficiencies.
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Nature’s Care Natural All-Purpose Water-Soluble Plant Food

NPK ratio: 10-6-3

This is another wonderful product from Miracle-Gro that serves as the perfect plant food for strawberries. This is one of the best plant foods available for you since it has almost everything required for great strawberry growth.

The formula is completely organic and safe to use. The water-soluble formula is also easy to apply. Therefore, it will not cause you any trouble after the application. This fertilizer also has a slow-releasing formula, which helps in better nutrient imbibing by the plants.

The only problematic thing about this fertilizer is that it has a very powdery texture. Therefore, you will have to apply a mask while applying it as breathing in feather meal and blood meal components could be irritating to the nose and throat.

Pros

  • Easy to apply
  • Provides all the necessary nutrients
  • Slow releasing formula

Cons

  • It takes a while to dissolve in water.
  • Fine texture requires taking precautions while handling. 
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Greenway Biotech Strawberry Fertilizer

NPK ratio: 8-12-32

Greenway Biotech produces this fertilizer that is specifically designed for strawberries. Therefore, it has all the nutrients that your plants will require to thrive. It is best suited for fighting diseases and creating robust roots.

Other than the 8-12-32 NPK ratio, the fertilizer has micronutrients such as zinc, molybdenum, boron, copper, iron, and manganese. The quality of all the ingredients used is exceptional. All the ingredients are free of any harmful heavy metals and harmful substances. Therefore, your strawberries will grow to be as healthy as possible.

The water-soluble formula allows for easy application along with ease in handling. It is a great fertilizer for balanced strawberry growth.

Pros

  • Designed especially for strawberries
  • Water-soluble
  • Easy to apply
  • Rich in micronutrients

Cons

  • Not suitable for soil that requires extra nitrogen supplementation.
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Down to Earth All Natural Acid Mix Fertilizer

NPK ratio: 4-3-6

This is a light fertilizer that is suitable for acid-loving crops such as strawberries, raspberries, camellia, evergreens, and azaleas. The lightweight formula of this fertilizer is great if your soil does not require a lot of nutrient supplementation. This is a great fertilizer if you are looking to fertilize strawberries after they have grown for two seasons.

With the help of this formula, your strawberries will be able to bloom as quickly as possible. It will also promote better flower and fruit formation in other plants. Therefore, if you like to grow several plants at once, this is a great choice for you.

Pros

  • Completely natural formula for better strawberry growth
  • Helps produce big strawberries
  • Great for other plants as well

Cons

  • The application process might be a little tricky.
  • Not suitable for soil that is already acidic
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Homesteader Hobbles Organic Strawberry Fertilizer

NPK ratio: 4-5-5

Homestead Hobbles is a big name in the fertilizer production industry. As a fertilizer that is specially designed for strawberries, the benefits of this product are unbeatable. This fertilizer is good for old strawberry plants as it will help in producing better fruits.

If you use this fertilizer on new plants, it will help induce immunity into the plants while allowing balanced nutrient distribution. The company guarantees that this product will add vigor to your strawberry plants.

The materials used to produce this fertilizer are alfalfa meal, feather meal, sulfate of potash, gypsum, blood meal, and fishbone meal. All these ingredients are great for providing the required nutrients to the soil in an organic manner.

Pros

  • Designed specifically for strawberry plantations
  • Lightweight formula
  • Completely organic ingredients

Cons

  • It might not be very easy to apply.
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Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you will find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about strawberry plantations.

Can coffee grounds be beneficial to my strawberries?

Coffee grounds are the best substitute for commercial plant food for strawberries. Sprinkling coffee grounds at the plant base before watering will surely help your plants grow better. Coffee grounds are great for keeping pests such as slugs, pillbugs, and sugar ants away from your strawberries.

Can banana peels be beneficial to my strawberries?

Banana peels are a rich source of potassium. Therefore, they help with strawberry plants’ growth. Therefore, banana peels help the plants get strong and immune to diseases. Potassium-rich banana peels are even great for growing the size of berries.

What boosts strawberry fruit production?

The best way to boost strawberry production is by fertilizing the soil properly. With the help of the right nitrogen and potassium addition to the soil, you are sure to yield many berries in a single plantation. Make sure that the soil acidity and atmospheric humidity are also at par with the recommended amounts.

Is it okay to eat first-year strawberries?

It is absolutely alright to eat the strawberries that are produced in the first year of plantation. However, allowing the plants to form fruit in their first year might not be the best way to let them grow efficiently.

The best thing that you can do to improve the quality and quantity of your berry yield is to not allow the first year blossoms to fruit. If you do not let the plants fruit, they will be able to spread the nutrients throughout the plant, which will result in better fruiting next season.

Is it necessary to cut off runners in strawberry plantations?

Cutting of strawberry runners in the first two years of their life is crucial. There are two reasons for doing so.

Firstly, runners take too much of the plant’s energy to produce. Therefore, they reduce berry size and quality. Secondly, runners allow more plants to grow, and an excess of unplanned plants will increase your plantation’s density. Increased density will dissuade the fruit from growing big since they will keep colliding against one another.

What plants should be avoided to be planted near strawberries?

Strawberries are highly susceptible to diseases spread through other plants. Given below is a list of some crops that should never be planted near strawberries. In fact, if you have any of the following crops in your garden this season, avoid planting strawberries in the same soil for the next few seasons.

  • Eggplant
  • Okra
  • Mint
  • Tomato
  • Rose
  • Pepper
  • Potato
  • Melon

Summing Up

Planting strawberries is not that difficult a thing to do once you have the right basics clear in your mind. Using specific grooming techniques while providing enough water and fertilizers in the correct manner is enough to let strawberries thrive.

Since strawberries are extremely resilient and the fruit that they bear is delicious, you should surely consider planting some. Make sure to check out the fertilizers listed in this article, as they are perfect for providing the nutrients that you will require in a strawberry plantation.