By Carrie Terry
Strawberries are creeping plants that grow low to the ground and survive for years, to produce fruit every spring and summer. Although strawberries are hardy and can survive even in northern states like Illinois and Maine, they require long days of bright sun and warmth to flower and bear fruit. According to the University of Florida IFAS extension, the spring, summer and fall seasons in peninsular South Florida offer ideal strawberry-growing conditions in regard to light and warmth.
Plant strawberries in fall in South Florida, before any freezing occurs. This gives the berries time to establish growth for their flowering in November and spring fruit production. The best time to plant strawberries in South Florida is in late September to mid-October.
Find a site that gets full sun for at least eight hours every day, even during the winter. Although strawberries will grow in partial shade, they won’t bloom or bear fruit. Rake the site and eliminate any old growth, weeds or rocks, as strawberries don’t grow well with competition.
Build a raised bed for strawberry planting to ensure good drainage, as much of South Florida’s soil gets boggy and soupy. Pile a well-mixed combination of half quick-draining soil and half organic compost 4 to 6 inches high on your chosen site, then mix 10-5-10 fertilizer into the top 2 inches of the strawberry bed.
Plant strawberry seedlings on an overcast day or in morning or afternoon, to protect them from mid-day heat in South Florida. Plant the seedlings in shallow sites, so that the soil level falls at the top of their root balls. Place the seedlings at 18 to 30 inches in the row and in rows at 3 to 4 feet. Dig trenches 2 to 3 inches deep between each row, to further raise the strawberries and keep their roots out of the water.
Water the strawberries with 3 inches of water immediately and put them on a consistent watering schedule of 20 to 40 minutes on low water flow once a week.