By Eleanor Jewell
If you live in Tennessee, and would like to plant strawberries, it is important to consider your growing conditions. Strawberries require full sun and well-drained soil in order to thrive. A variety of diseases affect Tennessee strawberries–verticillium wilt, leaf spot, anthracnose, leaf scorch and leaf blight just to name a few. A few strawberry cultivars, such as Allstar and Earliglow, grow well in Tennessee and show resistance to such diseases.
Check the pH of your soil using a testing kit from a nursery. Strawberries thrive in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. You will need to amend your Tennessee soil if the pH is higher or lower.
Loosen the soil with a pitchfork and remove any large sticks, stones or debris. Amend the soil if necessary using lime for a pH below 5.5 or peat moss for a pH that measures above 6.5. Follow the packaging instructions for allocation amounts and application methods.
Plant the strawberry plants after the final winter thaw, which is usually around mid to late April in Tennessee. Dig holes that match the size of the nursery containers holding the strawberries, each hole spaced 2 feet from the next. Space rows 4 feet apart.
Set one strawberry seedling in the center of each hole. Backfill the holes around the strawberry seedlings, patting the soil afterward to remove air pockets. Water the strawberries deeply using a soaker hose after planting.
Keep the soil moist throughout the growing season, to a depth of 1 inch. Tennessee sees a yearly rainfall total of 53 inches, which is plenty of rain to sustain crops. However, weekly supplemental waterings are necessary in lieu of rain.
Fertilize the strawberry plants approximately one month after planting in the Tennessee soil. Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer according to manufacturer’s directions. Tennessee strawberries appreciate a dose of fertilizer in the early spring and after harvesting.
Control weeds around the strawberry plants with a layer of mulch. A 3-inch layer of bark chips will also improve drainage and protect the roots of the strawberry plants from the Tennessee temperature changes.
Harvest the strawberries when they ripen. Ripe strawberries turn from green to red when ripe.
Allow the strawberry plants to die back on their own in the fall. Discontinue watering during this time, resuming when the strawberry plants begin to show signs of growth again in the spring.
Remove dead or frost damaged strawberry plant foliage after the spring thaw using a pruning tool. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the plants during any single pruning.
Do not overwater the strawberry patch. Standing water will rot the plants. If the soil feels moist at a depth of 1 inch, do not add more water. Check the soil again in a few days.