By Jennifer Spirko
Strawberries are among the world’s most popular crops, grown in nearly all regions of the world except the Arctic. According to UCLA botany professor Arthur C. Gibson, they have been cultivated at least since Roman times and gathered wild even before that. Most strawberries are grown from runners or transplants, but Alpine or woodland strawberries may be sown from seed. A number of cultivars are well adapted for Idaho.
Choose the type of strawberry you wish to grow: June-bearing, everbearing, or day-neutral. Planting techniques are the same for each. The University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences recommends specific cultivars of each type that are well adapted to growing conditions in the state.
Choose a planting site. Strawberries thrive best in a sunny garden with well-drained soil and a slight slope; the University of Idaho recommends soil at least 8 inches deep with a 2 to 4 percent grade.
Test the soil’s pH, following package directions for your kit. Strawberries prefer mildly acidic soil, with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0.
Amend the soil by working in compost, which loosens and enriches the soil and slightly lowers the pH level. If the soil test showed more alkaline soil, consider more aggressive amendments to lower the pH, such as urea, ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate. If your soil is poor or alkaline, you may have to wait a full growing season before planting.
Dig a hole deep enough to reach, but not cover, the “crown,” or compressed stem of the plant. Space plants about 18 inches apart, repacking the soil firmly.
Water the transplants thoroughly right after planting.
Freeze the seeds in an airtight container for two to four weeks before sowing. Many growers recommend this process to simulate winter weather and hurry germination. Let them come back to room temperature when you are ready to plant.
Add a handful of compost to your potting mix. Strawberries prefer a loamy soil rich in organic matter.
Fill the planting tray, gently packing the soil.
Place three to four strawberry seeds on top of the potting mix in each compartment of the tray. Handle the seeds gently.
Sprinkle the amended potting mix over the seeds, just enough to cover them.
Water the planting tray thoroughly, keeping it moist until transplanting.
After the seeds sprout, thin seedlings to one per compartment.
Transplant mature plants, following the steps in Section 1.