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As strawberry planting season nears, here are tips from an expert

Strawberry cluster in a garden. Photo taken 04-12-21
Tyler Jones/UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
Strawberry cluster in a garden. Photo taken 04-12-21

For the average home strawberry gardener in Southwest Florida Dr. Vance Whittaker recommends container gardening, which is especially handy for condo or apartment dwellers.

“Anytime you're gardening in the ground you have to deal with more variables, right? You know, weeds and nematodes and different types of soil fungi, and things like that. So growing them in some kind of container especially if you're not trying to grow a large amount of them can make a lot of sense,” Whittaker said.

He says it is possible to keep potted strawberry plants inside your lanai and keep some of those pests on the outside of your screen.

“You potentially could if you have a screen that’s open on the top and you get plenty of sun,” Whittaker said.

As far as soil considerations, Dr. Whittaker says regular potting soil is just fine, with a timed release fertilizer.

“We grow quite a few strawberries in pots for some of our research and our crossing and things like that. We actually have to do that quite a bit. So the specific recommendations I can give is typically for a strawberry plant. You want it probably in about a gallon sized pot, not too much smaller. For one plant that's helpful because they can fill that up pretty well. Use some kind of slow release fertilizer so that you get some release of the fertilizer over time, because the strawberries don't bear in a few weeks they'll bear for several months if you treat them right. And usually some kind of potting mix that contains pine bark has worked particularly well for us,” Whittaker said.

He also said drainage is important.

“Actually it's very typical to over water plants,” Whittaker said, “It’s just as typical to under water them when you’ve got them in containers because that can happen even if they have drainage in the bottom. You can tend to get them too wet,” Whittaker said.