I love strawberries! There is nothing better than biting into a big juicy berry.
However, for the gloriously green strawberry plant to produce those luscious berries, it needs quite a bit of growing power. This is where fertilizer comes in.
My first strawberry patch didn’t yield the succulent berries I had hoped for, and I was quite disappointed, but a friend suggested I need to look into how much to fertilize and when to fertilize strawberries for the best harvest.
When to Fertilize Strawberries?
Early spring and late fall are when strawberries need a growth boost. Fertilize strawberries one month after planting, and fertilize again when the strawberry is matured using half the dosage of fertilizer.
I find that using 10-10-10 fertilizer for both June bearers and ever bearers, which is an equal ratio of 10 parts nitrogen to 10 parts phosphorus and 10 parts potassium, does the trick when it comes to fertilizing my strawberries.
The when of fertilizing my strawberry plants helps determine whether they will produce a firm and sweet crop of large fruits or whether I will end up having a crop of spoiled, mushy berries.
Fertilize too early and the plants will grow too dense, making them ideal targets for infections and disease. If I fertilize too late, the berries become soft and mushy.
Talking about fertilizing my strawberry plants, timing is the key.
Step One: Fertilize the Soil
When you are preparing your garden bed for strawberries, you would create a mix of soil, organic material like compost, and fertilizer. This is the first instance when you would fertilize your strawberries.
Be sure to apply a generous amount of fertilizer, but no more than one pound of fertilizer per 20 feet of garden bed. Too much fertilizer could cause the seeds or seedlings to suffer a mineral burn.
Step Two: Decide What Variant Strawberry You Have
If you have a June-bearing strawberry, you would not fertilize it late in spring. This is because the fertilizer would lead to the plant growing too dense, sickening, and yielding soft berries that rot easily.
Instead, fertilize when the plant has already been harvested, and use this opportunity to foster runners.
Step Three: Signs Your Strawberry Needs Fertilizer
While the rule of thumb regarding the “when” of fertilizing a strawberry states the beginning of spring and during fall, there are signs that you can look for to help you know exactly when to fertilize.
I always think of my strawberry plants like pregnant mommies. They put everything into bearing those juicy fruits, and once these have been plucked, these plants are really tired.
Wilting and general loss of vitality can be seen in the plants, and this is when the strawberry plants need fertilizer the most. Therefore, I recommend fertilizing strawberry plants after the harvest.
A late-season fertilizer boost will encourage growth and a return of vitality. Strawberries require substantial amounts of nitrogen, and I give my strawberry plants a boost with 10-10-10 or a blood meal fertilizer.
Either one of these options will address the issues of wilting and lack of growth that follows harvesting the berries.
If I am not sure whether my strawberry plants need nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus, I use a pH kit to test the soil pH.
This can also indicate when I need to add a nitrogen-based fertilizer to help raise the soil pH.
Step Four: How Often to Fertilize Strawberries
You should fertilize your strawberries at least once per season. Be sure not to fertilize before you intend to harvest the strawberries as this causes soft and easily rotten berries.
When you have harvested the berries is usually a good time to fertilize.
For everbearing and June-bearing strawberries, I like to fertilize them after harvesting the berries.
This ensures I have sweet but firm berries, and I can then boost the plant to recover from the berry formation process. Fertilizing at this point will encourage leaf growth and help runners to form.
A few weeks after fertilizing, I can usually begin to transplant runners and make new strawberry beds.
The other popular variant of strawberry to plant is day-neutral strawberries. These strawberries like to enjoy their fertilizer during the summer months.
It encourages the growth and formation of new berries to fertilize at the correct time, namely June through August.
Frequently Asked Questions about When to Fertilize Strawberries
When should I fertilize my strawberries?
While many strawberry growers recommend fertilizing every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer, this is not necessary when you have prepared your garden bed correctly. Strawberries love organic fertilizers such as compost and manure. Add a good quality balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to the garden bed before planting. Fertilize once a season to ensure the berries are firm and juicy and to prevent rapid plant growth and the spread of disease due to the lack of air circulation among the thickened leaves of the strawberry plants.
Do my strawberries need fertilizer?
Strawberries love nitrogen, and a good nitrogen-based fertilizer in early spring is a good investment in a great strawberry harvest. Be sure not to fertilize before you harvest to ensure a healthy fruit crop.
Can you over-fertilize strawberries?
While nitrogen will encourage healthy growth, it can also cause mushy plant tissues to form. The result is soft berries that will attract garden pests such as beetles and worms. To prevent over-fertilization of your strawberry plants, be sure to fertilize at the right time. This is once a season after harvesting the berries in early spring and fall.
The Final Fertilizer
I love my strawberries to be firm and juicy. Nothing is as icky as a strawberry that is soft and mushy.
It will lack flavor and invite disease if left on the plant. By fertilizing at the right time, I can ensure my strawberry plants produce healthy, firm, and juicy strawberries that are a delight to pick and eat.
Be smart and fertilize in early spring and fall but not before harvest time.