Planting Strawberries in Your Home Vegetable Garden

This year marks the first year I added strawberries to my home vegetable garden. In fact I started my strawberries from seed. Through my own account, and the success I am having with them this year, I wanted to post what I did that yielded to me some great results.

You have two choices to start with when it comes to strawberries, an already existing plant that you buy from your home or garden center, or starting them from seed. If you are fairly new to gardening and want to add strawberries it will be much easier for you to start with an already existing plant. However, if you are up for a challenge (albeit a small one), like me, seeds are the way to go.

Also, I chose a variety of strawberry that produces runners. This means that the main plant will shoot off, what look like vines, however that runner will produce another strawberry plant. Then that new plant will produce more runners and the process continues to repeat itself. If planned correctly you can literally plant one seed and have an entire area of strawberry plants within one to two growing seasons. That is what I did. I started three strawberry seeds indoors in a humidity dome, then moved them outdoors about mid May. Now in July, those 3 plants have evolved into over 15 plants. It was much higher but a rabbit somehow got behind the protective fencing I set up.

If the variety you choose has runners at some point you will need to cut some of those runners back once the area you have chosen for your strawberries becomes filled. If you don’t, the strawberries will forever spread. So unless you are great friends with your neighbor, get into the habit of cutting back some runners.

If you are starting from seed, make sure you start them indoors about 8 weeks prior to the last frost in your area. I like to then add a couple more weeks on to the frost end date just to be sure.

Many varieties of strawberries are versatile when it comes to the soil’s pH level. They will grow in the range of 5.5 to 7.0 (acidic to neutral). That is a fairly wide range which makes strawberries easy to grow once they are outdoors.

Although they grow best in full sun, strawberries will grow nicely in partial shade. In fact I have mine planted in an area next to my corn and they are doing great given the corn will shadow them from 2:00 on.

Give your strawberries a moderate watering, meaning the soil your strawberries are planted in should be moist but not saturated. if you do not have a water moisture reader, stick your index finger about an inch into the ground to feel the moisture of the soil.

One downfall of strawberry seeds is their life span isn’t great. Expect 95% to 100% germination rate for seeds under one year and expect lower germination rates with seeds that are older.

Home Vegetable Gardening – Taking Care of Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot occurs because the soil in your home vegetable garden is deficient in calcium. It also occurs when the weather in your area has been considerably wet followed by an immediate dry period.

Blossom end rot most notably affects peppers, squash, tomatoes and watermelon. As you can see in the picture, it looks like a dark circle and spreads to the end fruit as the vegetable will then look like it is rotting.

If not taken care of it could spread to the remaining of the unaffected portion of your garden and also lead to additional or secondary rotting.

Here are steps you can take to control blossom end rot in your home vegetable garden.

Prior to planting any vegetables, always obtain a pH level reading on your soil conditions. You can obtain good testing kits at your local garden center that will give you the amount of calcium you have in your soil.

Prior to planting any vegetables, always obtain a pH level reading on your soil conditions. You can obtain good testing kits at your local garden center that will give you the amount of calcium you have in your soil.

The test kit you purchased in step one should also give you the pH reading. If the pH reading is not highly acidic then add a little gypsum to bring the pH level to a more stable reading.

Finally, make sure you add some mulch over top over your topsoil so that the ground maintains an even moisture level and avoid excessive fertilizing so you do not throw out of balance all of the work you did in the previous steps. Just continue to monitor your soil conditions throughout the growing season and make adjustments as necessary.

Blossom end rot can do a lot of damage in your garden, but if you take the proper steps to avoid the condition, you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary headaches. Home vegetable gardening is meant to be enjoyable. Don’t let blossom end rot ruin your day or growing season.

Adjust Your Home Vegetable Garden’s PH Level

I read in a book once that your pH level does not matter when you grow vegetables and that you should really ignore it. The problem is if you have soil that is too alkaline and try to plant tomatoes, they will taste terrible or even worse not grow at all. That is because tomatoes love your soil to be on the more acidic side of the pH scale.

If you don’t remember from high school chemistry class, the pH scale is a range that lets you know how acidic or alkaline something is. The scale goes from zero which is the most acidic, to fourteen, which is the most alkaline. Seven is considered neutral.

Now that you know what the pH scale is the next step is to find out what the pH level of your soil is. There are a variety of tools you can use including having your local co-op do the reading for you. Each varies in cost and usually the higher the cost for which one you choose the more detail you will receive about your soil. You can make a stop at your local home or garden center and pick up a pH soil tester for as little as four dollars.

Once you have your tester and have followed the tester’s instructions to obtain your pH level reading you are ready, if necessary, to adjust your soil to get it in the level for the fruits and vegetables that you want to grow. If you grow a large variety of fruits and vegetables then you will want to keep your soil’s range in the 6.0 to 7.5 range. Most vegetables and fruit do really well here.

Regardless of where your soil ends up on the pH scale, if you have to make adjustments to it using the suggestions below, it is best to do so in the fall months. This will allow for enough time for proper breakdown of the items listed below.

Acidic Soil

If your soil is too acidic, meaning it falls below the optimal level of 6.0 (although some vegetables grow very well at 5.5), here is what you can do to raise that level.

Lime

There are two types of lime you can add to your soil. Which one you will need is based on the results of your pH soil test. The two types are calcitic and dolomitic.

Calcitic lime contains just calcium where as dolomitic contains both calcium and magnesium. Your soil tester will basically tell you what your soil has and which one you need. For example if you need to raise your soil’s pH and have ample amounts of magnesium then you only need to use the calcitic lime, otherwise use dolomitic.

Combine your application of the lime you choose with heavy amounts of good compost from your compost pile that I know you are keep around right? If not, you should start one immediately.

Alkaline Soil

If your soil is too alkaline and is above 8.0 on the pH scale, then here is what you can do to lower it to put your soil in that optimal range.

To reduce your soil’s pH level there are a number of things you can do, all of which are natural and safe to your home vegetable garden. As before, adding good quality compost to your soil helps tremendously, but the fall you should work in some wood shavings, pine needles, peat moss if available in your area and plenty of leaf mold. An equal combination of all of these will help.

Maybe you will get lucky and your soil is perfect so you will never need to make any adjustments. But why take that chance. Spend the four dollars, get your soil’s pH level just to make sure. Give your home vegetable garden every advantage it can have so your fruits and vegetables will thrive.