Strawberries are juicy, delicious, and extremely healthy. Even many people who don’t eat much fruit tend to eat strawberries, and if you decide to grow strawberries yourself, you’ll have to plan ahead for the endeavor to be successful. Some problems can occur when you grow your own strawberries, and one of those problems is a very small size.
Strawberries: The Basics
People love strawberries, but if you wish to grow some yourself and you’ve heard stories about how difficult they are to grow, not to worry because once you decide to follow some tips and suggestions, you can grow them successfully much easier.
For starters, you’ll be planting the strawberries either in the spring or the fall, depending on which growing zone you’re in. You can plant them in the ground or even in containers if you like, but they must be planted the right way.
Strawberry plants need to be planted 18-inches apart so their roots are not overcrowded. The soil should be slightly acidic – a pH of 5.5 to 6.8 is best – and they should be placed in a location that gets a minimum of eight hours of sun each day.
If you mix some potting soil or compost in with the regular soil, the strawberries are likely to do better, and they should be watered once a week with 1- to 1.5-inches of water. Do not, however, water the leaves.
If you feed your strawberry plants with a continuous-release fertilizer, it will promote great production of the fruits. When you harvest the strawberries, always do so in the coolness of the morning, then refrigerate them immediately.
Is That All There Is to It?
Naturally, there’s a bit more to growing strawberries than these few tips, but these are the basics of the process and things you must pay attention to if you want to end up with plump, healthy strawberries.
Strawberry plants are perennials that die back during the winter months and start growing again in the spring as the soil gets warmer. In places such as Florida and others, you can see strawberries bloom in February, while in places further north, you may not see them until June.
In the second half of the summer, strawberries typically take a second rest, and this is when you’ll want to keep them weeded well and lightly watered. Then in the fall, they will perk up again and start producing.
If you aren’t sure when you should plant your strawberry plants, you can check on the USDA website to determine which growing zone you live in. This can be found by visiting them at plants.usda.gov.
Why Strawberries Are Small
Strawberries are not necessarily difficult to grow, but you can have problems with them at any stage of the process. Once you determine the cause of the problem at hand, it is easy to do something about it, and if your strawberries came out too small, below are a few reasons why it may have happened.
- Some varieties of strawberries are naturally quite small. For instance, some heirloom or “wild” strawberries only get to around 3/4-inch in size. If the fruit is tasty and has a nice aroma, their small size is normal. If it isn’t, it is likely due to something else.
- The heat and dry soil may have something to do with it. Strawberries experience stress if it gets so hot that the roots are affected, and stress always makes strawberries come out much smaller than growers expected them to be.
- Too many weeds can stunt the strawberries’ growth. If you decide to grow strawberries, make sure the soil contains mulch and that the area is weeded on a regular basis. Strawberries don’t like competing with weeds!
- Too much nitrogen is also bad for strawberries. Although feeding them plant food is essential, make sure you don’t feed them too much of this food, because nitrogen in plant foods can wreak havoc on your strawberries if you give the plants too much of it.
- There are several pests that can cause strawberries to come out small. This includes the Lygus bug and others, which eat the pistils (the female part of the flower part) and cause the berries to be deformed in some way, making them smaller than they’re supposed to be.
- If the weather gets too windy, cool, or wet, it will stunt the growth of the strawberries. Remember, strawberries need a full eight hours or more of full sun to grow properly, and if they don’t get it, they are naturally going to be smaller in size.
- Finally, if your plants are too old, they may produce small strawberries. As a general rule, strawberries produce every year for about three to four years. After the three to four years are up, you should plan on discarding the plants and starting all over again with fresh plants.
Of course, it’s also good to keep in mind that home-grown strawberries are generally small to begin with – normally less than an inch in size. The reason commercial strawberries can be two inches or bigger is because of a chemical called a fruit expander, which makes them grow much bigger because of artificial ingredients.
If your strawberries are a little under an inch in size, they aren’t too small. This is what home-grown strawberries are supposed to be. If they are half-an-inch or smaller, however, they are too small, and one of the problems mentioned above could be the reason why.
How to Choose the Tastiest Strawberries
Strawberries that are very large and bright-red in color could be that way because of the chemicals put into them, which is why small strawberries that are home-grown are not necessarily a problem. Some things to look for when choosing strawberries include the following:
- Strawberries should be shaped either like a heart or conical. If their shape is too odd or weird, they should be avoided.
- The color of the strawberries should be evenly distributed. If it looks like the strawberries are composed of several different colors, this could mean they were grown with too many chemicals.
- If the strawberry is white in the middle after you break it open, this is not a strawberry that you want to eat.
- Check the color of the exterior seeds on the strawberries. If they are a gold color, they are alright to eat. If they are red like the rest of the strawberry, avoid them.
Of course, the easiest way to tell if a strawberry is edible is to taste it. Strawberries should be sweet, and if they’re bland or bitter, you’ve picked the wrong strawberries to eat.
Things You Can Do to Get Larger Strawberries
Of course, as with all plants and fruit, there are things you can do to increase the likelihood that your strawberries will not grow too small. For instance, when you first start growing your strawberries, you can pinch off the blooms of the plants, but only if they appear in June. This makes the plants more stable and usually causes the strawberries to be much bigger the following spring.
In addition, although too much nitrogen is certainly a problem, you should still make sure the plants are getting the right nutrients all year long. Buy the right plant food and use it the right way, and your strawberries will have a much better chance of growing to a large size whenever they bloom.
Finally, pests and disease could be stunting your strawberries’ growth. A number of treatments are available for you to thwart this problem, and there is something available for all types of problems, including those that are bacterial or fungal in nature. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for viral problems, which means you’ll likely have to discard the plants and start all over again if this happens to you.
There are three main types of strawberries. The June-bearers produce fruit in June; the day-neutral berries bloom continuously through the summer and fall; and the ever-bearing strawberries produce fruit in the summer, then again in the fall.
Within each of these three types of strawberries are different cultivars, and some of those cultivars naturally produce a smaller berry. Some of the strawberries that produce smaller fruit include the:
If you purchase these types of strawberries, be prepared for them to be a little smaller than average.
Strawberries are a delicious fruit that most people love, and although growing them can be a tiny bit challenging, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When it comes to the strawberries’ size, it can vary between one cultivar and the next, with some strawberries being naturally small anyway.
If this is not the case and your strawberries are still small, there is always a reason why, and the sooner you determine what that reason is, the sooner you can take care of the problem and get bigger, juicier strawberries.