When you live in the desert…
You have to get creative. Because I don’t take no for an answer. No siree, I figure out a way to do it, and I do whatever it takes.
I’m like Rocky, but with farming. I’ll take anybody out, I will!
But not really, ’cause it’s just strawberries here. So let’s all just calm down.
The secret to growing food anywhere…
… is identifying microclimates on your property.
Look, just stating “That can’t grow here” is amateur. Those of us who’ve been gardening for a while know that there are hot spots, cool spots, shady spots, sunny spots, morning sun spots, afternoon sun spots, diffused light spots, and many, many other microclimates on our property.
All you have to do is find them.
When it comes to strawberries…
You simply need to know what kind of microclimate it thrives in as well as which soil amendments/nutrients makes them thrive.
Most strawberries can tolerate full sun, unless you live in a hotter climate like me. In that case, you’ll want to look for a spot that has morning sun and afternoon shade or diffused sun throughout the day (i.e. under a shady tree that provides diffused sunlight). Some of my favorite varieties for the southwest area are Tristan, Loran, Quinault, Chandler, or Sequoia.
Strawberries also love good drainage (they don’t like soggy roots) and a soil pH of 6.2-6.8. You don’t necessarily need to test your soil, simply ask what the soil pH tends to run in your area. Where I live in the Phoenix, AZ area, our soil is around 7-8. Ouch. This is actually great for growing vegetables, but berries can suffer if we don’t provide acidic amendments.
We planted our strawberries in a location that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. It also gets flood irrigated every other week, which is a great way to use the existing water!
We also chose this location because of the pine tree that overhangs and drops a steady stream of pine needles. Pine needles are a great mulch for acid-loving plants. The fact that this pine tree has been dropping needles in this spot for 30+ years tells me that the soil is probably more acidic than other areas on our property. Score!
Prepping the soil
It’s always good to start with a good organic amendment. A 50/50 combo of compost and peat moss is the perfect medium to start with. This combo provides good drainage (won’t get soggy), but at the same time it won’t wash away nutrients. Also, peat moss is naturally more acidic.
Next, it’s a good idea to mix in a box of this acid mix. It will help get that acidity to where it needs to be.If your soil is VERY alkaline, you can also add some slow-release sulfur to help get to the correct acidic level. Finally, if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can add some bat guano, which is a fantastic source of phosphorus. Strawberries love phosphorus and need a good dose to start with.
Maintaining your strawberry plants
- MULCH – Topping the soil around your strawberry plants with pine needle mulch or wood chips is a GREAT way to encourage great microbial activity in the soil. It will also retain moisture and nutrients.
- DETER PESTS – Cedar wood chips will help with deterring pests, as well as planting onions around your strawberry plants. For a more natural pest spray, check out my Natural Solutions in the Garden Guide here.
- PICKING 1st YEAR’S FLOWERS – This is a tough one to do. But if you can pick the first year’s flowers, that will encourage your strawberry plants to put their energy towards growing deep roots. All your subsequent years you’ll have oodles of strawberries because your plants will be more established!
As long as you follow these guidelines, you should have a fun patch of strawberries each year to enjoy!