You can effortlessly make a strawberry plant grow by fertilizing it “somehow”. However, you will not get a single strawberry plant to develop fruit with an intense strawberry flavor if you do not provide it with the nutrients it needs to do so in anywhere near the right amounts. If you use natural fertilizers/home remedies, you will manage this considerably more easily than if you use synthetically produced fertilizer concentrates, partly because their correct dosage involves considerable analysis and calculation.
Why natural fertilizers/home remedies?
In the garden center / hardware store there is a whole big section for fertilizers, and the increasing back-to-the-Stone Age tendencies are annoying you a lot? Well understandable, this area is teeming with absolutist ideologies whose most determined representatives are only satisfied when people without hand-tanned leather skins on their feet (which in turn drive the next intolerant ideologues into storms of indignation) have to pay public fines.
And yet, in recent years (decades), our government has watched as industries more interested in profit than the common good have developed products/production processes that harm citizens. The artificially produced fertilizers are causing trouble, to the climate, to the soil and to the drinking water; in this little film from the Federal Environment Agency: werden.umweltbundesamt.de/tags/intensivlandwirtschaft you will learn in a short and concise summary how it could come so far and which changes of direction are imminent.
In agriculture, the amount of fertilizer to be applied is at least calculated precisely (which also does not keep the drinking water pure and the soil healthy, which is why the reform of intensive agriculture is inevitable for profit-independent experts); most home gardeners, on the other hand, distribute the synthetic fertilizers generously and without soil analysis … and still applied considerably more fertilizer and pesticides per area than agriculture in the last statistical survey.
But the picture is changing; the more citizens learn about the difficulties with soil and water, the more private home gardens see only natural organic fertilizers, with which overfertilization is (almost) impossible. Just fixing things with home remedies is smart and time-saving – and gets even smarter when the home remedies come from household waste. Both go very well with strawberries:
The soil and its preparation
Fertilizing “starts long before”, with the soil in which the strawberry is planted and its preparation. Our garden strawberry is a pure cultivated plant, a cross between the South American Chilean strawberry and the North American scarlet strawberry. It does not have a natural habitat in the true sense of the word, but both parent species are used to the good soils found in forests and clearings.
The garden strawberry has taken over these requirements, so the chosen site (preferably somewhat protected, but nicely light) for it should be of about this quality: Rich in humus, well supplied with nutrients; evenly moist, but so permeable that it never runs wet; low in lime, but at most slightly acidic, pH values between 5.5 and 6.5 strawberries like best.
If you are now rejoicing because the topsoil applied after the construction of the house has exactly these characteristics and the soil for the short strawberry roots certainly does not need to be too deep – you have unfortunately rejoiced a little too soon: for strawberries is absolutely recommended a soil that is well permeable to water down to the deep bottom; cultivation on soils that tend to waterlogging is even expressly discouraged.
And the short strawberry roots, unfortunately, do not remain short, but after rooting extend to a depth of about 60 cm … if they can, because the soil is loose and rootable to this depth. Professionals definitely make sure that heavily used strawberry plants, for example, in a self-picking field, have loose soil under them to a depth of 60 cm; you should emulate the professionals in this respect. After all, the roots of the strawberry are its weak point, sensitive and quickly rotting with a little too much wetness, with or without root fungus infestation.
Otherwise, the soil just need to provide enough nutrients, if it does not do so naturally, it is prepared accordingly:
- Soil preparation begins no earlier than 6 months and ends no later than 2 months before planting.
- Dig the soil at the planned location to a depth of about 2 spades
- If necessary, also loosen the soil at the bottom a bit
- loosen a little
- Punch solid soil mass several times with a spade
- Loosen rooted soil by tearing up the old roots with a digging fork.
- Pass the excavated soil through a coarse sieve or rake it up until it consists of loose particles, sort out stones, roots, weeds
- Mix excavated soil with mature compost, 0.5 cm to 1 cm per square meter
- If pH is too high, add half-rotted needles, coniferous bark or other acidifying rotting material
- If nutrient-poor soil is to be fertilized with manure, mix in up to 5 kg per sq. m.
- Pour excavated soil back into the pit and keep it slightly moist until planting
Soil/substrate for balcony strawberries is prepared similarly, but here it is sufficient if the enriched planting soil is allowed to settle for at least 2 weeks. Immediately before planting, the soil should not be worked in either case, because strawberries grow only hesitantly or not at all in freshly worked soil (the 2-week period is also sufficient for “spontaneous garden strawberries” if the compost is mature and deposited enough).
Tip: If you do not know at all what the nutrient content and pH value of the soil at the planned location, it is worthwhile on the occasion of planting the strawberries, a soil analysis. Your environmental agency will give you the name of the nearest provider; it should not cost more than low double-digit euro amounts. Then you have a basis on which you can align your future actions for years when using natural fertilizers, because the soil values here are less likely to “ride the elevator”.
Organic fertilizers for healthy strawberry enjoyment
Organic fertilizer is organic mass with nutrients that can be used by plants, for fertilizing a hobby garden are usually used compost, manure, horn shavings, horse manure, guano and plant yuks.
All this different or differently cultivated strawberry plants see again only at different times, after they are placed in sufficiently nutrient-rich soil:
- Annual cultivated garden strawberries spend in the first season.
- To produce a bountiful harvest, they need a lot of nutrients
- So before flowering they get another hefty 5 kg of compost per square meter
- And another 2.5 kg just before fruit ripening, when the soil was rather lean in its original state
- Perennial strawberry plants do not get fertilizer again in the first season until autumn (regardless of whether you have removed the flowers or have already been able to harvest a little)
- Depending on the nutrient content of the soil, 1 to 5 kg of sifted compost is incorporated again
- The fertilizer is prepared “ready for planting” by the soil organisms until the next spring
- In the following season, the perennials are fertilized as described above for the annuals
- Perennials (monthly strawberries, climbing strawberries) need nutrients throughout the season
- A spoonful of organic fertilizer every two weeks is the
- Unless they are wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca).
- With these, even the many-bearing climbers are fertilized very cautiously.
- Too good supply is supposed to influence the taste rather negatively here
- Apropos taste traces: Pay attention with gourmet sorts to the use of the correct fertilizer sort
- Especially for fertilizing shortly before fruit ripeness, you need organic fertilizers that leave no traces of taste in the fruit
When and how much?
Exactly when you give how much fertilizer is not so important with organic fertilizers if you stay within the rough guidelines. Plants can take up nutrients, but they don’t have to; overfertilizing is almost impossible.
If, instead of regular soil analysis every few years, you prefer to work toward completely natural garden management, develop a keen eye for your plants. Sooner or later, you’ll be able to tell by looking at a plant if it’s still a little hungry … The soil care recommended in the same way will contribute further nutrients until you eventually get to the point where you are “fertilizing your plants on the side”.
From fertilizing to permanent soil care
By avoiding synthetically produced fertilizers and using organic ones, you’ve already done a lot for your own health and a lot for the thriving of strawberries and other plants. The garden soil will nourish your plants better and the garden will also become an even healthier environment for you if you do not stop there, but manage and maintain the soil in a permanently natural way. With the following measures, natural soil care can be established and sustained in the home garden:
Mulching, compost and fertilizing home remedies.
Mulch is organic material provided to the soil as a permanent fertilizer and source of humus.
Mulching is natural fertilizing and natural soil care, because you are actually doing nothing more than imitating nature. A forest soil – in structure and composition one of the best soils “a plant can imagine” – is formed by organic matter (foliage and other plant parts of trees, smaller herbaceous plants belonging to the plant community “forest undergrowth”) falling to the ground or dying on the ground, rotting as a result of a productive interaction of weather influences and soil organisms – and thus becoming humus.
You “copy” this process with mulching; just by not “leaving your garden soil naked and exposed to the elements,” you accomplish a lot in terms of soil care: the mulch blanket cools and warms as needed, shields soil organisms, and protects against the elements. It regulates the moisture content of the soil, retaining too little moisture and binding too much moisture; covering the soil with the mulch keeps it loose and elastic, rotting the mulch continuously adds humus to it – that’s all it takes to “make soil”.
If you own or can borrow from your municipality a shredder that can also get most of the annual trimmings small, you can shred all the plant debris that accumulates in the garden and immediately use it beneficially again as mulch. Typically, mulch has the medium shade of brown that results from shredding mixed plant debris.
Strawberry plants get a special treatment in terms of mulching, which makes harvesting much easier for you, or makes a clean harvest possible in the first place: they are embedded in a light mulch layer, which is usually made with plain straw. It performs the essential functions of a mulch layer, but has a lower moisture content, the berries do not lie directly on moist soil/organic matter and can be harvested sparkling clean. Fertilizing compost is not reintroduced until after harvest when the “clean layer” has been cleared.
The mulch layer is used by the expert gardener as a carrier mass to add targeted extra nutrients to the plants. This is where compost comes in, and with it, the home remedies that can be converted to fertilizer (leftovers produced in the home): Considered from the perspective just taken soil and soil care, the compost is a “mulching on several floors” in which all garden and household scraps are processed into an organic substance that is somewhere between soil and fertilizer.
Garden scraps is clear, leaves, lawn clippings, anything that is cut from plants or falls off and raked. Home remedies that mature into soil/fertilizer in the compost accrue some in every household:
- Coffee grounds, brewed tea leaves.
- Bananas and banana peels
- Dry bread, finely grated
- Old spices, teas, cereals, cornflakes
- Faded vase flowers and “antique” dried flowers
- Natural litter from small animal cages
- Household paper used to wash out iron pans (shredded)
- Leftovers from cleaning vegetables + peeling fruit
- Prohibited: Meat from factory farms and highly processed industrial products that are meant to substitute for food
- Decomposition (composting) is aerobic decomposition (with oxygen), meat is decomposed by bacteria working anaerobically (without air) (= rot)
- Heavily processed food substitutes are produced with chemical elements whose decomposition is usually unknown to us
- Drink or sauce, ready or powdered, preserved milk, etc., etc. could rot, but also rot….
Tip – If your natural garden has developed an aesthetic color scheme in which bright mulch of yellow straw is unpleasant to look at, you can get creative: Straw mulch doesn’t have to be straw, loosely groupable under roots, dry, clean and non-crumbly will do. If you can use dry, well-rotted leaves, it usually fits better in color and has the advantage that you do not have to clear the “layer of cleanliness” after harvest.
further soil care measures
With the concept described so far, you will be able to harvest magnificent strawberries. The next step is to extend this magnificent harvest in the given location for several years, respectively, to get rid of the notorious soil fatigue of strawberries, and it goes like this:
- Say goodbye to the bed, in nature plants never grow side by side in a neat square shape
- But in mixed culture, the new plant sits down between many others that are already growing in one location
- Thereby plant communities are formed, which promote and support each other
- You can actively “co-form” by adding the right neighbors to the strawberries
- Bush beans, lettuce, leeks, radishes, chives, spinach, onions promote the growth of strawberry plants
- Cabbages should be kept away, they promote the same harmful accumulation of soil organisms as the strawberry plants
- Borage, fennel, garlic and caraway support strawberry plants with their herbal power
- Gladiolus, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias, planted alternately or together next to/after strawberries, are also said to prevent soil fatigue
- “Gift” your strawberries some mycorrhizae = supportive soil fungi
- Strains specifically supportive of certain plant species are available today
- Plant heavy growers some distance apart, this will also keep the soil perkier longer