Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 12:37 pm
The best substrate for strawberries is not to look under any special soil, but should contain a lot of soil, including humus and sand or similar, so that it becomes permeable and nice and loose. Buying soil used to be an easy task: stop by the local nursery, shovel a mortar bag full of potting soil and load in strawberry plants, fill balcony boxes at home and plant strawberries. Today, the choice of substrates is much greater, but more soil is not because of it.
Selecting the right substrate or growing medium for strawberries is crucial for their growth, health, and productivity. There are several options to consider, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the best substrates for growing strawberries:
- Garden soil is a natural choice for growing strawberries. It provides essential nutrients, and strawberries planted in soil can produce excellent yields. However, it’s vital to have well-draining, loamy soil with good organic matter content. If your garden soil doesn’t meet these criteria, consider amending it with compost and organic matter to improve its texture and fertility.
2. Raised Beds:
- Raised beds offer improved drainage and are an excellent choice for strawberries. You can fill raised beds with a mix of garden soil and compost, creating a well-draining, nutrient-rich environment. The raised design also helps protect the plants from waterlogging and pests.
3. Container Gardening:
- Growing strawberries in containers or hanging baskets is ideal for limited space or if you want to control the growing conditions. Use a high-quality potting mix with good drainage for containers. Make sure the containers have proper drainage holes, and consider using a soilless mix specifically designed for strawberries.
- Hydroponic systems provide an efficient way to grow strawberries without soil. They deliver water and nutrients directly to the plants’ roots. Strawberries in hydroponics typically grow faster and produce cleaner fruit. Common hydroponic substrates for strawberries include coconut coir, perlite, and rock wool.
5. Coir (Coconut Coir):
- Coconut coir is an excellent alternative to peat moss and can be used as a soilless substrate for strawberries. It retains moisture well while maintaining good aeration, which is important for strawberry roots. Coir is an eco-friendly choice and is pH-neutral.
6. Perlite and Vermiculite Mix:
- A mix of perlite and vermiculite provides good drainage and aeration, making it suitable for strawberry containers or hanging baskets. However, it’s a lightweight and sterile medium, so it requires regular fertilization to provide nutrients to the plants.
7. Rock Wool:
- Rock wool is a popular choice for hydroponic strawberry cultivation. It provides good support for plant roots and retains moisture while allowing for aeration. Rock wool requires pH-adjusted nutrient solutions for strawberries.
8. Pine Bark or Wood Chips:
- Pine bark or wood chips can be used as a substrate in raised beds. They help with moisture retention and drainage while breaking down slowly to release nutrients. Make sure the wood chips are aged to avoid nitrogen tie-up.
9. Peat Moss (with Amendments):
- Peat moss can be used, but it should be mixed with other amendments like perlite or vermiculite to improve aeration and drainage. It has good moisture retention properties but can become compacted if used alone.
10. Compost-Based Mix: – A compost-based mix can be created using well-composted materials. This mix is nutrient-rich and can be suitable for container gardening or raised beds. Ensure that it has good drainage properties by adding perlite or sand.
When choosing a substrate for strawberries, consider factors like local climate, available space, and your gardening goals. Whatever substrate you select, proper drainage and moisture management are key to successful strawberry cultivation. Regularly test the pH and fertility of the substrate, and amend it as needed to create the ideal growing environment for your strawberry plants.
The sale of air and water in the potting soil is also tried: So that a substrate can not (more) be made heavier and more expensive by water, our government has prescribed a few years ago the measurement by volume.
With the result that now with the substrate is often sold “a piece of air in bags”. In fact, the legislator has stipulated that the filling quantity must be checked at the factory when the substrate is filled. The substrate is carefully filled in loosely until the bag is full to the brim. Then the bag is transported and thrown back and forth and stored on top of each other until it is sold – which is why 50 out of 100 tested 20-liter bags of potting soil fill the 20-liter balcony box at the consumer only two-thirds or less.
Tip: If you buy substrate (or other products) whose apparently huge filling quantity turns out to be a “poor heap”, you can send the package to your local weights and measures office. This will see to it that you, the consumer, get the weight you deserve. Since it is impossible to check all products on sale, the authority relies on your assistance.
depend on your help.
The quality of the whole thing was examined by Stiftung Warentest, here are the best quotes from the test report: “When buying potting soil … even the simplest calculation does not add up”, “Frustrating experience”, “… Stinginess of many suppliers”, “With nitrogen deficiency: No growth”, “Stunted seedlings”, “Almost every eighth sample turned out to be a “seed bag” (for weeds), “If potting soil dries out, it can crack like a parched desert floor”, “An annoyance were the (incomplete, wrong) labels of many packages”.
Stiftung Warentest has a few tips in store, such as “fertilize yourself in case of nutrient deficiency” or “put dried-out plants in an immersion bath”, here comes a very useful tip for plants: if possible, don’t do these substrates to any plants. Easy to say, but a problem for city dwellers without a garden? Not true, even for this case you will still learn how to easily satisfy your strawberries.
special soil for strawberries
Of course, there is also soil or substrate specifically for strawberries, like dozens of other special soils from azalea soil to houseplant soil.
The special substrates for strawberries are called, for example, “PRO verde CD25” and “Ligno Mix C coarse berry fruit”. Here, a declaration (intended for professionals) reveals what substrates consist of when they contain little to no soil or humus:
- 70 or 75 % white peat
- 25 – 30 % CocoDrain® (raw material from coconut shell)
- Or LignoDrain® (raw material from coniferous wood without bark content)
- Trace elements (how many?)
- Wetting agents (which ones?)
- 500 g NPK (meant fertilizer, which one?)
- Structure coarse-fibrous to coarse
- pH value 5,7
However, the “invention of special products” is only worthwhile in terms of price, because there is no such thing as THE SOIL for azaleas (bamboos, camellias, strelizias …) and houseplants. The plant species is only one of many criteria – therefore it is not surprising that the special substrates do not differ in (often poor) quality from the universal substrates (perhaps a little differently composed, but not always and if, not necessarily to the benefit of the respective plants).
In the test were found for it, for example, toxic cadmium at the limit, too low nutrient content, weed seeds and an acidic environment that allowed only “modest growth”. Which then does not even comply with the “quality criteria for growing media”, although under “plant compatibility” it is only required: “no growth inhibition or plant damage”.
All in all, the impression is that you will get considerably more out of it if you
spend the time looking for a special substrate for strawberries by finding out about the soil requirements of strawberries.
the organic and the eco-soil
When home gardeners are informed that peat is formed in bogs in a process that lasts many human ages, and that bogs play an important ecological role, e.g. binding the harmful greenhouse gas CO2 (which is why the extreme peat cutting of the past decades has decisively worsened the earth’s climate protection), they no longer like to see peat in their gardens.
When they know that the horticultural industry gets peat so cheaply that even the cheapest “peat in a bag” (disguised as potting soil) brings in record-breaking profit margins, they like seeing peat even less. When they realize that the horticultural industry does not pay for environmental damage (as of 2013: €1.4 billion annually), but taxpayers harm themselves with every peat purchase – peat finally stays outside the garden door.
- So the home gardener inquires about the ingredients of the substrates:
- Cheap potting soil from the hardware store contains, for example, green waste compost, coniferous bark, wood fiber and peat
- Consists however according to the empiric reports to 70 % of felty shredding cuttings
- In addition, wood residues and mold were found when opened
- The most expensive “potting soil with natural clay” consists of “high-quality uniform soil”
- So by definition almost only peat and a little clay:
- Einheitserde is “a growing medium for horticulture developed around 1950” that “consists of about 60 to 70% white peat or raised bog peat and 30 to 40% clay or subsoil loam”
- Even “organic” is not necessarily “eco”, at least not when it comes to growing media.
- The “Bio-Aktiv Substrate especially for strawberries”, for example, consists of 60% raised bog peat.
- What only the user finds out who gets as far as the “technical data sheet”.
- The last resort is the “Bio-Aktiv Substrate peat-free”.
In the case of growing media, however, “organic” is not necessarily “bio” either, because the term is not protected by law here. Which raw materials may be processed in substrates is stated in the appendices to the Fertilizer Ordinance. If you do not want to have parts of it in your flower pot/garden, the only thing that helps is to search for substrates with an organic seal (along with researching what the corresponding organic seal prescribes.
“Hobby gardeners do not need a green thumb, but a happy hand when buying potting soil” was the (here abbreviated) conclusion of Stiftung Warentest from the big potting soil test. Unabridged further conclusion: “With the soils, in which the test plants grew particularly splendidly, the ratio of the compost-containing was disproportionately high.”
Only slightly rephrased, this sentence leads to the most important finding of all when it comes to substrates, soil and plants: the soils in which the test plants grew splendidly contained (for a substrate) a lot of compost; in other words: plants grow splendidly when a substrate – in addition to all kinds of other hindering to harmful substances – also contains a little soil.
Even shorter and more precisely expressed: Plants grow splendidly in soil! – Yes! And: Humus is the best peat substitute; soil is the best soil substitute.
the simple solution: organic, eco, inexpensive.
More and more home gardeners are making their own soil for their plants. It’s possible, in fact it’s quite simple:
Get plain, good soil with a humus content between 10 and 30 % and mix it with:
20 – 30 % pure, seasoned compost from green plants, brings in nutrients.
20 – 30 % loosening ingredients such as coarse sand, clay, pumice, perlite, fine gravel or bark humus.
A few trace elements and a little nitrogen, e.g. in the form of primary rock flour and horn shavings
If necessary, sift and mix everything well, resulting in a loose garden soil, about half of which consists of normal soil and otherwise fairly well imitates the structure of the soil in which strawberries are at home in nature – the strawberries will be happy about “the piece of home soil” and grow accordingly satisfied.
Tip: Whether planting pot or bed, prepare the soil months or at least two weeks before planting the strawberries, so that it can settle down. Before planting the strawberries, this soil should no longer be worked to change the structure, strawberries do not like “freshly swirled” soil at all.
The soil is the foundation
The basis for mixing your own substrate is soil, which you can get from the following sources:
Basically the best source for mixing substrate. However, how well your strawberries will thrive in the substrate mix depends on what condition your garden soil is in.
If your garden is managed in a natural way, the soil is maintained and in good ecological balance, you have the perfect garden soil available for mixing substrates (and it is reasonable to assume that you are aware of this).
If your garden is so far “conventional” (with synthetic fertilizers + pesticides), tilled, you’d better get soil from the sources mentioned immediately in 2. Strawberries are not so fond of elements in the soil, the chemical composition of which is unknown to them.
If you need to buy soil, you can buy where soil is sold in quantities: At a building materials dealer with an earth store near you (who may also have diabase or basalt mineral sand = primary rock flour, and you can also get sand etc. for loosening there).
Tip: You can also buy the compost needed for mixing if your own compost pile isn’t ready yet. Today, probably every municipality operates a public composting plant where you as a citizen can get good, controlled compost at a reasonable price.