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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Strawberry Success in Mojave Desert Soil and Climate

Q. How well do strawberries grow in our Las Vegas climate? When is the best time to plant and fertilize them? Any other tips?

A. Strawberries will grow and produce fruit in our Las Vegas climate. Its not the ideal climate but they will grow and produce fruit. The best tips I can give is to plant them in the right location, at the right time of year with the right type of soil amendments, a.k.a. compost.
Strawberry produced in the Easter Mojave Desert of Las Vegas
            They grow best in full morning sun but given some shade during mid to late afternoons. They need about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, the same as most vegetables. This means the east side of buildings and walls are best. Do not plant them in areas exposed to late afternoon sun because they do not handle the heat and intense sunlight well.

Which strawberry is best?

            Use ever bearing types of strawberries that produce through most of the season rather than the so-called “main crop” strawberries that come on all at once.
            The best fruit is produced during the spring and fall months when it is cooler. Many of the common ever bearing types like Quinault, Chandler and Ozark Beauty produce well here.

When to plant?

            Plant them any time in February or March when you see them available but don’t wait for temperatures to get hot for planting. Some people prefer fall planting but they are harder to find. Actually, the best time to plant is in the fall if you can find them or get young plants or “runners” from friends and neighbors.

Prepare the soil

            Before planting, make sure the compost content of the soil is adequate because strawberries like rich soils. Soils need compost mixed with it to a depth of 8 to 10 inches deep. Use a 1 to 2 inch layer of compost mixed into the soil.
            Planting depth is critical on strawberries. Make sure the soil drains water easily otherwise they will get root rot and die during the heat.

Plant how far apart?

            Plant 12 inches apart. New plants from runners. Remove them or peg or secure them into open areas between plants. When a strawberry patch becomes too crowded, the old plants should be removed or the area replanted with young plants. Crowded plants do not produce fruit or flower.
            Just like most vegetables, fertilize them lightly and frequently with your favorite tomato or rose fertilizer, about every 6 to 8 weeks. Yes, I said to tomato or rose fertilizer because they need the same nutrients as roses and tomatoes.
            When temperatures get warm, cover the soil surface with mulch. Straw is frequently recommended but I like to use horse bedding rather than straw. Horse bedding is usually made from pine shavings and they decompose in the soil quickly compared to straw.
            Strawberries do very well with drip irrigation and light shade cloth (30 to 40% shade) during the summer months or protection from late afternoon sun.

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