Strawberries may struggle with the summer heat in east and south Texas, but the state's heat also provides an opportunity for strawberry growers. Fall planting helps to protect strawberries from the worst of the heat, and it also allows Texas gardeners to enjoy a crop of berries earlier than gardeners in much of the rest of the country.
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Annual vs. Perennial
Strawberries (Fragaria ananassa) are hardy perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 to 8, which means they're able to survive through multiple growing seasons in north Texas. In USDA zones 9 to 10, however, strawberries are most commonly grown as cool-season annuals; that is, they're planted in the fall, bear fruit in the spring and then are tilled under in the summer to be replaced with new plants the following fall. In central and east Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, plant strawberries in September; in the hottest parts of south Texas, wait until November. In north Texas, plant in late winter or early spring.
Spring-bearing strawberry varieties ripen in February in the hotter parts of Texas and as late as June in north Texas. The spring-bearing varieties best suited to growing in Texas include "Chandler," "Sequoia" and "Douglas." Texas gardeners should avoid ever-bearing and day-neutral varieties; these types of strawberry do best in cooler climates and do not fare at all well in Texas, especially in the southern section of the state.
Soil Types and Planting
Strawberries prefer full sun, but they will tolerate some afternoon shade. They also require well-drained soil and perform best in soil that's neutral to slightly acidic, with a pH level between 6.5 and 7. Strawberries are able to tolerate alkaline soils with pH between 7.5 to 7.8, although plants in these soils may suffer from iron deficiency and require supplements.
Plants grow best when planted in raised rows, which help to improve drainage and air circulation. Rows should be spaced 12 inches apart, with individual plants spaced 12 inches apart within the rows. Place the plants deep enough that their roots are fully covered but so that the crown where the leaves emerge is not buried.
Fertilization and Watering
Fertilize with a 15-5-10 fertilizer at planting, mixing about 2 cups of the fertilizer into the soil of each 25-foot row. Switch to a 21-0-0 nitrogen fertilizer for application every three weeks during the growing season, applying about 3/4 cup per row.
Water plants every day for the first two weeks after planting to encourage the establishment of the transplants. Reduce the frequency of watering through the winter, but water enough to keep the soil consistently moist, especially in east and south Texas.
Evan Gillespie grew up working in his family's hardware and home-improvement business and is an experienced gardener. He has been writing on home, garden and design topics since 1996. His work has appeared in the South Bend Tribune, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Arts Everywhere magazine and many other publications.