If you’ve ever picked a fresh strawberry straight from the plant and closed your eyes during that first juicy bite, you know what I’m talking about.

There’s something about strawberries from the garden that you just don’t find in the supermarket. I love growing strawberries because they are such a happy little plant that work in jars, baskets, barrels, rows, or walls. If you are having trouble with tiny berries or small crops, here are 7 tips to get more strawberry growth this year.

Clip the Runners:

Most types of strawberry plants produce runners. These are baby plants that spring off of the mother plant. You may think more plants more berries, right? Wrong. These runners suck all the nutrients from the mother plant, pruning them off will produce more berries.

    Check the soil:

Strawberries prefer a soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 6.8. You can test the soil yourself, or ask a professional in your area. If your soil is naturally alkaline, or clay-like, try growing in half-barrels filled with potting soil.

    Give them space:

Strawberries are not social plants, they need their own space. Plant at least 18 inches apart, especially if your plants produce runners. Planting too close can crowd the area and cause the plants to fail. For this reason, it is also important to keep strawberry plants clear of weeds.

    Water:

If you live in an area of heat and drought, growing strawberries may be difficult. They need a lot of water, which creates big, juicy berries. Provide 2 inches of water each week, and additional supplemental water when rainfall is sparse.

    Sunlight:

Be sure your bushes are getting 6 or more hours of direct sunlight every day. Check on your plants throughout the day to make sure that nearby flowers, trees, or shrubs are not shadowing them. If they aren’t getting full sunlight, that can directly affect berry production.

    Pests:

The biggest pest problem for berries is birds. Once your berries start to produce, cover the plant with a bird net to prevent them from getting into your berries. Slugs can also be a problem, depending on the type of mulch you are using.

    Berry Type:

Double check the berry type you have planted. Some berries are only supposed to produce berries once a year (usually in June). Other varieties have two production cycles, one in early summer and one a few months later. If you’re looking for berries all year long, you may want to diversify your plants.