Do Strawberries Like Acidic Soil? What pH Do They Prefer?
Strawberries are among the most popular small fruits grown in home gardens today. And for good reason! They are easy to grow and maintain and require minimal space. One of the common questions about growing strawberries is their ideal soil pH. Do strawberries like acidic soil?
The answer is yes! These fruits thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5.
Below is a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about why strawberries like acidic soil, how to make your home garden soil more acidic for strawberries, and more!
Why Do Strawberries Like Slightly Acidic Soil?
The main reason strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil is that it contains the minerals they need to thrive. These are mainly phosphorus and iron.
Phosphorus is essential for photosynthesis, and its deficiency will cause your strawberries to produce small and sour fruits. On the other hand, iron is necessary for the production of chlorophyll. Its deficiency will lead to the yellowing of leaves.
Typically, phosphorus is abundant in soils with a pH range of between 6 and 7, while iron is abundant in soils with a pH range of between 5.5 and 6.5. So, strawberries need soil that has a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5 to obtain these essential nutrients.
How Do I Make Soil More Acidic for Strawberries?
There are many ways you can lower your soil’s pH for your strawberry plants. However, it’s important to first test your home’s garden’s soil pH before doing anything.
One way to check your soil’s pH is by using a store-bought pH testing kit. All you have to do is dig a small hole in your home garden, then pour some distilled water into that hole. Once the water turns into a muddy pool, insert the test strip. Then, wait for several minutes to know your soil’s pH.
It’s advisable to test several parts of your home garden. In some cases, soil in different locations of your garden may have different pH levels.
You can also use baking soda and vinegar to test your home garden soil’s pH. While the results won’t be as accurate compared to using a test kit, it will give an idea of whether the soil is alkaline or acidic.
Just scoop some soil from your home garden (it’s advisable to scoop soil that is about 2–4 inches below the surface.) Then, remove any debris from the soil and add ½ a cup of vinegar and ½ a cup of distilled water. If the mixture begins to fizzle, your soil has an alkaline pH.
To test your soil’s acidity, scoop some soil, then add ½ a cup of baking soda and ½ a cup of distilled water. If the mixture begins to fizzle, then your soil is acidic. Keep in mind that most soils are slightly acidic, to begin with, so a little fizzing action is normal. However, if the fizzing is quite vigorous, your soil is highly acidic.
With that being said, here’s what to do to make your soil more acidic for your strawberry plants.
One way to lower your soil’s pH is to add sulfur. However, remember that this method will take weeks or even months to acidify the soil. So, it’s recommendable to keep checking its pH and gradually add more Sulphur if necessary.
Add a Mulch of Pine Needles
Another way to lower the soil’s pH for your strawberry plants is to add a mulch of pine needles. As they break down, they will slowly acidify the soil.
Add Acidifying Liquids, Such as Vinegar, Lemon, or Lime Juice
Acidic liquids like lemon juice, vinegar, and lime juice are also great for lowering soil pH. However, it’s advisable to dilute them with water; for instance, if you’re using vinegar, you could add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. Remember to use these liquids in moderation, as they may do more harm than good.
Add Iron Sulfate
Iron sulfate is an excellent alternative to sulfur. Not only does it lower the soil pH, but it is also perfect for soil with an Iron deficiency. However, you will need a larger volume to produce the same results as sulfur, but the good thing is it lowers the soil’s pH faster than sulfur (within three to four weeks.)
Using it in moderation is advisable as it may damage your strawberry plants if you overuse it.
Add Coffee Grounds
Usually, coffee grounds are highly acidic, so adding them to your soil will lower its pH. What’s more, it can boost its nitrogen levels.
Typically, coffee grounds contain some degree of nitrogen. They also encourage the growth of microorganisms that use nitrogen for their growth and reproduction. So, when these microorganisms break down the coffee grounds, nitrogen is released into the soil.
What Can I Add to Soil to Make Strawberries Sweeter?
Let’s look at the secrets of producing ripe, juicy, and sweet strawberries.
Choose the Right Variety of Strawberry Plants to Grow In Your Garden
The first step to producing ripe and sweet strawberries is to choose the right strawberry plant to grow in your home garden. It’s advisable to pick a strawberry plant that can thrive in your area’s climate conditions.
Typically, there are three main categories of strawberry plants:
- June-bearing strawberry plants produce fruits around June in most climates but begin their growth process in the previous Autumn season.
- Ever-bearing strawberry plants that produce fruits in Spring.
- Day-neutral strawberry plants that produce fruits throughout the season as long the temperature is between 35° and 85°F.
Plant Your Strawberry Plants In the Right Soil
Another vital step to getting ripe and sweet strawberries is to grow your plants in the right soil. For starters, ensure your soil has the right pH levels. As we’ve mentioned earlier, strawberries thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5.
Usually, strawberry plants thrive in well-drained soil. So, growing your plants in sandy soil enriched with compost is advisable. It’s also recommendable to grow them in raised beds as it helps keep the soil well-drained.
Provide Your Plants With Adequate Sunlight Exposure
Like many other plants, strawberry plants need adequate sunlight to grow and produce healthy fruits. Normally, they require at least 8 hours of sunlight exposure.
Unfortunately, the weather may sometimes not provide your plants with enough sunlight. In that case, you can use grow lights to create the ideal lighting conditions for your strawberry plants.
However, keep in mind that grow lights are not as intense as sunlight, so you may need to expose the plants to grow-lights for longer periods.
Usually, strawberries are ready for harvest between 4–6 weeks after blossoming. Keep in mind that you should only harvest new strawberries after every three days and only harvest fully red, ripe strawberries. Don’t pick those that haven’t fully ripened, as they will not continue ripening after you’ve harvested them.
When harvesting, don’t just pick the fruit. Instead, cut the stem to prevent the plant from being damaged.
While strawberry plants thrive in acidic soil, they don’t require extremely acidic soil. Soil with a pH of below 5.5 can negatively impact your plant’s growth. Fortunately, there are several ways you can raise your soil’s pH. The most common way is to add agricultural lime to your soil. Happy planting!
Featured Image Credit: Shalev Cohen, Unsplash
- 1 Why Do Strawberries Like Slightly Acidic Soil?
- 2 How Do I Make Soil More Acidic for Strawberries?
- 3 What Can I Add to Soil to Make Strawberries Sweeter?
- 4 Harvesting Strawberries
- 5 Final Thoughts