Strawberries are a favorite in the garden. Here’s how to grow your best strawberries using herbs like chives to fertilize and deter pests.
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Strawberries are darlings of the homegrown garden because they are delicious and quick to yield. Since strawberries have the highest amount of pesticide residue compared to other fruits and vegetables, growing your own can be beneficial to your health.
It can also be economical, costing less than 50 cents per quart to grow your own, compared to paying $5 a quart for pesticide-free, store-bought berries.
Did you know that I’ve grown strawberries in my front yard? Read more about creating an edible landscape.
Are you ready to grow your best strawberries?
Nutrients for Healthy Strawberry Plants
To grow your best strawberries, you’ll want to nurture their nutrient needs as well as deter the pests that are attracted to the sweetness of the berries. Humans aren’t the only ones who find them delicious!
Strawberries require nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and a few other trace elements to thrive.
Supply Strawberries with Nutrients Through Herbs
Herbs are actually very nutritious in small amounts, not only to humans when we add a pinch or two to our dinner, but also to other plants. This is great news for us, because it means that by growing herbs, we can grow a lot of our own fertilizers to supply the nutrients our food crops need.
This is a cornerstone of permaculture gardening, which is a type of design for growing food efficiently and in harmony with nature. So, using herbs as fertilizer can save time and money.
Here are just a few of many herbs which fertilize or enrich soil naturally:
I also love growing cilantro with strawberries.
Tired of generic permaculture design advice that you can’t apply to your specific goals? If so, check out my Permaculture Design Program and get the tools and support needed to create and implement your own permaculture design.
Growing Chives for Fertilizing
Chives are another plant on my list of fertilizing herbs that I grow right in the strawberry bed.
When the chives are finished flowering they can be trimmed for a tidier look. In fact, I chop and drop the nutrient-rich, green trimmings as mulch around the strawberry plants.
To try it, simply give the chives plants a haircut and sprinkle the trimmings throughout the strawberry bed while the fruits are developing.
And don’t forget to plant a variety of herbs to chop and drop throughout the strawberries to add an array of nutrients.
Read more about the benefits of chives in the garden.
Here are the seeds I purchased to begin growing chives around my garden. After the first year, you’ll be able to save seeds from the dried flower heads, and never have to buy chives seeds again!
Another benefit of growing chives with strawberries is their pest-deterring qualities. The strong scent of chives screens the sweet smell of the berries, deterring slugs and confusing the pests attracted to the sweetness.
For all of these fertilizing and pest-deterring reasons, chives are often grown in fruit tree guilds and food forests.
Strawberries for the Edible Landscape
I grow a variety of strawberries called Seascape. While June-bearing strawberries reduce berry production after three years, Seascape is a longer-producing variety. Also, the plants produce fewer runners, which means fewer bare spots in the edible front yard.
Have you grown chives to improve your strawberry harvest?
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Anna @ NorthernHomestead says
Good to know! Our garden has a lot of chives, everywhere. I was hooping it is good for the garden ;). have to make sure we have some close to the strawberries too. Thank you for the info.
I put a pot of chives out near my strawberries, and now the chives have taken over my garden… even though I removed the pot of chives last spring! They don’t seem to bother the slugs or the squirrels, unfortunately.
Oh, no, a chives takeover! One thing about chives is that the flowers will definitely set seed, so after they’ve bloomed I either snip the flower heads and compost them, or I let the flower heads dry on the stalk and then harvest the seeds. I don’t let the flowers die back on their own because they’ll plant a bunch of seeds 🙂
That said, strawberries really do love chives, so I wouldn’t worry too much about them sharing the bed. You can cut the chives back frequently and use the cuttings as mulch.
It sounds like the chives aren’t repelling the pests as expected. The chives that have rooted themselves in the garden bed will do a better job at pest resistance than the chives in the pot because they are closer to the soil and to the fruit.
Squirrels are repelled by very few things, but I’ve had success with this repellent spray. You may also have to enclose your strawberries with chicken wire during the harvest period.
Some other things that may help with slug control:
*Plants that deter slugs are: wormwood, rue, fennel, anise, chives, and rosemary.
*Crushed up egg shells (http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/use-eggshells-for-garden-slug-control-zmaz07aszgoe)
*Diatomaceous Earth spread around the borders.
Hope that helps too!
I have been fighting with slugs for so long, I am finally getting ducklings to raise to be slug hunters. Indian runner ducks have this reputation and I am so excited to train them!
Ducks may be the only way, because every other technique fails, every time.
I was going out at night with a flash light snipping them with sizzors and that actually did help a little bit but it was endless!
Betsy Kunz says
Can I put the trimmed off chives and comfrey leaves right on top of the mulch or do they need to go under the mulch so they are closer to the strawberry plants?
Either is fine. If I’m in a hurry I just leave the trimmings on top, but if I have the time I like to bury it under the mulch.
My strawberries are in a strawberry pot. Can I clip my chives and place the clippings around the base of each plant opening or would it be better to plant chives in the top of the pot?
In my opinion, it is the scent of freshly-trimmed chives that has the best pest-deterring quality. I would go with placing the trimmings around each plant, because they will also fertilize faster than the live plant would. Just using the trimmings from elsewhere would be my choice, especially since you’ll want every inch of your pot for strawberry production. Good luck 🙂
Angi @ SchneiderPeeps says
We’re growing strawberries for the first time this year. I’m headed out to sprinkle some chive seeds in the bed right now!
Yay! Report back on how it works!
Diane foote says
I am just starting strawberries how does orzak beauty and loran do. I live in central Ohio. Thank you for the information you have given I will have start growing chives Thank you for any information you give me Have a bless day
I’ve never grown those varieties, but I’m sure they will be great!
Ok, I may be stretching it a bit here, but does the flavor of the chives in any way change the flavor of the strawberries being that they’re used as a companion plant and mulch? It’s a great idea, and since you continually do it, I’m going to assume the berries are still delicious! 🙂
That is a great question! It has been said that strong-flavored herbs can affect the taste of nearby crops, and this phenomenon can be seen in dairy cows as well, where the cows ate herbs that affected the taste of their milk.
I haven’t noticed any difference in strawberry flavor in the years that I’ve used this technique, but it sure would be fun to do an experiment of two beds side by side–one with chive mulch and one without! 🙂
Lady Lee says
Amy, this is great information!
I am waiting for us to move to our farm so I can start permanent beds, like strawberries and rhubarb. I am pinning this and will definitely remember to do that when I plant my strawberries.
And I love to rocks you used to make the beds! Did you buy them?
I’m glad this will be helpful for you in the future. I love the round river rocks, too! We bought them from a local landscape supply company–we wanted the front yard to look rather nice. But I imagine any rocks will do in the typical garden.
Lee, I thought you were already on your forever farm. I wish you speed in getting there!
Judith Janes says
Love reading your blog, and our strawbs are beset every year with slugs. When you suggested using comfrey as a mulch, a light went off in my head; because the plants themselves are “hairy” (I have to use gloves to pull the old stalks and dried leaves), they would fend off the slugs naturally. I’m going to cut those old pieces of comfrey up and spread around my strawberry plants to see if I get the results I am hoping for! I refuse to use any chemicals in my food gardens, we get enough of that in the food we purchase at the store.
I know the chives will help to repel the slugs, but I hadn’t thought of the comfrey. Let me know how it goes 🙂
I use the seed pods from a neighbor’s Sweet Gum Tree for mulch around hostas and strawberries. They are spiky and the slugs stay away.
If you want to stop those slugs, place pennies around the strawberry bed making certain the pennies are touching each other, or at least close enough together that slugs can’t fit between them. Slugs won’t cross over copper. ? Our strawberry are in large raised beds so we get very few slugs. Of course the deer think we planted the strawberries at serving level for them. lol
Best of luck
Just curious…before 1982, pennies were made of 95% copper. If the date is 1983 or later, it is now made of 97.5% zinc and plated with a thin copper coating. These newer pennies corrode quickly. So will newer zinc pennies deter slugs also?
Sulekha Parshad says
I am new at this edible landscaping love ur site what is another choice to grow with strawberries to deter pests excluding family of onion garlic chives etc
I know this is not an exact science, but I would love to know your ratio of strawberry to chives. What I’m trying to ask is how big of blocks can I make? I want to cover the length of my 800 foot driveway with strawberry, chives, comfrey, blueberries, serviceberries, and English Hawthorn. I want to alternate the blocks of strawberry/chives along the border. Do you know how big and far apart they can be to still be effective?
Much thanks for your blog!
I think you may have to experiment to find the right ratio for your conditions. I think I would shoot for a grouping of chives every five feet or so in the strawberry bed.
Amy, Do you know if garlic chives work the same way as regular chives for pest control?
They do work the same way, but regular chives thrive early in the season when strawberries are fruiting, whereas garlic chives are more active later in the season into fall. They might work well for everbearing strawberries that have a second crop in late summer.
Freddy de Freitas says
I plan mint near my strawberries. I love the taste of my fruits.
Jennifer Chandler says
Anyone else lose their strawberries to squirrels eating them before you do?!
Maybe you need a cat? 😉 Squirrels are hard to beat, but the chives and other allium plants might deter them a bit.
I have ants really bad and read that planting Pyrethrum is great for keeping them away. Can I plant that with my chives and strawberries together?
Worth the experiment 🙂
Phil Stone says
I get a gallon of black raspberries a year from my poorly managed bed . The berries growing under a crabapple grow like a jungle. Do they like partial shade?
Mike segai says
Putting green organic matter in your beds just robs available nitrogen from the strawberries . You need to compost and break them down or ferment per Korean natural farming . No matter what even if you are getting strawberries this practice hurts them .
I don’t agree with this. If you turn green matter into the soil, then yes, it can temporarily make nitrogen unavailable. However, leaving green matter on top of the soil surface as a chop-and-drop mulch does not have the same effect.
I am curious…I just planted strawberry and chive plants. I planted the chives periodically around the strawberries, rather than leaving them in one spot. Would you recommend I move the chives closer together and not disbursed among the strawberries?
The choice is yours, they’ll benefit the strawberries either way. 🙂 Dispersing them throughout the bed is my personal preference, to create a polyculture.