Strawberries some of the easiest fruits for beginners to grow, and the best-tasting berries are always homegrown! Whether you choose to grow in containers or in a traditional garden bed, growing the best strawberries ever is easy with the right care and a few tips. Read on to learn how.
How to Grow Strawberries
With many varieties of strawberries available, the type you grow may depend on where you live or what your goals are with your crop. There are three main types to choose from:
- June-bearing: The most popular type, ready for a large harvest in June. These tend to produce larger fruit than ever-bearing or day-neutral types.
- Ever-bearing: These produce larger crops twice per year—an early crop, and a smaller crop later in the season, with a few fruits in between growing seasons.
- Day-neutral: Similar to ever-bearing varieties, day-neutral types don’t require as much sunlight and produce berries all year round.
- Novelty types of strawberries also exist, such as Pineberries, which come in a white color and taste like pineapples.
- Alpine strawberries: Small, intensely sweet fruit, these strawberry varieties is a well-known favorite that’s easy to grow from seed during the summer or spring.
- Allstar: A June-bearing variety that bears all its fruit at once. If you live in a warm climate, it could bear fruit earlier than June.
- Quinault: This ever-bearing variety is great for colder climates, and will produce a large number of spring flowers and light fruit throughout the summer. It should bloom and fruit once more from late summer into autumn.
- Northeaster: Perfect for northeastern US states and southeastern Canada, this variety offers fruit with a strong scent and luscious flavor.
- Primetime: A disease-resistant type that’s perfect if you live in the Mid-Atlantic area.
- Camarosa: Popular along the West Coast and California, these strawberries offer a higher yield and store well.
- Tristar: A day-neutral variety that’s perfect for growing in hanging baskets.
The type of strawberry you plant may come down to where you live, so you can also use a guide on recommended strawberry varieties for each state to help find the best variety for your area.
How to Plant Strawberries
The best time for you to plant strawberries depends on your location, the variety you choose to grow, and when you have time to harvest the fruit. If you want to plant later in the season, look for a more established plant. However, if you choose to begin your plants from seed, the process may be more difficult, and you’ll want to plant earlier in the spring.
As a general rule of thumb, strawberries that spend longer in the ground will produce larger fruit.
When to Plant, Based on Your Climate:
- Tropical or sub-tropical climates: March to April
- Temperate climates: Late fall
- Colder climates: Early spring
Certain varieties may come with their own planting schedules as well. June-bearing strawberry varieties, for example, will begin to flower in the winter and bloom more strongly as spring nears. May and June will be the time to pick the fruit in the northern hemisphere (as the name suggests), while in the south, the fruit may appear in November or December.
In a warm and sunny environment, you can expect most varieties to produce ripe fruit after around 30 days after blossoms appear. Don’t expect to harvest your strawberry plants until the following year. The initial planting year will help establish the plants, and their perennial nature will offer fruit for the following few years. You won’t need to replace the plants for around 3-4 years.
Planting in a Garden Bed
You can successfully grow strawberries in rows in a garden bed or raised garden box, whether you begin from seed or starts. If you purchase plants from your local nursery, make sure they’re disease-resistant. Alternatively, you’ll want to trim the roots of your plants if you want to use an existing plant to grow from.
Place each plant at least 20-inches apart when planting in traditional garden rows to allow plenty of space and leave around 4 feet between each row. Make sure each hole is wide and deep enough to cover the plant’s roots (no more than 8-inches deep), and never cover the crown of the plant with soil.
Planting in Containers
Because strawberries grow quickly and are relatively compact, it’s easy for beginners to grow them at home in containers. You can choose to plant your fruit in a terracotta pot, window box, hanging basket, or even a planter made specifically for strawberries. Actually, you can even skip the decorative planter and repurpose old household items to grow in, such as:
- an old birdhouse
- broken water fountain
- a wooden barrel
Ideal for Containers
Strawberries are great for pots or tubs of any kind. These are easy to move into sunnier locations when needed, and their raised position protects them against slugs and soil-borne diseases. If it gets cold, just move the plants indoors.
Plant bare-root runners in containers during the late spring to early summer for the best results. Set them into multi-purpose potting soil with about 10-18 inches between plants. Some varieties with fewer runners can be spaced 6 inches apart.
Fill your container with compost to around an inch from the top, then plant the strawberries with their crowns sitting barely above the surface. Water near the roots to allow the plants to settle, and top it off with straw or wood chips to lift the fruit clear from the compost.
No matter how you plant your strawberries, it’s vital not to cover the crown of the plants. This is where the leaves, blooms, and fruit will come from.
How to Care for Strawberries
Caring for strawberries is easy with plenty of sunlight, warm temperatures, and regular pruning.
Plant strawberries in a slightly acidic, well-draining soil and maintain a pH balance around 5.5-6.8. If you live in a place where the soil is naturally more alkaline, your plants will do better in containers. Use a high-quality potting soil that’s enriched with compost.
When watering your strawberry plants, it’s best to water at soil level. It’s important to keep the water off the leaves as much as possible to avoid fungal diseases. Regular watering is especially important for these fruits because they have shallow roots.
Find a warm, sunny location for your berries, since they require 6-10 hours of full sun daily.
Using around 4-inches of mulch or straw can keep your plants safe and help retain water in drought-like conditions. Keeping your garden beds mulched can also aid against weed invasion. Re-mulch the plants when the growing season has ended: around the first few touches of frost when the temperature hits around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove it during the early spring after the danger of frost has passed.
Use a 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer to help strawberry plants reach their full potential. Additionally, potted strawberries will benefit from regular feedings with a high-potash liquid fertilizer. Begin using fertilizer when the first flowers appear, and any fertilizer brand used on tomato plants will work fine.
Weeding and Pruning
You’ll need to regularly weed and prune your plants. Keep any dead foliage or new weeds from touching your plants by pulling them by hand, especially in the first few months after planting.
After harvesting the fruit, you’ll need to prune your plants. Snip off the majority of the leaves (down to about an inch), especially if you notice any dark spots from water sitting too long. You may also eliminate any daughter plants (runners) as needed to keep the plants from extending.
Some June-bearing varieties will also require you to pick off the blooms during the first year to discourage the plants from fruiting until the following season. This produces a larger crop the second year.
Crop rotation is also important for success with strawberry plants. Never place new plants in a location that recently housed other strawberry plants, nor nightshades like peppers, tomatoes, or eggplants.
Typical Problems to Growing Strawberries
The two most important problems to contend with involve diseases, or when predators eat newly ripened fruits.
Strawberry plants are susceptible fungal and mildew diseases if you don’t water the plant at the roots, or forget to clip back the foliage after harvesting. If your plants suffer from a fungal disease, you’ll notice dark spots forming on the leaves. Powdery mildew is another issue a strawberry plant can face from overwatering.
Pests like slugs enjoy eating the foliage and fruits. In fact, using an organic mulch (like straw) can encourage more slugs. Getting rid of them is easy with a mixture of Dawn, water, and garlic powder. You can also use a plastic mulch or coffee grounds to deter them.
Birds are another huge issue for strawberry plant growers. Some species enjoy eating the fruit, such as robins or brown thrashers. You can keep them away by covering your plants with a lightweight netting when the berries begin to ripen each season. Otherwise, you can place balloons with scary eyes above the garden beds to deter them, like scarecrows.
How to Harvest and Store Strawberries
Pick the fruit from your plants in the early morning, when the berries are cool to the touch. Then place them in your refrigerator immediately and rinse them with cool water just before eating. Freeze or dry the rest of your yield for later use, or use them to make preserves like strawberry jam.
If harvesting strawberries for jam is important for you, consider using a June-bearing variety. They often produce a larger quantity, making the process easier. Just make sure the fruit is red and ripe before harvesting.
Bonus Tips on How to Grow Strawberries
If you’re looking for sweeter strawberries than you’ve ever grown before, try growing Alpine strawberries from seed during the spring. The fruit is small, but they pack in a ton of sweet flavor. You can choose from white, yellow, or red berries as well.
When you’re ready to harvest the berries, cut the fruit using scissors. Leave a tiny portion of the stem attached to continue growing more fruit, and keep the plants well-watered in the dry and hot summer months. Plenty of sunlight will make the fruit taste sweeter as well.
You’ll also want to keep up with pruning the plants after each harvest. A lawn mower will easily take care of huge crops planted in a garden, while indoor plants will require secateurs to snip away the leaves.