Ready to grow delicious, sweet strawberries in your home garden? These tips cover which plants to choose, how to provide the best growing conditions, ongoing plant care, and answers to frequently asked questions.
If you need help with raspberries, this shows how to transplant raspberry canes.
4 Top Tips For Growing Strawberries
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One big difference between homegrown strawberries and the ones at the grocery store is the flavorful taste and tender texture you get at home.
Unlike strawberries that must have tough exteriors to withstand long-distance travels, the only thing we have to worry about at home is which way we want to devour them. And what’s better than growing for taste?
One thing I wish I’d known when I started growing strawberries over twenty years ago is that they can be fairly short-lived and do require upkeep. One plant may live a few years—not longer, the soil will need feeding to keep the plants nourished, and it pays to root the runners for free, new plants.
Want answers to Frequently Asked Strawberry Questions?
1Know Which Type of Strawberry You Are Growing
The 3 Basic Types of Strawberries
This one throws off a lot of gardeners: depending on which type you are growing, you will get fruit at different points in the growing season.
If you do not know the type of plants you have, time will tell: pay attention to fruiting times.
- Classic strawberries produce an abundance of fruit in early summer.
- Perpetual or everbearing strawberries usually have two harvests: one in early summer and the other in late summer or early fall. The first harvest is often more abundant than the second. Some also produce a small mid-summer harvest.
- Alpine strawberries grow as ground cover, producing tiny berries from early summer to fall. It takes a lot of plants to produce a meager harvest. I have masses of them in my back garden and, unlike the other strawberries, they are largely ignored by wildlife, so they are not really anyone’s first choice.
Whatever you choose, plant same varieties together so the care and harvests are aligned.
All of them need a cold winter to ensure future fruiting.
Tips for Buying Strawberry Plants
- Start at your local plant nurseries to see what is available and recommended in your growing conditions.
- Strawberry plants are prone to some diseases, so ensure the ones you purchase are guaranteed to be disease-free.
- If you belong to a horticultural society or local garden club, there may also be members willing to share their experience and trade plants. But do beware of any diseases present.
2Provide Optimum Growing Conditions
Where to Plant Strawberries
Strawberries enjoy a sunny location, sheltered from strong winds so insects can assist with pollination.
Use fertile, well-drained soil. I plant mine in (very) well-rotted (composted) manure.
3Decide if You’re Growing in Containers or In-Ground
- Most strawberry plants produce fruit for 3 years or a bit longer.
- Growing strawberries in the ground is easiest for long-term, perennial growing.
- While you can grow in containers, it may shorten the lifespan of the plant.
- Window boxes, flower bags, and hanging baskets are fine for a single growing season.
- You can also overwinter containers to continue growing in spring.
Strawberry Planting Tips
- Follow the directions on the plant tag to ensure you plant the strawberries properly (the root crowns like to be at an exact depth) and they have room to grow.
- Plant your strawberries in a weed-free zone and be vigilant about keeping other plants from creeping in. Grass lawn is terrible for invading a strawberry patch and depriving the plants of water and nutrients.
- I keep mine about 14 to 18 inches apart. The runners will soon take over so you will need to keep on top of them, removing and/or propagating them (there is more on this in the FAQ section, below).
- The edible fruits form when the flowers have been pollinated. While strawberries are self-pollinating, they do get assistance from insects and gentle winds that help things along.
- Because of this, you don’t want to cover the plants with netting (which keeps birds out) or shield them with a screen (like this squirrel screen I use), until pollination has occurred and the fruit is forming.
- I can tell pollination has taken place when the flowers suddenly start wilting although the plant otherwise looks healthy and happy.
4Provide Proper Care
- Straw is an ideal mulch for strawberries. Place it around plants to suppress weeds, and, when the berries have formed, place it underneath to provide a safe resting place until they are ready for picking.
- Zone 5 or Colder | In colder climates, strawberry plants do best if covered in straw mulch during the winter months to prevent a deep freeze.
Watch the Heat
- While strawberries do nicely with full sun with nice, even water, heat can cause some problems. A temperature of 16C/61F or lower is best. Adding straw mulch or some shade can prevent this problem. One heat wave in early summer can wipe out the crop.
- Once the fruit has formed, more heat is fine so long as the plants never dry out.
- If your soil is not so fertile—rich in organic material, you may need to amend it with a slow-release, organic fertilizer, safe for food crops.
Frequently Asked Questions
1How many times a year do strawberries fruit?
There are exceptions, but, generally:
- Classic strawberries fruit once a year in early summer.
- Perpetual or ever-bearing strawberries fruit in early summer and provide a smaller crop in late summer or early fall. Some may also fruit mid-summer.
- Alpine strawberries fruit ongoing from early summer to fall.
2What time of year do you plant strawberries?
You can plant strawberries any time the ground is not frozen. If you want berries the same year, plant them in spring when the risk of frost has passed or buy plants with already ripening fruit.
3Do strawberry plants like coffee grounds?
No, not particularly. Coffee grounds are fine to add to your compost pile where they can decompose along with a variety of other suitable greens (fruit and vegetable scraps and more). They do not however have any superpowers though that are superior to other compostable items. You can read more about coffee grounds in the garden here.
4Do strawberries need bees?
They need lots of winged insects including bees. Strawberries are self-pollinating but do benefit with assistance from insects and the wind.
For this reason, the plants should never be covered with protective netting until pollination has taken place and fruit is forming.
5Do you cut back strawberries for winter?
Strawberry plants do need upkeep but you may want to keep any dead leaves in place during the winter months for extra insulation. You can trim away dead foliage in spring.
6What do you do with strawberries in the winter?
In colder zones (zone 5 or lower) you should cover your strawberry plants in a generous layer of mulch for winter protection. Here in hardiness zone 6, I apply straw about 6-inches deep.
7Can you grow strawberries inside year-round?
It is possible since growers produce them in greenhouses. The challenge is to provide consistent, optimum growing conditions without the highs and lows of life in our homes with forced heat, limited light, and drafts. I have not tried it.
8Do strawberries grow well in pots?
Yes, they grow nicely in a variety of containers so long as there is suitable sun, potting mix, moisture, and drainage holes.
This style of stackable pot is one option and holds a lot of plants. Single flower pots or hanging baskets are another option.
You can grow them in pots for a single season or keep them going for a few years by overwintering the containers, preventing the plants from freezing.
9How do you know when strawberries are ready for picking?
Many strawberry plants need at least 60 days to produce mature fruit.
After this time period, strawberries are ready for picking when:
- They look edible (either red or white with no green patches on the fruit, depending on the variety).
- They have a delicious, sweet fragrance: seriously, use your nose—it’s lovely.
- They slide off the stem with a slight pull.
- You will also know they are ready to pick when the wildlife starts enjoying them. Birds and chipmunks are no fools: they know a good thing when they taste it.
The best tip is just try one!
10How to I propagate strawberry plants?
- Seeds | You can also grow strawberries from seeds—the same seeds that cover the outside of the berry. It’s a long, slow process.
- Runners | The fastest option is to root any runners that the plants create. They look like the runners on spider plants.
- While still attached to the mother plant, pin the tip of the runner into a pot of moist potting mix. After approximately six weeks when roots have formed, cut the runner.
There you go. Now get growing.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛