Strawberries are one of the easiest and fun crops to grow and a perfect plant for beginners or someone with limited space. If you’re eager to learn how to grow your own vegetables, then look no further! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll focus on growing one of nature’s most delightful treats: strawberries. Below you will find everything you need to know about the best way to grow strawberries.
Strawberries are not only a delicious and healthy fruit, but they’re also relatively easy to grow, making them perfect for beginners and seasoned gardeners alike. We’ve been growing strawberries for about 15 years and have tried every method from planting strawberries in rows, to growing strawberries in raised beds to building and buy vertical strawberry planters. We prefer growing strawberries from bare root plants, but have also bought strawberries plants directly.
In this article we will share how to choose the best strawberry varieties, where to find strawberry plants for sale, how to plant strawberries, strawberry plant growing conditions and care, the best strawberry companion plants, and general information on how to harvest strawberries. If you are looking for a quick guide for the top tips for growing strawberries, check out this post: 7 Essential Tips for Growing Strawberries: Grow Amazing Berries.
Welcome to the Backyard Farming Connection! I'm Gretchen, and for the past 15 years, I've embraced the world of homesteading and backyard farming. Our platform, established over a decade ago, serves as a hub for sharing our personal journey and providing invaluable insights into food cultivation, animal raising, sustainability, and homestead skills. Rest assured, every piece of information on our site has been thoroughly researched and personally practiced by us. Let's embark on a shared journey of learning and growth! Start Here
Quick List of How to Grow Strawberries
- Select the best strawberry varieties
- Choose the best spot to plant your strawberries
- Prepare the Soil
- Plant your strawberries
- Keep your strawberry plants well watered and weeded
- Harvest your Strawberries
Selecting the Perfect Strawberry Varieties
When it comes to growing strawberries, selecting the right variety is important for a successful harvest and also for getting exactly the strawberries you want. There are many strawberries varieties available. Ultimately we like to choose new strawberry varieties based on: flavor, berry size, productivity, and time of harvest. See more about selecting the best strawberry varieties.
We’ve grown many variety over the years and just like other crops, you should pay attention to what works well and be prepared to adjust in the future. Strawberry plants typically grow well for several years and produce best in year 2, 3 and 4. Work this into your overall plan for your garden. Below are some of the factors you may want to consider when selecting a variety of strawberries.
Climate and Hardiness
Different strawberry varieties have varying climate preferences and hardiness levels. It’s important to choose varieties that are well-suited to your specific climate. Some varieties thrive in colder regions, while others prefer warmer climates. Consider the average temperatures, frost dates, and chilling requirements of your area to determine which varieties are most likely to thrive.
Flavor and Taste
One of the most delightful aspects of growing strawberries is savoring their incredible flavors. Different strawberry varieties offer a range of tastes, from sweet and aromatic to tangy and tart. Consider your personal preferences when it comes to flavor and taste. If you enjoy sweeter strawberries, varieties like ‘Chandler’ or ‘Seascape’ may be the perfect choice. For a more intense flavor, ‘Jewel’ or ‘Allstar’ could be worth considering.
Most places that sell strawberries will carry several varieties with descriptions of the different taste of the berries.
Size and Shape
Strawberries come in various sizes and shapes, ranging from small and compact to large and conical. When you grow strawberries, consider what size strawberries you prefer and how you plan to use them. Smaller strawberries are great for snacking, while larger ones work well for baking or preserving. Some popular large strawberry varieties include ‘Ozark Beauty’ and ‘Honeoye,’ while ‘Alpine’ and ‘Quinault’ are known for their smaller size.
Strawberries are prone to certain diseases, such as powdery mildew, gray mold, and root rot. Choosing disease-resistant varieties can help ensure a healthier crop and reduce the need for chemical interventions. Look for varieties labeled as resistant to common diseases in your area. For example, ‘Earliglow’ is resistant to red stele, while ‘Seascape’ and ‘Albion’ have good resistance to Verticillium wilt.
Yield and Productivity
If you’re looking to maximize your strawberry harvest, consider the yield potential and productivity of different varieties. Some varieties are known for their high productivity and generous fruit set, while others may produce fewer fruits. Assess your needs and expectations regarding yield and choose varieties that align with them. ‘Seascape’ and ‘Eversweet’ are renowned for their abundant yields.
Strawberry varieties can be categorized into three main groups based on their seasonality: June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral. June-bearing varieties produce a single large crop in late spring or early summer. Everbearing varieties produce two main crops, one in late spring and another in early fall. Day-neutral varieties, on the other hand, produce fruit continuously throughout the growing season, with no distinct cropping periods. Consider which type aligns best with your desired harvest schedule.
Everbearing Strawberries: Everbearing strawberries are known for producing two to three main harvests throughout the growing season. They typically have a large initial crop in late spring or early summer, followed by smaller harvests in early fall and late summer. Everbearing strawberries are popular among gardeners who desire a prolonged harvesting period and enjoy a continuous supply of fresh strawberries throughout the summer and into fall.
June-Bearing Strawberries: June-bearing strawberries, as the name suggests, produce a single, concentrated harvest typically in June, though the timing can vary depending on the climate. These strawberries are known for their exceptional flavor and larger fruit size. June-bearing varieties generally have a short fruiting period of two to three weeks, during which they yield a high volume of strawberries, making them ideal for preserving or enjoying fresh during the peak strawberry season.
Day-Neutral Strawberries: Day-neutral strawberries produce a continuous harvest throughout the growing season, regardless of the day length. These strawberries are not influenced by the changing seasons and can bear fruit from late spring until the first frost. Day-neutral varieties are known for their ability to produce strawberries consistently, making them a popular choice for gardeners who want a continuous supply of berries without relying on specific seasonal conditions.
We find that the best way to grow strawberries for a more continuous harvest is to select plants with different seasonality so that we can spread the harvest out over the growing season. We love ordering our strawberries as bare-root plants from Fedco Trees and Seeds, but you can also get plants locally or find bareroot plants from many growers. It is also possible to grow your own strawberry plants from runners or seeds.
Some of our Favorite Strawberry Varieties Include:
- “Sweet Charlie”: Known for its exceptional sweetness and juicy texture, Sweet Charlie strawberries are a popular choice among strawberry enthusiasts. They are highly productive and early-blooming, making them a great option for gardeners looking for an early harvest.
- “Eversweet”: As the name suggests, Eversweet strawberries are revered for their incredible sweetness. These everbearing strawberries produce fruits throughout the growing season, ensuring a continuous supply of delicious berries. They have a firm texture and are perfect for fresh eating or in desserts.
- “Chandler”: Chandler strawberries are renowned for their large size and exceptional flavor. These June-bearing strawberries are known to have a rich, sweet taste with a slight tartness. They are versatile and suitable for various culinary uses, including jams, pies, and fresh toppings.
- “Albion”: Albion strawberries are prized for their outstanding flavor profile, combining sweetness and a hint of acidity. These day-neutral strawberries produce consistently large, firm berries with a glossy appearance. They have an extended harvest period and are well-suited for both home gardens and commercial cultivation.
- “Seascape”: Seascape strawberries are known for their exceptional flavor and high disease resistance. These day-neutral strawberries produce an abundance of medium-sized, juicy berries that are perfect for snacking, baking, or preserving. They have a long harvest season and can thrive in various growing conditions.
Where to Plant Strawberries
Selecting the right location for planting strawberries is essential for their successful growth and development. Since strawberries are perennial and will grow back for many years, choosing the right location is very important. The best way to grow strawberries is to provide healthy soil, plenty of sunlight, and moist growing conditions. When determining where to plant your strawberries, consider the following factors to create an optimal environment:
Strawberries thrive in full sun, so choose a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Adequate sunlight promotes robust growth and encourages fruit production. Grow strawberries with southern or southeastern exposure in an area that receives the most sunlight throughout the day.
Strawberries require well-drained soil to prevent waterlogging and root rot. Avoid areas prone to standing water or heavy clay soil. If your soil has poor drainage, consider raised beds or mounds to improve drainage and prevent water accumulation around the roots.
Good air circulation around strawberry plants helps prevent the development of fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and gray mold. Choose a location to grow strawberries that allows for adequate airflow, avoiding spots surrounded by tall structures or dense vegetation that might impede air movement.
Proximity to Water Source
Strawberries require consistent moisture, especially during the fruiting season. Planting them near a water source, such as a hose or irrigation system, ensures easy access for regular watering. This also simplifies the task of keeping the soil consistently moist, which is crucial for optimal growth and fruit development. The best way to grow strawberries is also usually the simplest, so a little planning goes a long way.
Accessibility and Convenience
Consider the accessibility of the planting area. Select a location that is convenient for tending to your strawberry plants, such as weeding, pruning, and harvesting. Planting them near frequently visited areas, like a vegetable garden or patio, can also be a delight as you can easily monitor their progress and enjoy their beauty and fragrance.
Strawberries can benefit from certain companion plants that repel pests or provide shade. For instance, planting them near marigolds can deter nematodes, while interplanting with taller crops like corn or beans can provide shade during hot summer months. Research compatible companion plants to maximize the health and productivity of your strawberry patch.
Protection from Wildlife
Strawberries are highly desirable to birds, squirrels, and other wildlife. If you grow strawberries, you will likely have some sort of crop loss to pests. If your area is prone to such animal activity, consider installing bird netting or constructing protective structures like cages or fences. These measures will help safeguard your precious strawberry harvest.
By considering these factors, you can select an ideal location for your strawberry patch that provides ample sunlight, well-drained soil, good air circulation, easy access to water, and protection from wildlife.
Options for Planting your Strawberry Plants
It’s fun to get creative with where you grow strawberries. If you plan to plant your strawberry plants directly into a garden, you can plant your strawberries in either rows or in a raised garden bed. It’s also possible to grow strawberries in containers and it can be fun to get creative with growing strawberries vertically.
It’s important to note when growing strawberries in containers that if you are planting bare root strawberries, you will need 2 years to get a good harvest. You also need to provide adequate water to keep the roots moist. Below you can see a list of some of the different places you can plant strawberries.
Grow Strawberries in Rows: To plant your strawberries in rows, plant them 12-18 inches apart and keep rows 3 feet apart. This seems like a lot of room, but the plants will spread and this gives root plenty of room. This also means there is a lot of space for weeds. You should plan to mulch or use a weed barrier between rows.
Grow Strawberries in a Raised Bed: Growing Strawberries in raised beds is a great way to get a full harvest. I like to place my strawberries plants about 8-10 inches apart. One of the benefits of this method is that the strawberries will help to shade out the weeds and completely cover the raised bed.
Grow Strawberries in Containers: Strawberry plants are a great plant to grow in a container. You can find many different containers specifically for strawberries online, use supplies you have home, or build your own strawberry container. Pots, gutters, buckets, and even laundry baskets all make great options for growing strawberries in containers. An additional benefit is that this can help to overcome pest problems and can save space if you are limited on room.
See the Best Strawberry Planters for growing strawberries in containers.
Preparing the Soil for Growing Strawberries
Growing strawberries successfully starts with preparing the soil to create an ideal environment for your plants to thrive. Proper soil preparation ensures that your strawberries have access to essential nutrients, proper drainage, and a favorable pH level. While it’s always a good idea to get test your soil, it is not essential for growing strawberries. In general you want to make sure that your soil has lots of organic matter and drains well. Follow these steps to prepare your soil for growing strawberries:
Clear the Area
Remove any weeds, grass, or debris from the planting area. Clearing the space ensures that the strawberries won’t have to compete for resources and minimizes the risk of pests and diseases. The most clearing you do at the beginning, the easier it is to keep up with weeds.
Add Organic Matter
Incorporate organic matter into the soil to enhance its fertility and structure. Well-rotted compost, aged manure, or leaf mold are excellent choices. Spread a layer of organic matter about 2 to 3 inches thick over the planting area, and work it into the soil using a garden fork or a tiller. You can buy bags or compost, order it by the truckload, or create your own by composting.
Adjust pH Levels
Strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If your soil pH is outside this range, you may need to make adjustments. To lower pH (make it more acidic), add elemental sulfur or peat moss. To raise pH (make it more alkaline), add ground limestone or wood ash. Follow the product instructions carefully and retest the soil after making adjustments.
Strawberries are heavy feeders and require adequate nutrients to thrive. The best way to ensure they have everything they need is to plant them in compost rich soil. If you find that your plants aren’t thriving, you can consider emending your soil with an organic fertilizer.
Before planting your strawberries, water the prepared soil thoroughly. Moist soil provides a welcoming environment for the young plants and helps them establish their root systems.
Planting Strawberry Plants: A Step-by-Step Guide for Success
Once your soil is ready, it’s time to plant your strawberries. Whether you choose to plant potted plants or bare-root plants, the process is relatively straightforward. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps for planting both types of strawberry plants.
Select the appropriate time to plant your potted strawberry plants. Planting in early spring or late summer/early fall is ideal, as it allows the plants to establish their root systems before extreme weather conditions.
Planting Potted Strawberry Plants
Gently remove the potted strawberry plant from its container, taking care not to damage the roots. Gently loosen the roots if they are tightly bound, promoting outward growth.
Place the plant in the prepared hole, ensuring that the crown (where the roots meet the leaves) is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it around the roots to remove any air pockets. Avoid burying the crown too deeply, as it may lead to rotting.
Planting Bare-Root Strawberry Plants
Before planting, soak the bare-root strawberry plants in water for about 30 minutes. This rehydrates the roots and prepares them for planting.
Place the bare-root strawberry plant on the mound or row, spreading the roots out carefully. Ensure that the crown is level with the soil surface. Gently backfill the soil around the roots, pressing it lightly to eliminate air pockets.
Space the bare-root plants according to the recommended spacing for the specific variety you are planting. Typically, strawberries should be spaced around 12-18 inches apart in rows, allowing sufficient room for air circulation and future growth. If you are growing strawberries in containers or raised beds, you can space them slightly closer together.
You can see our complete guide on planting bare root strawberry plants.
Watering and Mulching
After planting, water the plants thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots. Apply a layer of mulch around the plants to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and protect the fruit from soil contact. We’ve also experimented with using a weed barrier covered in mulch. This helps to reduce the weeds and has been a good option.
Regardless of whether you’re planting potted or bare-root strawberry plants, it’s essential to provide adequate care after planting. This includes regular watering, maintaining weed-free beds, and monitoring for pests or diseases. Strawberry plants typically start producing fruit in their second year, so be patient.
Caring for Strawberries in the First Year
During the first year of growing strawberries, it’s important that each plant develop a strong healthy root system. For this reason it is recommended to remove fruit and runners, especially during the first year. We’ve experimented with this several times and have found a benefit to removing most of the fruit and all the runners in year one. We typically allow a few strawberries to grow so we get a taste of the berries in the first year.
Harvesting Strawberries: Tips for Picking Perfectly Ripe Berries
Harvesting strawberries at the peak of ripeness ensures the sweetest and most flavorful berries. When it comes time to pick your strawberries, follow these simple guidelines to maximize your harvest and savor the delicious fruits of your labor:
Wait until the strawberries are fully ripe before harvesting. Look for berries that have turned a vibrant red color, are uniformly colored, and have a glossy appearance. They should be firm but not too hard, with a slight give when gently squeezed.
It’s best to harvest strawberries in the morning when the temperatures are cooler. The berries are firmer and less likely to get damaged during picking. Avoid harvesting strawberries when they are wet from dew or rain, as moisture can promote fungal diseases.
Handle the strawberries with care to avoid bruising or damaging the delicate fruits. Hold the stem just above the fruit and twist gently to detach it from the plant. Alternatively, you can use a pair of garden scissors or pruning shears to snip the stem about half an inch above the fruit.
Be sure to harvest all ripe berries at once, as leaving overripe or rotting strawberries on the plant can attract pests and diseases. Inspect the plants thoroughly, picking all the ripe strawberries you find. This encourages the plant to produce more fruit. Leave the green calyx, or the leafy cap, attached to the strawberry when harvesting. The calyx helps protect the fruit and extends its shelf life. Removing the calyx exposes the fruit to faster spoilage.
After harvesting, place the freshly picked strawberries in a shallow container or basket lined with a paper towel. Avoid stacking the berries too deeply to prevent crushing. Place the container in a cool location or refrigerate the strawberries promptly to maintain their freshness and flavor.
Enjoy Fresh or Preserving
Freshly harvested strawberries are a delight to eat as is, but if you have an abundance, consider preserving them for later use. You can freeze strawberries, make jams, jellies, or use them in various culinary creations like pies, smoothies, or salads. Fresh strawberries only last a few days in the fridge, so eat them quickly or preserve them. The best part of learning to grow strawberries is harvesting them!
Caring for Your Strawberry Plants in the Winter
Caring for strawberries over the winter is important to ensure the strawberry plants are healthy in the spring. As winter approaches, prepare the plants by removing any dead leaves or debris around the base to prevent pest or disease issues. If you live in a cold climate, apply a layer of mulch, such as straw or pine needles, around the plants to provide insulation and protect the crowns from freezing temperatures. Adequate moisture is also helpful, so water the plants before the ground freezes if there’s a lack of rainfall. In regions with severe winters, consider covering the strawberry bed with a row cover or burlap to provide additional protection from frost.
Common Mistakes to Grow Strawberries
Growing strawberries can be a rewarding experience, but like any plant, they can face certain challenges. Here are some common problems that you may encounter when growing strawberries and tips on how to address them:
Strawberries can attract a variety of pests, including slugs, snails, aphids, and spider mites. These pests can damage leaves, flowers, and fruits. To control pests, use organic insecticidal soaps or introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs. Regularly remove weeds and debris around the plants, as they can harbor pests.
We’ve also had pest problems from larger animals including chipmunks, groundhogs and birds. You may need to address the past specifically. We’ve trapped chipmunks and used fencing to keep out groundhogs. Unless birds become a major issue, we’ve decided that we will just grow enough berries for the birds to enjoy a few instead of using protection directly over the berries.
Strawberry plants are susceptible to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, gray mold (botrytis fruit rot), and verticillium wilt. To prevent diseases, ensure good air circulation around the plants, avoid overhead watering, and promptly remove any infected plant parts. Applying fungicides or using disease-resistant strawberry varieties can also help control fungal diseases.
Fruit rot can occur due to overripe or damaged strawberries, as well as excessive moisture. Avoid overcrowding the plants, which can lead to poor air circulation and increased moisture. Harvest ripe strawberries promptly and handle them with care to prevent bruising or damage. Applying a layer of mulch can help reduce soil splashing onto the fruits and minimize rot.
Soil pH Imbalance
Strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If the soil pH is too high or too low, the plants may struggle to absorb nutrients properly. Test your soil pH and make necessary adjustments using amendments like elemental sulfur or lime to bring it into the ideal range.
Poor Fruit Production
Insufficient fruit production can occur due to several reasons, such as inadequate pollination, improper plant spacing, lack of sunlight, or nutrient deficiencies. To encourage fruiting, ensure proper plant spacing, provide sufficient sunlight, and use organic fertilizers formulated for strawberries. Hand-pollination or the presence of pollinator-attracting plants nearby can also enhance fruit set.
Weeds can compete with strawberry plants for nutrients, water, and space, hampering their growth and productivity. Regularly remove weeds by hand or use mulch to suppress weed growth. Avoid using herbicides near strawberry plants, as they can damage or kill them.
In colder climates, winter damage can occur, resulting in crown or root rot. To protect strawberries during winter, provide a layer of mulch around the plants once the temperature drops. This mulch layer acts as insulation, preventing extreme temperature fluctuations and reducing the risk of winter damage.
By being aware of these common problems and taking proactive measures, you can overcome challenges and enjoy a healthy and productive strawberry patch. Regular monitoring, proper care, and timely intervention can help ensure a successful strawberry-growing experience.
Extending the Strawberry Season
If you’re eager to enjoy the delicious taste of fresh strawberries for a longer period, there are ways to extend the growing season. One effective method is to use row covers or tunnels, which provide protection from frost and cold temperatures, allowing you to plant strawberries earlier in the spring or harvest them later in the fall. Additionally, consider planting day-neutral or everbearing strawberry varieties, which continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season. Regularly remove runners and provide adequate water and nutrients to encourage continuous flowering and fruiting. By implementing these techniques, you can savor the sweetness of homegrown strawberries for an extended period, delighting in their flavor long after the traditional growing season has ended.
Common Questions about Growing Strawberries
When is the best time to plant strawberries?
The best time to plant strawberries depends on your location and the variety you’re planting. In general, spring is the ideal time to plant strawberries, once the soil has thawed and temperatures are consistently above freezing. This allows the plants to establish their roots before the summer heat. However, in milder climates, fall planting can also be successful. Check the specific planting recommendations for the variety you choose.
What type of soil do strawberries prefer?
Strawberries prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Ideally, the soil should have a pH level between 5.5 and 7. If your soil is heavy or clayey, consider amending it with compost, well-rotted manure, or other organic matter to improve its texture and drainage. Avoid planting strawberries in areas prone to waterlogging, as excess moisture can lead to root rot.
How often should I water my strawberry plants?
Strawberry plants need consistent moisture, especially during the growing season. Water deeply but infrequently, aiming for around 1 inch of water per week. Be mindful not to overwater, as strawberries are susceptible to root diseases in soggy soil. Mulching around the plants with straw or other organic materials helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and protect the berries from direct contact with the soil.
How can I protect my strawberry plants from pests and diseases?
To protect your strawberry plants from pests, consider using physical barriers like netting or row covers to prevent birds and small animals from feasting on the fruit. Regularly inspect the plants for signs of pests such as slugs, snails, or aphids, and take appropriate measures to control them. Proper spacing between plants and good air circulation can help reduce the risk of fungal diseases. Remove any infected or diseased leaves or fruits promptly to prevent the spread of diseases.
When and how should I harvest strawberries?
Strawberries should be harvested when they are fully ripe and have reached their maximum color. They should be firm and evenly colored, with no green or white patches. To harvest, gently twist or cut the stem with scissors, taking care not to damage the plant. Harvesting should be done in the morning when the berries are cool. Avoid leaving overripe or rotting strawberries on the plant, as they can attract pests and diseases.
Can I grow strawberries in containers or hanging baskets?
Yes, strawberries can be successfully grown in containers or hanging baskets, making them an excellent option for those with limited space or poor soil conditions. Choose a container that is at least 12 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate multiple plants. Use a well-draining potting mix and ensure the containers have drainage holes. Hanging baskets should be securely hung and watered regularly to maintain adequate moisture levels. Choose compact or trailing varieties suitable for container gardening.
How can I propagate strawberries to expand my patch?
Strawberries can be propagated through several methods. The most common method is by runners, which are long stems that develop from the mother plant and produce new plantlets. You can allow the runners to root in the soil or redirect them to pots filled with soil, where they can establish new plants. Another method is through division, where you carefully separate and transplant individual crowns from an established strawberry plant. Both methods allow you to expand your strawberry patch and enjoy more homegrown berries.
Congratulations! By following this comprehensive guide, you are well-equipped to embark on your strawberry-growing adventure. Remember to choose the right varieties, prepare the soil diligently, provide proper care, and troubleshoot issues that may arise. With patience and perseverance, you’ll soon be enjoying the sweet taste of your homegrown strawberries. Happy gardening and bon appétit!