Sweet, homegrown strawberries are a special treat in the summer. These bright-red berries are packed with nutrients like vitamin C and other antioxidants, so you can happily enjoy them in cereal or strawberry shortcake. Learn how to plant strawberries in the home garden to experience the joy of eating freshly picked fruit.
The first step for planting strawberries is choosing the type. There are three main strawberry varieties: June-bearing strawberries, everbearing strawberries, and day-neutral strawberries.
As you’d imagine, June-bearers produce fruit for a brief window—about three weeks—in early summer. Everbearing varieties have heavy berry crops in late spring and either late summer or early fall, with lighter crops in between. Day-neutral strawberries produce fruit continuously during the growing season until the first fall frost.
- Tips for Planting Strawberries
- When to Plant Strawberries
- How to Plant Strawberries: Choosing a Site
- Amending Soil for Growing Strawberries
- How to Plant Strawberry Plants from Containers
- How to Plant Strawberries from Seed
- How to Plant Strawberry Plants in Rows
- How to Plant Strawberries in a Container
- How to Plant Strawberry Plants: Pest Prevention
- Caring for Strawberry Plants
- Harvesting Strawberries
Tips for Planting Strawberries
If you’re wondering how to plant strawberry plants as a ground cover, look into wild strawberries. Alpine strawberries are another lovely option, with small, fragrant, sweet berries. Note that Alpine varieties require partial shade, unlike most types of strawberries.
When shopping for strawberry plants, look for varieties labeled disease-free. The primary disease to be concerned about is Verticillium wilt, a fungus that affects strawberry plants.
Before racing to start planting strawberries, decide whether to use a bare root or container-grown plant or grow strawberries from seed. Another decision is whether to grow your plants in the garden or in containers.
When to Plant Strawberries
Part of knowing how to plant strawberry plants is knowing when to plant strawberry plants. In regions with cold winters, plant in the spring to enjoy berries that summer.
Start planting strawberries in pots or the garden as soon as the soil is dry and workable. The plants must get established before the summer heat. If your area has mild winters, plant strawberries in the fall for a spring harvest the following year.
In either case, do your planting on a cloudy day or in the late afternoon. The ultimate ideal temperature range for strawberries is 60 to 80℉, although they can tolerate down to 22℉ with adequate frost protection.
How to Plant Strawberries: Choosing a Site
Other than Alpine varieties, strawberries prefer full sun with six to ten hours of daylight daily. In warm regions, they do best with some shade during the hottest part of the day.
The strawberry plant is a perennial in USDA zones 5 to 8, so make sure to find a spot where you’d be happy having a strawberry patch for several years.
Avoid planting near tall plants, like trees, whose roots would compete with strawberries’ shallow root system. The site should not have contained strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, or potatoes recently. These plants are all susceptible to Verticillium wilt.
For pollination purposes, place your strawberries near flowering plants that attract insects like bees and butterflies. The soil should be fertile, fast-draining, slightly acidic to neutral, sandy loam. If your soil does not drain well, put your strawberries in a raised bed.
Amending Soil for Growing Strawberries
Before planting your strawberries, get the soil as free as possible of weeds and grubs, then work in organic matter. Options include compost, aged manure, and peat moss.
Although strawberries tolerate pH levels between 5.0 and 7.0, they prefer between 5.8 and 6.2. If necessary, amend your soil with lime, compost, or manure.
After inserting your plants, spread a generous layer of mulch to control weeds, maintain consistent moisture levels, and keep the soil temperature cool for fruit production.
Try mulching with straw, shredded leaves, or pine needles, which increase the soil’s acidity slightly as they decompose.
How to Plant Strawberry Plants from Containers
To plant a container-grown strawberry plant outside, dig a hole that’s deep and wide enough to fit the plant’s whole root system without bending it. Have you ever wondered how deep to plant strawberries?
For how to grow strawberries in a container, insert your plant so that its crown—where its roots meet its leaves—is level with the soil surface. If the crown is exposed, the plant dries out. If it’s too low, the berries rot.
Gently spread the plant’s roots, then fill the hole with soil. Press the earth into place and water well to settle the roots.
If you’re using a bare root plant, keep the roots moist at all times. Place them in a shallow container with just enough water to cover them for one to two hours before planting.
How to Plant Strawberries from Seed
Starting from seed is more work but rewarding. How long does it take to grow strawberries from seed? In most cases, you’ll need to cold stratify first by sticking the seeds in the freezer for two to four weeks.
Fill a seed tray with a combination of three parts peat moss to one part organic matter-rich soil. Get the soil evenly damp, then sprinkle the strawberry seeds on top.
Distribute a thin layer of peat moss, ensuring light can reach the seeds. Keep the tray in a warm spot in a well-lit room, such as on top of the fridge. If there’s no direct sun, use a grow light.
The germination process should take two to three weeks. Thin the plants if they grow too close together, leaving the most vigorous seedlings.
After the plants develop their third leaves, transfer them to larger pots. Once temperatures are above 50℉, harden the plants off outside for several hours daily.
If you are trying to stretch your fruit growing abilities, know that it takes much longer for growing pineapple from seed than it does strawberries. Plan for a couple of years before you harvest your first pineapple.
How to Plant Strawberry Plants in Rows
If you’ve ever wondered how far apart to plant strawberries, there are two significant strawberry plant spacing arrangements. The matted-row system is the best way to plant strawberries of the June-bearing type.
Allow the mother plants to produce runners, called daughter plants. As the runners spread, they’ll form rows approximately two feet wide.
For everbearing and day-neutral kinds of strawberries, use the hill or mound system. For that method, remove runners quickly so that the mother plant conserves energy.
The matted-row system typically produces more strawberries, while the hill system leads to better-quality berries.
How to Plant Strawberries in a Container
Growing strawberries in containers lets you take advantage of small spaces and move the plants in case of extreme temperatures. Strawberry hanging baskets should be 12 to 15 inches tall and at least 10 inches wide with drainage holes.
When you grow strawberry plants inside in a container, line the basket with coir or peat moss to improve water retention, then fill it with potting mix. Work in compost. Insert three to five plants per basket, hanging them in a sunny spot. Repot every spring with fresh soil.
For a strawberry pot, add enough potting mix to the bottom to reach the first pocket. Lightly press the soil down, then place a strawberry plant in the hole at a slight angle.
Continue adding soil, firming it down, and placing strawberry plants in the pockets. Put another plant or two at the top of the pot, then spread mulch—water well at the top and in each of the pockets.
How to Plant Strawberry Plants: Pest Prevention
It’s not only humans that enjoy snacking on strawberries. To protect the tasty berries from birds, install bird netting or row covers. Alternatively, scare away birds with scare-eye balloons and Mylar bird tape.
To deter strawberry bugs and slugs, use gritty mulch and keep the strawberry bed weed-free. For slugs, in particular, spread sand and string copper ribbon. Pine needles repel both slugs and pill bugs, while Japanese beetles flee from a spray of puréed garlic and neem oil.
Caring for Strawberry Plants
Give growing strawberries one to two inches of water per week. To prevent rot, avoid leaving them in standing water. Watering is essential for runner and flower development and preparations for winter.
The ideal and simplest way to fertilize strawberries is to start with the new plants. They benefit from balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer just before planting and later in the summer. Use Epsom salt for strawberries if your soil has a magnesium deficiency. Feed everbearing and day-neutral varieties after harvesting and June-bearing strawberries during their annual renovation or thinning to keep the plants vigorous.
Do not fertilize in the spring in fruiting years. For organic gardening, add blood meal and bone meal monthly from June to September. In cold regions, spread organic mulch in late fall and mow leaves to one inch. In early spring, remove the mulch.
In the first year, pinch off flowers to make the plants focus on root development. To encourage plentiful, large berries, weed often, remove dead leaves, and—in most cases—limit each plant to three runners.
How do you know when to pick strawberries? Harvest strawberries in the morning when they’re cool and dry. The berries should be full-colored and glossy. Since strawberries only ripen on the plant, leave them in place for one to two days after achieving their full color.
Ripe strawberries feel soft and give a little upon squeezing but should not feel mushy. They also taste sweet and juicy. Handle them carefully since they’re fragile and easily damaged.
Sever strawberry stems with your fingernails slightly above the fruit. Refrigerate the berries immediately after picking, without rinsing them or removing their cap and stem. How long before strawberries go bad after picking? Eat them quickly or preserve them in the fridge or freezer.
Strawberry plants are one of the easiest fruits for home gardeners to tackle. Planting strawberries demands some initial decisions and effort but soon yields sweet rewards.
Learn how to plant strawberries to get the ball rolling on home fruit production. Find out the answer to questions like “How much space do strawberries need to grow?” and “What soil conditions do strawberries prefer?” to feel confident planting and caring for this colorful plant.
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