Learning how to grow strawberries at home is far easier than you may think. In fact, the hardest part of the whole process may be deciding which of the 103 types of strawberries you want to grow.
How to grow strawberries effectively:
- Decide which type of strawberry you want to grow.
- Choose to grow them from seeds, fresh strawberries, or runners.
- Pick a strawberry planter, growing bag, or patch of garden.
- Make sure they have space, the right soil, and enough water.
Table of Contents
- Why Choose to Grow Strawberries?
- Types of Strawberries (And Which to Grow)
- Understanding the Strawberry Life Cycle
- How to Start Growing Strawberries
- Where to Start Growing Strawberries
- When to Start Growing Strawberries
- What Strawberries Need to Grow
- Potential Problems
Why Choose to Grow Strawberries?
Strawberries are easy to grow and can be grown in pots, bags, and strawberry beds. Depending on the variety of strawberries that you plant, they’ll have different aromas and tastes, and you can rest assured knowing that cold storage hasn’t compromised quality.
Strawberries also have many health benefits.
Health Benefits of Strawberries
Strawberries are rich in fiber and have high levels of antioxidants like polyphenols, which are said to enhance brain health as well as digestion. Strawberries are also in the top 20 of fruits that have high levels of antioxidants, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin B9—folate.
They also have the following health benefits:
- Protect your heart.
- Regulates blood sugar.
- Lowers cholesterol.
Types of Strawberries (And Which to Grow)
There are over 103 different types of strawberries, but the three main types of strawberries are:
- June bearing.
These three types of strawberry plants have subsets, and you can plant various strawberries in your garden together. This will allow you to have strawberries all year round.
This type of strawberry is relatively new and this plant will produce fruit regardless of the length of time they get sunlight. It’s an annual crop that will yield strawberries from late June to mid-fall.
As long as temperatures stay between 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, this plant will bear strawberries right up until the end of the season. You can choose from a variety of day-neutral strawberries like:
- San Andreas.
- Sweet Ann.
You can plant three or all seven types of day-neutral strawberries—this will give you a steady supply of the fruit, as they won’t all be ripe at the same time. All varieties of day-neutral strawberries will have outstanding flavors.
This is one of the most popular types of strawberry, but you need to be patient with it as they don’t produce any fruit in their first season. You’ll spend your first growing season picking off any flowers and allowing the plant to develop a healthy root system.
In the second growth season, they’ll produce a bountiful crop over two to three weeks. It’s best to pick them in late spring to early summer as the fruits ripen, as they can be damaged by frost in cooler climates. June-bearing strawberries do better in hotter climates, and they are more tolerant of heat than the other types of strawberry.
Here are some of the most popular June-bearing strawberry varieties:
If you want more fruit, then you’ll be thrilled with the everbearing strawberry variety as they produce two to three separate yields of fruit. The first crop will be during spring to early summer, with the second crop during midsummer and possibly a third crop late in summer to early fall.
The everbearing plant can produce strawberries in its first growing season, although the fruit may be few and far between. You’ll realize the plants produce an abundance of fruit during the second growth season. It’s important to note the older the strawberry plant is, the fewer the fruit they produce and should be replaced after four years.
Here are some of the more popular everbearing types of strawberries:
- Ozark beauty.
- Fort Larmie.
How to Choose Which One to Grow
When you’re getting ready to plant your strawberries, it would be best to choose a variety that’s best suited to your location, especially if you’re in a cooler climate. You may also want to decide where you’re going to plant them to see how much sunlight they’ll be getting. If you don’t have an area that gets much sun, it may be best to get the day-neutral variety.
You may also want to consider what strawberry to get if you’re planning on making jam—the Earliglow is a delicious option. It’s also the fruit that ripens sooner than the other strawberry varieties.
If you’re planning on freezing the strawberries, you’d want to get a strawberry variety that produces firm berries. You may want to consider the Allstar for this purpose.
Understanding the Strawberry Life Cycle
Strawberries are perennials, which means they live year after year. They don’t flower during winter but will start to grow and bear fruit in spring and summer. The life cycle begins as a seed; then, they develop runners that take root while remaining attached to the “mother” plant.
The growth cycle of the plant will go on for the entire year, repeating annually until it stops producing fruit. Even though it may look like the plants aren’t doing anything during the winter months, they’re busy developing buds that will bloom in the following spring.
How to Start Growing Strawberries
Before you start digging trenches in your backyard or setting up your balcony containers, you need to decide if you want to grow strawberries from seeds—which can be difficult—or if you’re going to purchase strawberry plants.
It’s easier to purchase them and transplant them, especially if you’re just beginning your strawberry patch. You’ll want to plant them either in the autumn or early spring so you can still enjoy the fruits from late spring.
You’ll also need to decide where you’re going to plant your strawberries, if you’re going to use a strawberry pot, dig a strawberry bed or use a growing bag.
You can’t just plant the strawberry seeds once you have bought them. It’s best to stimulate their germination by cold treating them. To do this, place the seeds in a plastic sandwich bag, be sure to get rid of any air in the bag, and then place it in the freezer for a month.
Then take them out and let them warm up to room temperature, but don’t open the bag until they’re at room temperature. Prepare your pots with loam soil, and then place the seed in the pot and barely cover the seed.
The soil must be kept damp, so be careful not to over-water the seeds. Once the plants are 2 inches tall, transplant them to their pot or bed. When you plant them, make sure to keep the roots vertical. Try to keep them away from other fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, or eggplants.
If you’re starting with runners, prepare the soil by digging and then using compost as well as adding potash fertilizer. The distance between each runner should be 11 inches to 17 inches apart.
When you plant the strawberries, only bury the roots as you don’t want to damage the crown of the plant. Then firm the soil around them and water immediately after planting. You can plant them in autumn or spring, as well as late summer.
From Fresh Strawberries
It is possible to grow strawberries from the fruit that you bought at the store. Set aside a few strawberries and leave them until they are very ripe, but not moldy. Then put them into a blender with 35 ounces of water and blend for about 30 seconds.
Let the mixture settle for approximately 10 minutes, and if there are seeds floating on the top, scoop those out and discard them. You won’t get any plants from those. Pour the rest of the mixture through a sieve and rinse as much of the pulp off as you can.
Then place your seeds under a thin layer of soil, in a sunny spot, and keep the soil moist. These will take between 6 and 8 weeks to germinate, and once you see the leaves, you can transplant them. You’ll still have to be gentle as strawberry seedlings are delicate at this stage.
Where to Start Growing Strawberries
You don’t need a backyard to grow strawberries, as they can be grown in hanging baskets or in a strawberry pot. You can also plant a single plant in a deep pot with a width of 6 inches. It’s not advisable to plant more than one strawberry plant in a small pot, though you can put up to four plants in a container with a diameter of 12 inches.
Just make sure to keep your strawberry plants in a place where they can get enough sunlight and will be sheltered from harsh weather conditions and frost.
In a Strawberry Planter
There are a number of strawberry pots you can choose from, and with some pots, you can choose how many levels you want. My advice is to start small with two to three layers as you’re going to have more baby plants developing as they grow.
Use a potting soil that drains well and make sure it’s mixed to suit the strawberry plants. By using a potting soil that’s well-drained, it will help distribute the water more evenly throughout the pot.
When you’re planting the strawberries, gently massage the roots to make a tubular shape—this will make planting them easier. Slip them through the holes from the outside of the pot while grabbing them from the inside. Start from the lower level and work your way to the top of the pot.
In a Strawberry Bed
Choose a spot in your garden that’s sunny and protected, so that the plants won’t be affected by frost. Then prepare the soil by double digging it and incorporating rich compost.
Avoid planting strawberries in areas where roses have been planted, as strawberries are part of the rose family, and you want to avoid soil that could have a potential disease.
The space between each plant should be 18 inches within a row and set each row 2 feet apart. Then plant the strawberries into the ground, making sure that crowns aren’t buried too deeply or buried too shallow. You want to just bury the crown beneath the soil, and getting this right is essential as you don’t want the crowns to be damaged.
In a Strawberry Growing Bag
Mix your compost and then fill your bag with the soil just above each set of holes. Poke the strawberry plants into these holes. Push the soil down firmly around each plant, taking care not to bury the crown, but keeping it above the soil line.
Continue to fill the bag until it’s full. Hang it in a place where it will get the most sunlight and be sure to water it immediately after you have planted your strawberries.
Allow the soil to dry between watering, but make sure that the bag has sufficient drainage so that roots don’t sit in a lot of water as this can cause the roots to rot. Each bag can hold between 9 to 15 plants, and they are ideal for those with a balcony.
When to Start Growing Strawberries
You can start planting your strawberries in either March or April, as you want them to have developed good roots before the temperatures rise in summer. If you’re planting in containers, then you can plant them in late summer as you can move them to a more protected area like the garage in the winter months.
If you live in humid coastal areas like Florida, then you can plant them in the fall. It’s advisable to replant the healthiest plants every September in a freshly dug and composted site for them to grow.
What Strawberries Need to Grow
When you’re still learning how to grow strawberries, remember they need plenty of care and attention. If you live in an area where you have colder climates, you can cover them with straw mulch during the winter to help protect the plants. Using straw mulch will also help to suppress weeds.
Strawberries need space to grow as they’re always producing runners, and if you don’t keep on top of them, they’ll soon take over. You want to keep them over a foot apart.
Also, make sure that you only bury the roots and that you’ve firmed the surrounding soil. You’ll have to check the strawberry patch regularly for weeds as they can deprive the strawberries of nutrients and water.
Strawberries are self-pollinating; they do get some help from wind and insects. So you may want to plant them in an area where they’ll be protected from birds. You can cover them up when you start to see the fruit forming or that the flowers have started to wilt as the pollination would have occurred.
The Right Soil
Strawberries prefer acidic soil with a pH balance between 5.5 and 6.8. You can buy an acidic potting mix if you’re hanging or planting your strawberries in pots. If you’re planting a strawberry bed, you can give your soil a boost by mixing it with 7 inches of organic compost and adding a granular fertilizer.
Strawberries are susceptible to disease, and it’s better to avoid planting them in areas where you’ve recently grown other vegetables. By raising the strawberry bed you’ll help to keep grass and weeds from getting into the strawberry patch.
The roots of strawberry plants are shallow, so it’s best to keep the soil moist; however, don’t over-water to the point that the soil is soggy. If you have planted them in soil with a high level of clay, it would be best to use a sprinkler as this will prevent over-watering them. It’s also better to water them in the early afternoon so that the roots don’t sit in water.
The strawberry plants need between 1 to 2 inches of water on a daily basis. If you’ve got your plants in a bag, stick your finger in to check how dry or damp the soil. Also, check the bottom of the bag to see how much water could be trapped in the bottom, as if it’s not draining sufficiently, the strawberries on the bottom could rot.
Strawberries need sunlight to thrive, and this could vary between 8 to 10 hours of sunlight a day. Plants that grow in full sunlight produce better quality, larger, and higher amounts of fruit, compared to those who have received partial sun.
If they’re located in partial shade, then they should be planted in early spring so that they can take advantage of the sunlight in late spring and summer. Strawberries will not grow well in full shade. Therefore, you need to make sure that your strawberry patch gets enough sunlight, or if your plant is on a balcony, that it faces the sun.
You’d only need to apply fertilizer six weeks after planting the strawberries as they’re not heavy feeders. You can use an organic fertilizer like bone meal—for every 100 square feet use half a pound—fish or ammonium sulfate. You can also buy “Berry” granular fertilizers from garden centers.
Make sure to water the plants after fertilizing as this will help get it to the root. If you notice that the leaves of the strawberry plant are light green and drooping, then it may be time for another application of fertilizer. It would all depend on the type of fertilizer you get as some are also slow release.
You want to try and grow your strawberries as organically as you possibly can, but there are potential problems that can occur.
Grey mold is a fungus known as Botrytis cinerea, and one of the leading causes is moisture. The strawberries would have to have an injury of sorts before they are infected. However, the wetter the plants, the more susceptible they are to infection.
You’ll notice spots that form on the leaves, which may look white at first, but will change to brown until it covers the whole leaf, which will also wilt. This may also appear like grey fuzz that covers the plant.
You’d need to remove all the infected plants and clean between all the other plants to make sure that they can’t get infected. To prevent further infections, you can use sprays with cultures to help.
Where there is fruit, there are slugs, and they’ll eat virtually everything in the garden. When you’re checking your strawberries, look for holes on the leaves, which can be irregular. You may even find holes on the stems.
There are a couple of things you can do to protect your strawberries, like collecting them by hand either at dusk or early dawn. You can also set-up a slug and snail trap by putting cardboard on the ground around your plants. Then every morning, you can turn the boards over and collect them.
You can also buy an organic slug and snail repellent that contains iron phosphate, sprinkling it around the plants. The slugs and snails will eat this, and it will kill them.
Harvesting Too Soon
It may be tempting to pick your strawberries before they’re entirely red or ripe. However, picking them before they’re fully ready will stop the ripening process of all the strawberries.
The best time to pick your ripe strawberries would be in the early morning, and to keep them fresh, put them in the refrigerator right away.
There are many things to consider when you’re learning how to grow strawberries, but once you’ve started, you’ll have delicious organic strawberries for years to come. You’ll never have to wait for them to be in season before you can enjoy them.
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can grow them on your balcony in a strawberry pot or bag. Then you can treat yourself and your loved ones to strawberry smoothies or a fresh scone with cream and jam, made by you.