When I first started gardening, I couldn't wait to try growing strawberries! These red berries are jam-packed full of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. I can never resist a bite of a plump, juicy and sweet strawberry. I remember visiting my local garden nursery and noticing these bright red hanging baskets. As I got closer, I noticed they were filled with flowering strawberry plants. What? You can grow them like this? In fact, you can indeed grow berries in hanging baskets. I will go into detail about this below!
Once you learn to grow your berries, you can harvest them and make a bunch of delicious confections and treats. Chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry lemonade, strawberry shortcake, berry jam, fruit tarts and the list just goes on! Here, I will be sharing with you a simple guide to growing strawberries. Read on to learn more!
Fast Facts About Strawberries
Are strawberries perennials or annuals? Hardy perennials
Strawberries are perennials in zones 3 through 9. In zones 9 and 10, they are grown as cool-season annuals. It is important to note that if you grow strawberries in containers, they either need to be brought inside during the winter months or transplanted into the ground in the fall. It is also important to know that most strawberry plants produce well for 3 to 4 years. Once they pass this mark, they will produce less fruit. If you plant a variety that has runner plants, you will continue to harvest berries through your new, younger plants!
Do they grow in sun or shade? Full sun to part shade
These tasty crop require 6 to 10 hours a day of full sun. They will not thrive and produce the amount of fruit you are looking for in full shade. If you have an area that is part shade receiving at least 6 hours, your plants should produce just fine. My small warning is, depending on your growing conditions, your plants could become stunted, and you may see less berries. I grew mine in part shade the first year I ever grew strawberry plants, and I didn't have any problems at all! If you plant in direct sunlight, you will notice more abundant harvests and even bigger fruit.
Where can I grow my berries? Anywhere
Strawberries are one of those plants that you can grow just about anywhere. You can grow them right in the ground in rows, strawberry pots, raised beds, containers, window boxes and even hanging baskets! My first experience with strawberries was in hanging baskets. I was so impressed and excited to see how much fruit each basket produced! The next year I tried out strawberry pots and loved my results. Then, I tried a raised bed, and eventually made myself my very own strawberry patch! They are not picky, and don't need much depth to thrive making it a very versatile crop.
How much space do I need? From as small as a mason jar to as big as a field
Depending on the variety you choose, strawberry plants do best spaced 6 to 18 inches apart. They need about 6 to 12 inches of depth to thrive. The rule of thumb when it comes to containers is the bigger the better. It also depends on how many strawberries you are looking to harvest. You can add one plant per strawberry jar and 3 to 5 plants in a hanging basket or window box. If you are a small-space gardener, consider growing vertically. This helps you grow more plants in a smaller area.
Read all about how I grew strawberries in my GreenStalk Garden last season!
What kind of soil do I need? Well-drained, slightly acidic, enriched soil
Strawberries grow best in soil with lots of organic matter. You want to make sure the soil is well-drained and slightly acidic with a pH of 5.0-7.0. Strawberry plants can adapt to many different soil conditions. If you are looking for your plants to produce a large amount of fruit, you want to give your strawberries the ideal conditions. If the soil in your area doesn't have the correct conditions, consider planting them in pots. It's much easier to control your soil by adding potting mix and the organic matter it requires.
How much water will my plants require? Frequent waterings - Every 3 to 5 days
Strawberry plants have very shallow root systems. Because of this, it is important to keep your soil moist. Watering every 3 to 5 days works best. If you are experiencing a drought, you may want to check on your plants to see if they require more water. Moisture is your key to developing large, plump berries. If you are worried about your fruit rotting, you can switch to a drip-irrigation system that is hooked up to a timer. That way, your plants get a healthy drink of water everyday!
Should I add fertilizer? If so, what kind and how often? Yes, but it is not required.
If you feel like your plants need a boost, they appreciate nitrogen-rich fertilizer. This helps encourage growth and helps your fruit develop. If you decide not to add fertilizer, your plants should still grow just fine!
I am a novice gardener. Can I grow strawberries? Absolutely!
Strawberries were one of the first crops that really helped me enter the edible gardening world successfully. Since they are such a hardy plant, you can try out different growing methods and see what works best for you. As long as you have the right amount of sun, the proper soil, a protective cover and a watering schedule you are good to go!
* Tip * As you become more experienced with gardening, you will notice that most crops and flowers are adaptable to many different conditions. In order to give your plants the best chance at growing strong, you want to give your crop the exact requirements to avoid disappointment. They will usually find a way, but when putting so much work and care into growing them, you want them to thrive!
Types Of Strawberries
June Bearing: This type of strawberry will produce one large crop of berries for you each growing season, usually in June. They make a wonderful ground cover by producing an abundance of runner plants. The harvest time for this variety is around 10 days. It's best not to plant this kind of strawberry plant if you are worried about any late spring frosts. You have more of a chance of dealing with damage to your crop and frost killing your spring blooms.
Favorite Varieties - Sequoia, Allstar, EarliGlo
Everbearing: This type of strawberry will produce fruit throughout the growing season. They are also known as day-neutral strawberries. You will start to notice ripe berries at the beginning of spring. You will be able to pick strawberries up until fall, although the amount will taper off as the season progresses. This kind of strawberry plant sends out less runners, allowing the plant to put it's energy into producing multiple crops.
Favorite Varieties - Ozark Beauty, Quinault, Albion
Wild Strawberries: I am less familiar with growing this type of strawberry. I do plan on and am excited to try some varieties this year. Some people actually consider wild strawberries a weed! They grow in woodlands and open fields. They tend to have smaller berries than the store bought varieties and make excellent ground cover. You can harvest wild strawberries April through June. You can also grow these as a treat for the wildlife in your yard! I will be planting the varieties listed below this year!
Favorite Varieties - Yellow Wonder, Red Wonder, White Soul Alpine Strawberry
* Extra * For those who love to grow strawberries in containers like I do, these varieties of strawberries do very well in pots, window boxes and hanging baskets. My favorites are Tribute, Tristar & Seascape!
Growing Tips & Tricks
• Mulch around your strawberry plants with straw to retain moisture & cut down on weeds.
• Make sure to weed regularly. Weeds will compete for nutrition & weaken your plants.
•Keep soil moist, but make sure it is well-drained. Wet soil will promote fungus and mold.
•Fertilize strawberry plants every two weeks to promote growth.
•Cover strawberry plants with fabric to prevent birds & animals from eating your crops.
•Replace old plants that produce poorly. Replace around three to five years.
•Pinch off runner plants during first growing season to produce larger fruit.
•Harvest berries as soon as fruit ripens. Allowing fruit to rot will attract pests and disease.
•Make sure to add 2 inches of mulch around plants during winter months for insulation.
* Helpful Hint * Click here to find the varieties that grow best in your state!
Harvesting & Storing Strawberries
How do I know when it's time to pick my berries? It's important to read up on the type of variety you are growing. Your berry can range in size anywhere from 1 inch to 3 inches when fully grown. Also, it depends on if you choose June-bearing or Everbearing. Keep in mind that strawberries are usually ready to be picked 28-30 days after full bloom.
How Frequently should I be picking? Your berries won't all ripen at the same time, so check frequently, and make sure to pick every 2-3 days. For most varieties, wait until your strawberries have fully turned red. Don't pick berries with green tips that aren't quite ripe yet.
Do you have any good advice when it comes to picking? It is best to pick in the early morning hours when the berries are still cool. While you are picking, keep an eye out for damaged or bruised fruit. Make sure to discard them to encourage more healthy growth. Also, try not to yank at your strawberry plants. I made this mistake. Your plants really don't appreciate it. Pick your fruit with one-quarter of the stem attached. Lightly pull and make sure to be gentle when putting them in your container/hod.
What is the best way to store my strawberries? If you are looking to eat them fresh but not right away, they can be stored for 3 to 7 days in the fridge. If you are storing them in the fridge, make sure the caps are still on your berries and don't wash them. Pick a plastic container with a loose-fitting lid. Make sure do add a clean paper towel in the bottom of your container. Do not overcrowd the berries and arrange them in a single layer separated by a clean paper towel.
I picked way more berries than I can eat. What do I do? Freeze them! Frozen strawberries can be used to make delicious jams, preserves, and can even be thrown into smoothies!
I didn't get a good harvest this year. Am I not good at growing strawberries? Absolutely not! There are so many factors that can go into not having a good crop. The weather is a huge factor. Way too much rain, not enough rain. Having a late frost can damage your plants. Pests can be a big problem, especially slugs. You can use plastic mulch to try and discourage them. Disease is sometimes unavoidable.
It seems like so many things can go wrong. Should I still even try? Even though problems can sometimes arise, try different things! Some varieties are more disease resistant. If you are worried about a certain animal or pest, try growing them in a different location or adding row covers. If conditions are the problem, try growing them in a container where you have more control over the soil and the drainage.
There are so many different kinds of berries to pick from. I've been growing strawberries for around 5 years now. I've tried lots of different varieties by this point. This has lead me to having a good idea of which ones work best for me. This is different for everyone though, so have fun with it!
* Extra Credit * Plant these companion plants to give your crops an extra pollination boost & organic pest protection.
• Borage - Will help naturally deter pests and parasites from your plants. Improves strawberries flavor. Attract pollinators.
• Bush Beans - Helps fertilize soil and add nitrogen for strawberry plants. Deters beetles. Improves strawberry yields.
• Caraway - Attracts predators that help get rid of pests that attack strawberry plants, like parasitic wasps & parasitic flies.
• Lupin - Fertilizes soil and adds nitrogen strawberries require. Attracts pollinators like honeybees.
Overall, strawberries are one of my favorite crops to grow. Have you grown, or are planning on trying to grow strawberry plants? Do you have any great tips? Please share with me in the comment section below! We will be back for more Tuesdays In The Garden fun on June 13, discussing summer planning in the garden. See you then!