If you’d like to get your kiddos interested in growing food, strawberries are just the ticket! They bear juicy, red fruit that nearly everyone loves and are pretty easy to manage.
If you don’t have space for a patch outside, you still have a few options–they can be grown in pots on a balcony, in flower beds and even hanging baskets. They generally produce fruit for two or three years so you can enjoy them again and again.
Here’s a tipsheet full of instructions to help get you started…
When: They should be planted in early Spring soon after all danger of frost has passed and the soil can be worked. Those who live in warmer climates can also plant them in the Fall and enjoy an abundance of berries in the Spring.
Choose a day to do this when it’s cool and cloudy or later in the afternoon (to help protect the new plants from the heat/sun on the first day). For best results, check the soil first to make sure it’s dry.
Location: These guys love lots of sun so to help them thrive, find a spot where they will get at least 6 hours of sunlight.
They can thrive in a vegetable garden, flower beds, raised beds, pots & containers and even hanging baskets and bags. If you choose containers, make sure the soil is at least 12″ deep so they have room to stretch their feet.
Select a location that’s sheltered a bit from the wind and away from where peppers, tomatoes and potatoes are growing since they could harbor verticillium wilt, this is a disease they’re susceptible to.
How: You’ll notice they will have some long roots going on and that can make things a bit clumsy when trying to get them in the soil. You can trim the roots back to about 4″ for easier handling. Arrange so the roots are fanned out a bit (horizontally) rather than deep (vertically).
How deep? You want the roots completely covered in soil but the crown resting right above soil level (you’ll see the crown right above the roots).
To get started, you first want to dig the soil up really well so it’s nice and loose and mix in some compost. Pinch off any blossoms and dead leaves. Water well after planting.
Two common methods can be used with good results: Matted Row System and Hill System. You can find helpful information about these methods here: Oregon State University (pdf file download available)…
In the matted-row system, set plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row (or raised bed), with 3 to 4 feet between rows. Allow the runners that form from these “mother” plants to develop and root–they’ll form a matted row 18 inches wide. Keep the remaining 1.5 to 2.5 feet between rows clear by sweeping early formed runners into the row or by cutting off late-formed runners that grow into the aisle or off the edge of the raised bed.
The hill system is ideal for cultivars that produce few runners, such as everbearers. Set plants 12 to 15 inches apart in double-or triple-wide rows (on raised beds if necessary). Aisles should be 1.5 to 2 feet wide. Remove all runners that develop throughout the growing season before they root.
Watering: They need lots of water to thrive (at least an inch a week) but make sure the soil is well draining and that you don’t over water otherwise you’ll find rot setting in. Water daily during hot weather. To help keep the soil fairly moist, cool and weed-free, spread a layer of straw or mulch a couple inches thick around them.
Growing Season: Help them thrive by keeping the patch free of weeds, strawberries have shallow root systems and the weeds can seriously interfere with their growth. Keep the soil moist, well draining and cool if possible (cover with a layer of mulch). A nice and tidy patch that is well maintained yields the best results.
Harvesting: They will start producing berries in June and you can find varieties that will produce into Fall. It’s important to pick the fruit as they ripen to prevent them from rotting on the plant. If you’ve missed a few and do find some that are overripe and rotting, still pick them off to avoid attracting pests and disease.
Once they start ripening, check every other day to pick them (some believe you’ll get sweeter berries by letting the ripe ones stay on at least another day before picking).
Remove by pinching them off at the stem right above the berry (keep about 1/2″ of the stem attached to the berry).
June Bearing: These produce once a year (June). June Bearing are planted this year to enjoy a harvest next year. To help them get established, pinch off all blossoms the first year of growing. June bearing typically produce the largest berries. Matted Row systems work best for this variety.
Ever Bearing: These produce twice a year (Spring & Fall). To help them get established the first year you start them, pinch off the first set of blossoms up until July then allow the blossoms to grow so you can enjoy a Fall harvest. Next year you can enjoy the harvest in both Spring & Fall (no need to pinch off any blossoms). Ever bearing typically produce smaller berries than the June bearing plants. The Hill System works best for this variety.
Day Neutral: These will produce throughout the summer. In the first season, pinch off the first set of blossoms to help them get established then allow the blossoms to grow. Day neutral typically produce smaller (and sweeter) berries than the June bearing plants. The Hill System works best for this variety.
- The small white flowers are edible, just like the berries!
- Once picked, don’t wash them until just before eating. This will help keep them firm and slow down softening while being stored.
- Some find it worthwhile to cover them with a light netting to help protect the fruit from birds. If you have a lot of birds in your area, give this trick a try.
- They will not ripen once they’re picked so make sure to pick only when they’re ready.
- Once picked keep them refrigerated until they can be eaten, this will help extend their shelf life.
- Some believe that berries picked in the morning have a longer shelf life than those picked later in the day.
- You can hull them quickly by washing first then taking a wide plastic straw–insert it at the bottom of the berry-–then push the stem out (Source: 50 Quick Tips For The Kitchen).
- Towers are an excellent way to grow strawberries in small spaces, you can build your own with a couple 5-gallon plastic buckets. Free directions are found on this page: ucanr.org.
- DIY Pyramids: If you don’t have a lot of garden space, try this project made with fence pickets and deck screws. Plants are grown vertically in tiers.
Good tips! I had a field of everbearing strawberries last year but did not get many large berries from them. This year I will be planting June bearing strawberries for a larger harvest. I need them all at once also, to get enough to make strawberry wine.
And how does one make strawberry wine? Sounds absolutely heavenly!
How do you keep up with weeds that grow in them?
I use a 2 inch layer of rice hulls over the soil. This stops weed seeds form reaching the soil so they get cooked in the sun.
The hulls also dry out quickly and keep the soil underneath cool.
If you don’t have rice hulls you can use straw or hay but make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides or it could kill your strawberries.
Really informative. I have wild strawberries on my berm. It’s a man-made berm that I built about 16 years ago. The strawberries started to come up last spring. I didn’t know what they were and I pulled them. I’m so ashamed. 🙁 Well, with blessing from above, they’re coming back! I live in SE Iowa and we’ve had record breaking high temps. Sorry, I’m rambling… are these safe to eat? I’m assuming they’re volunteers from bird doo-doo. Thanks!
p.s. I came to your site by way of a Pinterest Pin.
We had strawberries for years that would not produce. So I did some research. According to what I found is that rabbit droppings mixed with water is the magic key. Pour the mix around the roots and watch the magic. If you don’t have access to rabbit droppings I found out last year that horse manure also works. All the store bought fertilizers was a total wast of money. So go for the nature remedy.
I am starting a new bed in my garden. If tomatoes or peppers are in the garden… plant opposite side of garden… or can’t plant strawberries in the garden?
Well, I am no expert but I planted green peppers right in the middle of my strawberries and had no problem, maybe I was just lucky!
We have such a, seemingly, healthy large bed of plants that seem to produce not a whole heck of a lot. And, those that look healthy to pick, once turned over have little teeny holes in them – and when you look closely, you can see little mites of some sort moving around inside. What can I use that is safe for my plants and for my family? It also looks as if the leaves of the plants are so large, they create an enormous canopy over the strawberries… should I remove some plants?
Big leaves may be caused by to much nitrogen and it´s ok to takeaway some of the plants, more plants don´t yield more if they don´t have space they have to place to breath. Use nematods sprinkled over the ground to get rid of the pests.
i wish I could find Strawberry plants for fall planting. Seed catalogs don’t handle them nor nearby places.
You could 8-12 plants from your garden center and plant them in the spring, by fall time you would have about24-36 plants, Each mother plant will have 3- 4 runners with 3-4 plants on them so by the next fall you would have about 216 plants,(If I did the math right)
Strawberries should be planted no later than March. My dad grew berries, strawberries and boysenberries. After planting, they should be fertilized beside the plants, being careful not to get the fertilizer on the plants.
The runners make new plants so a person should train them to grow in the bed to make a nice wide bed of plants.
Will the plants live through the winter and come back in the spring to produce more berries? I have a loran variety in a hanging basket.
I have back problems so I started my strawberry beds in 5 foot kids wading pools. This also keeps bugs out. Make sure you put holes in the bottom.
How do I look after the plants in winter? Last winter they died from the cold and frost. I live in South Africa so we don’t get below zero temp but lots of rain and it does get chilly
Last year I tried strawberries for the first time. The plants give some fruit, but were small. This year I dug them from the garden and planted them in pots. They are doing fantastic lots of fruit but again small. What can I do to have grow bigger?
can you cut runners to grow more strawberrys. I waited until they started to root and cut them to transplant. Didn’t do too good. What did I do wrong