If you want to try growing some fruits in your backyard, start with strawberries! They’re remarkably easy to grow and will take barely any space. Strawberries are one of the few fruits that will even grow and be just as fruitful in a container. You can literally grow them anywhere – hanging baskets, pots, or borders – and they’ll thrive happily.
Learn how to grow strawberries for a fun activity with children – not to mention loads of sweet fruits you’ll soon be picking! Continue reading, and you’ll learn all about starting strawberries from seeds, runners, and young nursery plants, tending them well, and harvesting them at just the right time to enjoy a burst of sweetness!
Different Types To Choose
There are several different types available to choose from. Before learning how to grow strawberries, you need to pick a good variety to grow. To make the most out of your strawberry-growing experience, choose a type that suits your growing zone and site conditions.
Choosing the right variety will keep you loaded with your favorite berries for years ahead. Yes, strawberries are perennial plants that will bear fruit year after year if planted in the ideal growing zone and given the best conditions.
The different cultivars can be categorized into three major groups:
June bearers are the most common varieties you’ll find. They’ll produce a single crop each year, usually around June, but the harvest time can vary with your zone. They’ll produce the largest size of fruits, with a harvest period ranging from 2 to 3 weeks. They’re further categorized into Early Season, Mid Season and Late Season, based on their fruit-bearing time. Plant a combination of these varieties for an extended harvest period.
Here are some of the most popular June-bearing cultivars:
- Ac Valley Sunset (late season)
- Tillamook (early season)
- Earliglow (early season)
- Alice (mid season)
- Annapolis (early season)
- Seneca (mid season)
- Kent (mid season)
- Allstar (mid season)
- Everbearing Strawberries
The name may be misleading; everbearing strawberries aren’t “everbearing” in the truest sense. However, unlike June bearers, they do produce two harvests – one in spring and the other in late summers. If they get ideal conditions, everbearing strawberries can also produce a third harvest in fall. On the downside, the size of strawberries will be smaller than june-bearing varieties, and they won’t produce many runners.
Different types of everbearing strawberries include:
- Ozark Beauty
- Fort Laramie
Day-neutral strawberries will produce smaller fruits than June-bearing and everbearing varieties. However, unlike June-bearing varieties, day-neutral strawberries grow as annuals and will continue bearing flowers and fruits throughout the season. Just like vegetable crops, they can be re-planted each year.
Some common day-neutral strawberries include:
- San Andreas
Different Ways To Start
So once you’ve picked a good variety for your garden, let’s see how to grow strawberries.
There are multiple ways to start your strawberry crop. You can start fresh from seeds, grow runners, or get young nursery plants. As expected, starting from seeds is going to be more time-consuming and challenging as compared to growing a young plant. Existing strawberry plants give off runners. Most gardeners use these to propagate new plants.
- Starting From Seed
If you wish to try out different types or are up for some challenge, you can sprout strawberry seeds and watch them grow.
- When To Start
Strawberry seeds are started indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the expected date of last spring frost.
- Planting The Seeds
Begin by adding pre-moistened seed starting mix to seedling trays. Plant 3 to 4 seeds in each cell. Since they’re very small, you can either place them over the soil or just under the surface. If they’re planted too deep, there’s little chance that the sprouts will break through the soil. Mist the soil with water, just enough to moisten it.
- Waiting For Germination
Maintain consistent moisture until the sprouts appear. Place the tray at a warm, sunny spot and wait for germination. Yes, it can take a long while before you see any greens! Strawberry germination can take 1 to 6 weeks, depending on the variety.
- Starting From Runners
Gardeners who regularly grow strawberries expand their crop by regrowing new plants from runners given by the existing plants. If you’ve grown strawberries before, you might have noticed those long leafless stalks given off by the plants – these are called “runners.” Established strawberries give several runners over the soil surface. Each of these runners can be rooted as an individual plant.
- Pull Away Runners
Choose the healthiest runners, free from any diseases to propagate, and carefully pull them away from the mother plant – don’t cut them off just yet. Generally, the ones closest to the mother plant will be the strongest. How many plants can you grow from the mother plant? If you’re not planning to throw away the original plant, don’t use more than 5 runners from it.
- Pot The Runners
Take pots that are 3 to 4 inches in diameter and fill them with potting soil. Secure them into the ground next to the mother plant. Lay the runners you’ve chosen to propagate on top of the potting soil and press them down with a hairpin, a bent wire, a U-shaped clip, or simply a rock. Water it deeply.
- Break Free From The Mother Plant
Wait about 4 to 6 weeks until the new plant has ample root growth before clipping it from the mother plant. Now you can relocate the new strawberry plant anywhere you want.
- Starting From Seedlings
Best for first-timers, growing young nursery plants is the easiest. Purchase a healthy-looking plant from a reliable source. Make sure it’s disease-resistant and suited to your climate. Once you get the seedling home, you just have to plant it at the right location and give it optimal care to help it produce a good harvest.
How To Plant Strawberries
- Prepare The Site
Prepare the site a couple of months before planting. Choose a location that gets plenty of sun, at least 6 hours a day. They prefer loamy, well-draining soil. Remove weeds, cultivate the land, and incorporate a 1-inch layer of aged manure or compost. The pH should ideally be between 6 and 7. If you have hard, clay soil, consider planting in a raised bed. Containers and hanging planters are also a good option for growing strawberries.
- When To Plant In The Garden
Whether you’ve started from seeds, runners, or bought young nursery plants, plan to set them in the garden in early spring, as soon as the soil is workable.
- How To Plant
Plant strawberries carefully in the location you picked for them. Follow the guidelines:
Incorporate 10-10-10 fertilizer into the soil just before planting. 2 pounds of fertilizer for 100 square feet of land are enough to give your young strawberries a solid start.
How many plants can go in your garden space? Strawberries are sprawling plants; you’ll need to maintain a good distance between them. Set the plants 20 inches apart, with a 4-feet gap between rows.
- Clip The Roots
If the roots are longer than 8 inches, clip them before setting them in the ground.
- Planting Depth
Dig a deep hole, big enough to accommodate the root system without bending any of the roots. Plant it just deep enough that the crown of the strawberry plant (the point where its leaves originate) should sit above the soil. If you plant too deep, it will rot. If you plant it too high, the plant might dry out.
Make sure the roots are nicely spread out before backfilling with soil. Water the plants well just after planting them.
How To Grow Strawberries: Care Tips
How to grow strawberries that they keep your kitchen crammed in berries for several years? From feeding, weeding, and pests, to winter protection, strawberries will need your attention to thrive.
Here’s how to care for the plants you’ve set out in the garden:
They’re shallow-rooted plants, so consistent moisture is imperative. Water regularly, providing about an inch of water each week. You’ll need to be extra careful about watering when the plants are blooming and fruiting.
Keep the soil well mulched with straw to discourage weeds and conserve soil moisture.
Strawberries are heavy-feeders. You’ll need to keep the soil well-nourished to help the plants grow to their maximum potential. Once you’ve fertilized at the time of planting, you can fertilize them again with all-purpose, granular fertilizer after 4 to 6 weeks of planting. Fertilize them again as soon as you see blossoms.
Keep the soil weed-free. Weed regularly by hand, especially if you haven’t mulched the surface. You’ll need to be extra diligent in keeping the bed weed-free during the first few months of growth.
Don’t want to share your strawberries with pests? You’re not alone! Keep the bed weed-free and mulch with gritty material, like sand, to ward off bugs. Spraying your plants with neem oil will also keep many pests away. You can also enclose the base of the plant with diatomaceous earth if the problem is severe.
It’s not just the pests that are a problem. Birds will also come asking for their share in the sweet harvest. Consider installing nettings or use reflective bird tape to keep them from poking on your beautiful berries.
- Winter care
Strawberries are perennials, so they’ll naturally survive dips in temperature to a certain extent. In mild winter regions, not much care is needed. Folks living in colder climates, where winter temperatures drop below 20°F, either grow strawberries as annuals or follow some protective measures through the winters.
- After harvesting, the plants that will overwinter are pruned to 1 to 2 inches above the ground for June-bearing strawberries. For everbearing and day-neutral varieties, prune the damaged, diseased, or infested leaves only. Remove any weeds and debris.
- Water the plants until the first frost, if there’s no rain during this period. In the coldest months, when strawberries are dormant, no supplemental moisture will be needed.
- Mulch after the first frost, before the temperatures dip below 20°F. Don’t mulch too early, or you may attract mice looking for shelter. Add a 4-inch layer of mulch, including straw or pine needles. Drop it around the plants and also over them to cover the foliage completely. This will create a coating for the winter months, protecting the crown against frost damage.
- You can remove the mulch in early spring, once the dangers of frost have passed.
Harvesting Lots Of Strawberries
It’s about time we break it to you – you won’t be having any strawberries in the first year. Worse yet, you should snip blossoms during the first year of growth to discourage fruiting. However, rest assured, it’s for the best. Preventing fruiting during the first year will push the plants into concentrating their energies on plant growth and development of healthy roots to fruit with full vigor in the next year.
From the second year onwards, you can start enjoying your strawberries! The fruit is generally ready for picking in about 4 to 6 weeks after the blooms appear. Ideally, leave the strawberries on the plant for a day or two after they achieve their full color. Gently cut them off from the stem, taking care not to tug on the plant.
Store unwashed berries in a cool, dry place, preferably the fridge, and consume them in 3 to 5 days. You can also freeze them whole to enjoy for much longer. It will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 2 months.
That’s about it on how to grow strawberries! It’s about time you start growing some in your yard to experience the delight of feasting on fresh, home-grown berries!