How to Grow Strawberries

Image shows a bright red strawberry growing on a strawberry plant.

Sweet and delicious strawberries are one of the best types of fruit to harvest from a summer garden. Here are some tips on how to grow the best strawberries.

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Looking for tips on how to grow strawberries in your garden this year? Here are some tips on how to grow strawberries from plants and seeds.

Strawberries can be one of the hardest and one of the easiest things to grow in a home vegetable garden. It can take a few seasons of growing strawberries—trying different soils and locations, testing varieties, and planting the right types of strawberries at the right time to get the best harvest.

Many gardeners probably start with strawberry plants purchased at a local garden center or store. The problem with doing this is that it can sometimes be too late in the season to get the plants established in a garden well enough to produce strawberries that season.

Gardeners may become frustrated with growing strawberries. If you are one such gardener, then you may find that a few simple tweaks may make it easier to grow strawberries in your garden.

So perhaps one thing to keep in mind is growing strawberries takes a little patience to get things right. It can take a full year before strawberry plants start to produce in quantity.

Strawberry plants reproduce themselves by growing runners, which you can allow to spread naturally or re-home in a more desirable place. More runners can result in more strawberries, just be sure to keep the plants fertilized during the season.

If you end up with too many runners, then you can share the extras with family and friends. Strawberries are easy to grow from runners: simply stick the runner in soil and keep the soil moist until the runner settles in.

If you can keep the plants alive through summer, fall, and winter, then the following spring you may be rewarded with delicious, fresh strawberries. Covering strawberry plants with organic, non-sprayed straw during winter may help to keep the plants from freezing.

If you live in a place that gets cold during winter, look for strawberry plant varieties that are reported to be winter hardy, like Annapolis (June-bearing), Cavendish (June-bearing), Honeoye (June-bearing), and Ogalalla (ever-bearing).

An unheated greenhouse or cold frame may provide some protection against the elements during fall and winter.

It may not seem like it, but strawberries can be a low maintenance plant to grow. As long as the roots don’t freeze and the plant stays healthy, a strawberry plant can provide you with harvests for years to come.

How to Grow Strawberries from Plants or Plugs

An easy way to begin growing strawberries is to start a strawberry patch from plants, runners, or plugs.

You can often find strawberry plants or strawberry plugs to buy at local garden centers or order them online. Try to find strawberry varieties that are reported to grow well in your area.

There are three main types of strawberry plants: June-bearing, ever-bearing, and day neutral.

  • June-bearing strawberries produce a large, concentrated crop between the months of June and July. The plants may continue to produce fruit after the main crop matures, but the production will be less than that of the first crop.
  • Ever-bearing strawberries generally produce two crops during the growing season. The first crop appears in early summer, while the second crop appears in early fall.
  • Day neutral strawberries have plants that produce fruit throughout the warm weather growing season.

When choosing strawberry plants, look for plants with lush green leaves and firm stems. Check plants to make sure you don’t spot any diseases or bugs before you buy the plants to take them home.

The best growing conditions for strawberries include full sun and fertile, well drained soil.

Choose a spot in the garden that receives full sun. In hotter climates, provide afternoon shade for strawberry plants.

Loosen up the soil and add ages compost if needed. Dig a small hold to place the strawberry plant roots in. Dig holes for the strawberry plants, spacing the holes 18- to 24-inches apart, in rows that are located 3- to 4-feet apart. This gives the strawberry plants—and their runners—room to grow.

Strawberry plants have a crown, located between the roots and the beginning of the green stems on the plant. When you plant a strawberry plant in soil, always keep the top of the crown just above the soil line.

Backfill the hole and pat the soil down to hold it in place. Gently water the soil around the plants.

Place mulch over the soil around the strawberry plants, but keep the mulch a few inches away from the crown of each plant.

Mulch helps to hold moisture in the soil. But check plants often to make sure the soil does not dry out. Keep the soil moist, but not water-logged.

Ideally, strawberry plants should receive about 10 hours of sunlight each day to grow. Provide strawberry plants with at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight at a minimum.

During the first weeks after planting, your strawberry plants will spend time getting used to their new home. Pinch off any flowers that appear at this time to encourage the plants to direct their energy toward becoming established, rather than producing fruit.

Aged compost and organic nitrogen fertilizers can encourage plants to grow. A balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, can also be used to fertilize strawberry plants. Early spring, mid-summer, and late summer or early fall are good times to fertilize the plants.

When they are happy, strawberry plants may produce runners (also known as stolons) that can take over the garden. Remove the runners to help manage strawberry plant growth.

The runners often feature a daughter plant, that looks like a small collection of strawberry leaves. These will root into the ground to form new strawberry plants.

You can replant strawberry runners in a container filled with potting soil or plant them in a new place in the garden. Keep the soil moist until the runners are established.

Fungal diseases can be a problem with strawberry plants, causing fruit rot and other problems. Watch out for gray mold and leaf blight on plants.

Growing strawberry plants in a sunny location, with plenty of space between each plant, and keeping the leaves dry, can help to prevent disease.

Keep strawberry plants weeded and pruned to allow good air circulation. Remove diseased leaves from the plants, and keep the area around the plants free from debris.

Pests that target strawberries include aphids, leaf hoppers, slugs, snails, spider mites, strawberry bud weevils, tarnished plant bugs, and thrips. Check plants frequently—especially under the leaves—for signs of pest infestation.

Organic sprays may be used to help control bug problems on strawberry plants, especially if the problem is found early. Covering plants insect cloth may also help to keep some bugs off of the plants.

Use diligence when monitoring for and managing bug problems. Contact your local university extension service for more information about strawberry pests and diseases, and how to prevent or manage them, in your area.

As the fruit ripens, you may also find that you have to compete with birds—along with squirrels and other rodents, to harvest strawberries. Some gardeners grow white or yellow strawberries, instead of red strawberries, since the color of red berries is thought to attract birds.

Pick strawberry fruit as soon as it is ripe to help protect your harvest from small animals and other potential pests. Wait until the strawberries have turned red (or the color that the fruit is supposed to be once it is fully ripened) before picking the fruit.

Fresh strawberries can be used to make delicious strawberry and spinach salads, classic strawberry shortcake or strawberry pie, fresh strawberry jam, and many other wonderful dishes using your summer harvest.

How to Grow Strawberries from Seed

Strawberries can also be grown from seed. Alpine strawberries are a popular type of strawberry to grow from seed. The plants take about 120 days to mature, so plant the seeds early to allow them plenty of time to grow.

Alpine strawberry seeds may take a few weeks to germinate. To get a head start, you can start the strawberry seeds indoors in late winter. For best results, try to keep the soil temperature between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit until the seeds germinate.

You can also try cold stratification to help seeds emerge in the spring. Freeze the seeds for a month before planting them, or plant the seeds outside in a protected area, such as a greenhouse or cold frame, the winter before the growing season when you want the strawberry plants to grow in your garden.

Alpine strawberry seeds need light to germinate, so gently tamp the seeds down into the soil and only cover them with a light layer of soil to allow light from a grow lamp or sunlight to reach the seeds.

In general, there are a few differences between alpine strawberries and the strawberries that we often see in the grocery store. While alpine strawberries and other strawberries belong to the same genus, they have different growth habits and appearances.

Alpine strawberries are long and thin, and they are usually smaller than regular strawberries. Alpine strawberries often grow in clumps that can be divided each year, to produce new plants. Their well-behaved growth habit makes them a great strawberry plants to grow in containers or at the edges of garden beds.

Once the seedlings have emerged and are a few inches tall, plant the alpine strawberries in the garden as you would other types of strawberry plants, keeping the crown of the plant slightly above the ground.

Alpine strawberries grow well in loose, fertile soil that drains well. Most strawberry varieties prefer to grow in full sun, but alpine strawberries can handle a small amount of light shade.

Plant care for alpine strawberries is similar to that for other types of strawberries, but some gardeners find alpine strawberries to be hardier when it comes to fending off pests and diseases, and changes in temperature.

Alpine strawberries can produce fruit all season long, so planting a few plants may help to keep you enjoying fresh strawberries throughout the summer.

When winter comes, spread a layer of organic or untreated straw mulch around the plants to help protect their roots and crowns from being damaged over winter.

Common alpine strawberry varieties include Alexandria, Mignonette, Pineapple Crush, Reine des Vallees, Rugen, White Soul, and Yellow Wonder. Different varieties produce berries in shades of red, yellow, and white, adding a flavorful and colorful touch to the garden.

This post was all about how to grow strawberries.

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Credits
  • Photo by Justus Menke / Unsplash
  • Photos are for illustrative purposes only.

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