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How to Grow Strawberries in Your Home Garden

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Apr 24, 2020 • 5 min read

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Growing strawberries at home can be incredibly rewarding: Strawberries are among the only fruits suitable for small spaces. They grow as a low ground cover; they may even be cultivated in window planters. Store-bought varieties cannot compete in taste with homegrown strawberries—they’re simply delicious.

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4 Types of Strawberries to Choose for Your Garden

When planting strawberries, the first step is to decide which strawberry type will work best in your space. The most common types of strawberries are:

  1. June bearers: June bearers, such as Cabot, Earliglow, Chandler, and Jewel, bear fruit once a year in the early summer. They have the highest yield of the strawberry varieties but require patience and space. June bearers send out lots of runners, so they should be grown in raised beds or in the ground. For the best fruit production and healthiest root systems, remove flowering buds the first year. This means that the first year, your plants won’t fruit, but in your second year, you'll have a large harvest.
  2. Day-neutral strawberries: Albion, Evie, and Seascape strawberries are “day-neutral,” which means they aren't sensitive to day length. They produce fruit all season from summer through fall, but in much smaller quantities than June bearers. Day-neutral varieties do well in containers and can be harvested the same year they're planted.
  3. Everbearing strawberries: Tribute and Tristar are everbearing strawberry varieties, which means that they have two to three fruiting periods: late spring, summer, and fall. Like day-neutral strawberries, they can be planted in containers and harvested the year they're planted.
  4. Alpine or woodland strawberries: Alpine strawberries, such as Mignonette, are closely related to wild strawberries. They produce tiny fruit and can become very bushy, which makes them ideal for ground covering. Unlike other strawberry varieties, they're often grown from seed and can tolerate partial shade.

How to Plant Strawberries

Most home gardeners grow strawberries from seedlings or dormant bare root plants purchased from a nursery, but you can also grow strawberries from seeds or runners.

  1. From seed: Dry out ripe strawberries and collect the tiny yellow seeds. Before planting, you’ll need to cold treat strawberry seeds by sealing them in a jar and placing them in the freezer for a month. When you’re ready to sprout your seeds, fill a seed tray with seed-starting mix. Remove your seeds from the freezer, allow them to come to room temperature, then spread them out across the surface of soil. Keep them indoors in direct sunlight until they sprout, and ensure that the soil stays moist. After about six weeks, the seedlings can be transplanted to individual pots, and about six weeks after that, they’ll be ready to plant outside.
  2. From runners: Runners are shoots that produce new plants. If you already have other strawberry plants that are sending out runners, you can place a pot full of soil next to your mature strawberry plant. Insert the end of the runner into the pot and wait about six weeks for roots to form, then cut the runner from the older plant.
  3. From seedlings and potted plants: When transplanting seedlings or potted plants from a nursery, place plants in the ground or potting soil so that the crown (the part where the roots meet the shoots) is above the soil.
  4. From dormant bare-root plants: Dormant bare-root plants are strawberry plants that have gone dormant for the winter. They may look like a few dried sticks attached to a root system, but dormant bare-root plants can be planted directly in the ground, with crowns above the soil, at the beginning of the growing season.
  5. In containers: Strawberries have shallow roots, so they work well in wide containers, like window boxes. Choose containers that are at least a foot deep and have good drainage. Plant strawberries along the edge of a container so that the fruit can hang off the side. One advantage of containers is that they allow you to move strawberries to follow the sunshine and bring them indoors during the winter.
  6. In the ground and raised beds: Space strawberries at least a foot apart from each other. When choosing a planting site for strawberries, there are a couple of things you can do to keep your plot disease-free: Plant away from nightshades (such as eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes) to prevent a disease called verticillium wilt and make sure your location receives plenty of direct sunlight.

Whether you’re planting in the ground, in a raised bed, or in containers, most strawberries prefer full sun—at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. Soil should be slightly acidic (5.5–6.5 pH), well-drained, and full of organic matter like compost. Plant strawberries in the early spring (after the first frost) on a cloudy day or in the afternoon so that new plants can stay moist.

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How to Care for Strawberry Plants

Strawberries are rewarding, but they aren’t low-maintenance. Here’s how to best care for your new plants:

  1. Remove the first blossoms. To encourage your strawberries to put their energy into producing roots and shoots, prune off the first flowers. For June-bearing strawberries, remove blossoms the entire first year to ensure healthy plants for next year. For other varieties, you can pinch off flower buds for the first four weeks and harvest strawberries later in the season.
  2. Maintain strawberry runners. As runners develop, decide whether to keep, remove, or propagate them. Place runners where you want the daughter plants to form and gently press the ends into the soil to encourage rooting. You can also transplant the daughter plants by putting a pot full of soil next to the mother plant and allowing the runners to take root there.
  3. Use mulch to regulate temperature. Cover the soil around your strawberry plants with mulch, such as straw, to suppress weeds and regulate temperature. In colder temperatures, cover the plants with six inches of straw during the winter to prevent roots from freezing.
  4. Rotate strawberries with other crops. Strawberry plants do not live a long time. For container plants, expect your strawberries to survive one year. Plants grown in the ground or in raised beds may live a few years. After about four years, you can uproot the runners to transplant to new soil. Do not grow strawberries in the same area for more than four years, or you’ll risk building up root-rotting disease.
  5. Weed regularly. Strawberries have a hard time competing with weeds, so keep your strawberry patch weed-free with frequent hand-weeding and mulching.
  6. Water strawberries carefully. To prevent mildew and fungal disease, avoid watering leaf surfaces by installing drip irrigation or hand-watering close to the plant’s crown. Try watering first thing in the morning on sunny days, so that water can evaporate off the surface of the leaves.
  7. Harvest your strawberries as soon as they’re ripe. Let strawberries ripen on the plant, but harvest as soon as they are ripe to discourage pests. Remove any damaged or fallen fruit, which can attract pests as well.

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