A favorite fruit in nearly every culture and cuisine, strawberries are beloved for their sweet, juicy flavor and plump red appearance. And though many people cook with them (and eat them) regularly, few have actually considered growing them themselves. Good news: It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to grow strawberries from seed. The plants, native to North America, actually aren’t that picky about where they grow, as long as you can meet their basic needs. Keep in mind, growing strawberries from seed is a process—depending on your location and the length of your grow season, it's possible your plants won't bear actual fruit until the following year. Still, with proper care and patience, you will eventually reap the benefits, knowing you tended to the delicious berries from their very beginnings.
When to Start Strawberries
Because strawberries are perennials, the plants will come back each year. So taking the time to give them a good start will absolutely be worth it in the long run.
Bareroot strawberries can be planted anytime. But when you start strawberries from seed, you’ll want to keep them indoors in the early spring to help them along until the last frost has passed. Simply press the seeds into a moist potting medium in seed starter trays, and allow several weeks for germination.
One major benefit of growing strawberries from seed is you can plant several different varieties of your choosing, as long as they can grow in your climate. But a drawback is you likely won't have a good harvest of fruit for a year after planting. This is certainly a case where good things come to those who wait.
Strawberry plants can go almost anywhere. From indoor potted plants to outdoor patches and interplanted areas that need ground cover, strawberries aren’t picky. They also don’t grow very deep roots. So if you can find a spot for a container of any sort or designate a section of the garden, you probably can put strawberries there.
A few planting site options include:
Most strawberry plant varieties do best with lots of sunshine, so ensure that your growing location gets at least six to eight hours of direct sun per day. Also, make sure you've selected varieties that are hardy to your region, and double-check their care requirements because not all varieties can be interplanted in the same growing conditions.
Strawberries can be everbearers, meaning they provide fruit to harvest all season long. Or they can be summer-fruiting, having one big harvest time.
To encourage the best growth from your plants, provide well-draining soil fed with organic compost or fertilizer. Also, adding a layer of mulch around your plants can help to block out weeds that would compete with your strawberries. Pull weeds as soon as you spot them, and prune off yellowed or browning leaves from the strawberry plants. This helps a plant get as much moisture and nutrients to the healthy leaves and fruits as it can, giving you a better harvest.
Many gardeners pinch off the first blossoms of their strawberry plants to help direct the early growth into bushy leaves. A mature strawberry plant will likely be no more than 6 to 12 inches high. Strawberries do best planted around 12 inches apart, and if you're using containers, a few plants to a pot is plenty.
Moreover, be sure to feed your plants with compost or compost tea after planting and harvesting, as well as in the fall. You can considerably cut down plants at the end of the season to encourage new growth for the next spring.
As soon as strawberries turn red (or white if that’s the variety you have), you can harvest them. If they’ve gone a bit too long and are soft and mushy, they’ll still be excellent in jams and other cooked-fruit recipes. And if the birds are beating you to the harvest, consider tossing bird netting over your plants.
By tending strawberries carefully each season, you should be able to get several years of life out of your plants.