Strawberries define summer. The color, the sloppy juicy bites, the sweetness—and fresh from the vine strawberries are simply incredible. But strawberries are also in the top five of the dirty dozen again this year, so if they aren’t right off of an organic vine, your strawberries are more than likely carrying residue from sprays. Instead of buying organic all year, why not grow your own strawberry patch?
You can start from seed any time now.
When to Start
If you were hoping for fresh strawberries this summer, you might be a little bit late already. Because strawberries are perennials, they will come back each year. Taking the time to help them establish well will be absolutely worth it in the long run.
Bareroot strawberries can be planted anytime, but when starting strawberries from seed, you’ll want them indoors in early spring in order to help them along until the last frosts are finished. Simply press the seeds into a moist medium in the starter trays. Allow several weeks for germination. The benefit to growing strawberries from seed is that you will have access to a wide range of varieties. The drawback is that you will not likely have a good harvest of fruit until the next year. This is certainly a case where good things come to those who wait.
Where to Plant
Strawberries can go anywhere, really.
From indoor potted plants to outdoor patches to interplanted areas that need groundcover—strawberries aren’t picky! They don’t grow very deep roots, so if you can find a spot for a container of any sort, or block off a section of the garden, you can put strawberries there. You might try something like:
- A strawberry tower
- Rain gutters
- Hanging pots
- Raised beds
Most varieties do best in plenty of sunshine, but not all. Select a few varieties hardy to your region, then check out the labels to see what kind of sun they need. You might find a few different places for a few different varieties.
Strawberries can be everbearers—providing fruit to harvest all season long—or summer-fruiting—having one big harvest time. I like summer-fruiting varieties for edible landscaping, but the continual harvest is nice for everbearers.
Well-drained soil fed with good compost or fertilizer will be best for strawberries, and covering with a mulch can help to block out weeds that would compete for moisture and nutrients.
Many gardeners will pinch the first blossoms off of the strawberry plants to help direct the early growth into bushy leaves. A mature strawberry plant will likely be no more than 6-12” high, and they can be planted around 12” apart. For potted plants, a few to a pot is plenty.
Strawberries need plenty of nutrients, so be sure to feed it with compost or compost tea after planting and harvesting, as well as in the fall. You can cut down plants quite a bit at the end of the season to encourage new growth next spring.
Keep plants clear of weeds as well as yellowed or browning leaves. This helps the plant to get as much moisture and nutrients to the healthy leaves and fruits as it can giving you a better harvest.
As soon as strawberries turn red (or white, if that’s the variety you chose) you can harvest them. If they’ve gone a bit too long and are soft and mushy, they’ll be excellent in jams and other cooked-fruit recipes. If the birds are beating you to the harvest, though, consider tossing a net over the plants.
By tending strawberries carefully throughout the year, you can get several years of life out of each planting.