A classic strawberry pot is an upright terra cotta planter with an open top as well as openings for plants spaced along the sides. Many different materials are now used for strawberry pots, but the traditional design is the same. As the name suggests, a strawberry pot is commonly used to grow strawberries, but it can also be used to grow all kinds of edibles and ornamental plants, both annuals and some perennials. Hens and chicks, for example, is a popular choice for strawberry pots because they don't require a lot of water and many can survive the winter in containers. Some people use strawberry pots to grow salad gardens, planting a variety of leafy vegetables in the various openings.
Strawberry pots require a planting technique all their own. You can't just fill them with soil and stick some plants in the top. However, the planting technique is very simple, and once planted, your strawberry pot will just get better looking throughout the season.
When to Plant a Strawberry Pot
Strawberry pots are best planted at the same time as any outdoor container—normally in the spring once all danger of frost has passed. Because the potting soil in a strawberry pot warms up fairly quickly when exposed on all sides, you may be able to plant a little earlier than you do for in-ground garden plants. But be ready to cover your pots or move them indoors temporarily if spring frosts are predicted.
Working With Strawberry Pots
There are many styles of strawberry pots and, thankfully, some wonderful new lightweight materials. Plastics are increasingly popular for strawberry pots, and there are even some fabric grow bags that use the strawberry pot configuration. Some terracotta and plastic pots have a lip under each potting hole, which helps greatly in keeping the soil in the pot, as the plants become established. However, the lip also makes planting more difficult. It's a nice look, but it's not necessary, and any strawberry pot that strikes your fancy will work just fine.
To minimize the messiness of planting, it helps to plant these containers in a wheelbarrow. Strawberry pots can be messy to fill since there are so many openings on the sides for the soil to pour out. Working in a wheelbarrow prevents you from wasting soil. It also makes it easier to turn the pot around, and you need to do less bending.
A word about the plants you choose for a strawberry pot: Start small. You are going to have to get those plants through those little planting holes. They can go through by the root end or the foliage end, but either way, the smaller the plant, the less damage to it.
Use a well-draining potting mix suited to your plants. A lightweight mix will make your pot easier to lift and move, and a well-drained mix will help distribute water throughout the pot.
|Working Time||45 to 60 minutes|
|Material Costs||$15 to $75|
What You'll Need
- Work gloves
- Drill with 1/8- or 1/4-inch twist bit (if needed)
- Strawberry pot
- General-purpose potting mix
- Time-release fertilizer
- 1 12-inch or 2-inch PVC pipe (optional)
Prepare a Watering Column (Optional)
Because the plants in a strawberry pot are stacked one on top of the other, it can be tricky to water all the plants adequately—sometimes the top plants are the only ones that get watered, or the bottom plants are left sitting in water. The best method for ensuring all plants get watered well is to insert a porous pipe into the center of the pot while planting.
To create a watering column, measure the height of your strawberry pot and then cut a piece of 1 1/2-inch PVC piping that is 1 to 2 inches shorter than this measurement. Drill a series of 1/8- to 1/4-inch holes into the pipe, spaced randomly about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
Prepare the Potting Mix
Blend a timed-release fertilizer with a good quality standard potting mix. Most pots will hold about four quarts of potting mix, but different pots take different amounts, and the only way to gauge how much you'll need is to fill the pot. Once you determine the amount of potting mix needed, dump it into a wheelbarrow or other container and blend in the recommended amount of slow-release fertilizer pellets.
It can be tempting to fill a strawberry pot with ordinary garden soil, but don't do this. Commercial potting mix contains water-retaining materials such as peat moss or perlite and is porous enough to allow water to easily penetrate through the entire pot. Garden soil is too dense for planters, and it may contain soil pathogens that remain confined in the pot.
Moisten the Potting Mix
Dampen your potting soil before planting. This will make the potting soil easier to work with because there will be less dust, and it will help keep it from falling out the holes. Thoroughly blend the soil with your hands so that it is uniformly damp and so the fertilizer pellets are evenly distributed.
Begin Filling the Pot
Begin planting your strawberry pot by filling the bottom of the pot with potting mix, up to the level of the first planting holes. At this point, insert the PVC watering column into the center of the pot and press it into the soil lightly so that it's anchored. Stuff a piece of paper or paper towel into the top opening of the pipe, to prevent soil from falling into it as you plant.
To get each plant into its planting hole, you'll need to squeeze or stretch the root ball. Try not to rip off or damage the roots; instead, gently massage the root ball into a more tubular shape. It's okay if the soil falls off, but try not to tear off roots.
It's usually easier to plant from the outside of the pot in, inserting the roots through the planting hole and grabbing them inside the pot. However, if your plants are small enough and have a large root ball, you may opt to feed the foliage through from the inside of the pot.
Complete the Pot
Plant all the lower holes first and then add soil to the next level of planting holes, firming the soil gently with your hands and positioning the watering pipe if it gets moved. Keep going in this fashion until you fill all the holes with their plants.
Finally, add some plants to the top of the strawberry pot, around the watering pipe. Upright plants work well here, since they camouflage the pipe and they won't trail down over the other plants.
Water the Plants
Now you can give your plants their first drink of water. Water directly into the watering column. It will fill quickly, and it will drain quickly, so you'll need to fill it a couple of times.
Repeat this watering routine whenever the soil gets dry to the touch. You can also water the soil around the pipe and on really hot days, it's nice to run some water over the plants themselves. A terra cotta strawberry pot can lose moisture quickly, and in hot, dry weather it may be necessary to water daily, or even twice a day.
Maintain the Strawberry Pot
You have a beautifully planted strawberry pot. Within a few days, the plants will start to perk up and begin to grow toward the sun. Keep the plants watered, and deadheaded or harvested when necessary, and that's all it should need for the entire growing season.
If you have perennial plants and a potting material that can take freezing and thawing, you can leave your pot outdoors for the winter. Colder climates (USDA Zones 5 and lower) will need to provide some protection, to keep the plant roots from freezing. If you are going to empty your pot at the end of the season, don't forget to store the watering pipe with the pot, to reuse next year.
Growing Strawberries in the Home Garden. University of Minnesota Extension