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How to Grow Strawberries from Planting to Harvest

Written by Dr. Shaun Murphy

If you’ve never grown strawberries before well, what can I say – prepare your taste buds for an adventure, because here’s our Planting to Harvest guide to strawberries.

When to plant Strawberries?

  • When it comes to taste home-grown strawberries trounce their store-bought counterparts, which are usually picked before they’re really ready.
  • This matters, because fully ripened strawberries have a higher sugar content and a richer aroma, meaning only one thing:  more flavor!
  • Most strawberries fall into two categories –
    • summer-fruiting or June-bearing varieties that produce their fruits in one go over a few short weeks in early summer,
    • ever-bearing or perpetual varieties, which give two smaller harvests, the first in early summer than a second towards the end of summer. And then there are the day-neutral strawberries which crop on and off throughout the growing season.
  • If you love strawberries be sure to plant a range of varieties so you can pick fruits over a longer period.
How to Grow Strawberries from Planting to Harvest

Where to plant Strawberries?

  • The very best tasting fruits grow in full sunshine. Pick a sunny sheltered site in fertile, free-draining soil, that’s ideally slightly acidic.
  • You can easily improve the soil by digging in lots of organic matter before planting.
  • Compost or well-rotted manure is ideal.  A general-purpose organic fertilizer will give your new plants an extra boost.  
  • Avoid frost-prone spots if you can so that early flowering varieties aren’t damaged, and don’t plant them where tomatoes, potatoes, or chrysanthemums recently grew because these plants are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a disease that is easily passed on to strawberries.
  • Strawberries may also be grown in containers, tubs, towers, and even hanging baskets making them a fantastically flexible fruit.
How to Grow Strawberries from Planting to Harvest

Strawberry pots

  • Strawberries grow best in pots that are in full sun and filled with a high-quality potting mix-compost blend. Don’t crowd them in the container, leaving at least 8 inches between plants.

How to Plant Strawberry Roots in Pots?

  • Buy your plants in pots or bare-rooted.
  • Plants in packs or pots are available throughout the growing season, whereas bare-root plants are usually sold late in the season,  then again from early spring.
  • Set the plants about 20 inches or 50 centimeters apart in each direction using a string line as a guide to give neat, straight rows.
  • The crown of the plant where the leaves emerge should sit at soil level.
  • This is easiest with potted strawberries,  which can be planted at the same depth they were at in their nursery pots.
  • For bare-root plants, start by soaking them in water for an hour or so to rehydrate them.  
  • Remove them from the water, then cut back any overly long, straggly roots.  
  • Don’t worry this won’t harm the plant! Now dig a hole big enough to accommodate the roots.  
  • Hold the crown up at the right level with one hand, then fill the soil back in around the roots with the other, before firming into place.
  • Once you’re done, thoroughly water around the plants to further settle them in. Strawberries can be planted into containers much closer together but will need dividing up and replanting after one season to keep them healthy.  
  • Use an all-purpose potting soil and make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom.

Caring For Strawberries

  • Water plants regularly as they establish and during dry spells.
  • Try to avoid wetting the leaves when you water to reduce the risk of disease.
  • Container-grown strawberries are likely to need watering more often, as the soil in them can quickly dry out in warm weather.  
  • Strawberries put a lot of effort into swelling their fruits, so top up soil fertility before plants resume growth each spring by tickling in a general-purpose organic fertilizer to replace lost nutrients like this.
  • Container strawberries will need feeding as often as once a week from the moment they come into flower.
  • Use a liquid fertilizer that’s high in potassium,  such as a store-bought tomato feed or homemade comfrey feed for this.  
  • Tuck a mulch of straw in and around plants from early summer before the fruits develop.
  • This will help to keep them blemish-free, while at the same time slowing weed growth and loss of soil moisture.  
  • In the first year, cut off any runners (long thin shoots like these) to concentrate the plant’s efforts into fruit production.
  • In future years you can use these to propagate new plants.  
  • Birds love strawberries just like us and can make short work of a ripening crop if they’re feeling peckish.
  • The best way to keep your harvest safe is to cover plants with the netting that excludes birds but still allows pollinating insects to pass through.
  • The other threat is a  cold snap at the start of the season when early flowering varieties could get damaged by frost.  
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and deploy row covers or garden fleece when frosts threaten while plants are flowering.
  • Remember to remove these covers during the day to give pollinators access. Slugs can also rasp away at the fruits.
  • Use slug traps filled with beer to attract them away from your plants, or grow them up off the ground in containers to lift them out of harm’s way.
How to Grow Strawberries from Planting to Harvest

How long Does It Take to Grow Strawberry?

  • It usually takes an established strawberry plant about 2 months from the break of dormancy to get there.
  • A new seedling will typically take around 6 months to reach that milestone after germination, depending on its environment.

Picking Strawberries

  • Pick your strawberries when they are fully ripe all over.  
  • If you can, pick them on a sunny afternoon when their flavor will be more concentrated.
  • You can store them in the refrigerator, but this comes at the cost of taste so leave them at a cool room temperature if possible.
  • After all, it won’t be long before they’re snaffled up!  At the end of the season give your plants a tidy up.
  • Remove any straw, weed through the bed, then cut back old foliage to leave just the fresh new growth right at the center of the plant.
  • Plants should do you proud for about three seasons, after which time you’ll need to replace them, planting into fresh soil elsewhere in the garden.
  • I hope you’ll try growing strawberries in your own garden – it’s really worth it!
How to Grow Strawberries from Planting to Harvest

Please drop me a comment below to tell me what varieties you recommend.

Thank You.

About the author

Dr. Shaun Murphy