16 Key Tips For Growing Boatloads of Juicy Strawberries

Strawberries—those vibrant, luscious gems of the garden—are a delight to grow and a joy to harvest. They’re one of the more expensive fruits in the grocery stores, and growing them yourself just makes sense. You can dedicate a raised bed to strawberries, plant them in-ground, or even just grow them in containers and hanging baskets. As perennial plants, they only need to be planted once but will produce for many years to come.

Growing strawberries isn’t difficult, but there are some key tricks, tips, and hints you should keep in mind.

Downsides & Considerations

Strawberries growing in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Let’s get some downsides out of the way — upfront costs.

Bare root strawberries are expensive to purchase upfront, and if you don’t have an ideal location already set up you may be looking into more costs for building a dedicated strawberry bed or buying containers and hanging pots, not to mention soil and compost.

You also won’t be able to cultivate any strawberries the first year or let the runners propogate, but the patience is going to be worth it.

Choose The Right Variety

Woman picking strawberries on a farm.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

There are three primary types of strawberries: June-bearing Strawberries will bloom in March and bear fruit until late June. They will produce the largest yield of fruit. Ever-bearing types will produce 2-3 flushes of strawberries throughout the summer. Day-neutral strawberries are the most cold-tolerant and bear fruit the longest. You might see berries as early as May and as late as the end of September or early October.

Buy bare root plants for earlier yields of fruit as starting strawberries from seeds, while cheaper, takes significantly longer.

When deciding which variety to plant, your local nurseries ae likely selling ones well-suited to your climate and growing conditions. You can buy several different types and plant them together.

Site Selection

Farmer harvesting and placing ripe strawberries in crates on a farm.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Strawberries need full sun, at least 10 hours daily to produce maximum fruits. They need well-draining soil, it’s why they do so well planted in raised beds or containers.

Ensure the area and growing conditions you choose has good drainage to prevent waterlogging, as strawberries are susceptible to root rot in overly moist conditions. Choose a spot with adequate air circulation to minimize the risk of fungal diseases. Consider accessibility for planting, maintenance, and harvest, selecting a site that is convenient and easy to access for routine care tasks.

By paying attention to these factors, you can create an optimal environment for your strawberry bed and maximize your chances of a successful harvest.

Soil Matters

Woman holding potted strawberries with ripe berries at home.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Strawberry plants thrive in rich and fertile soil that is slightly acidic, well-aerated and nutrient-rich. To create these ideal soil conditions, incorporate plenty of organic matter such as compost, aged manure, or leaf mold into the planting area. This will not only improve soil structure but also provide essential nutrients for healthy plant growth.

Consider getting a soil test done to see what you’re lacking.

Regular applications of organic fertilizers can further enhance soil fertility, ensuring that your strawberry plants have everything they need to produce robust foliage and bountiful fruit. We opt for compost from mixed sources and never apply any commercial fertilizers.

Learn More: The BEST Compost For Strawberries {And How To Use It}

Optimal Planting

Farmer holding an uprooted strawberry plant on a farm.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When planting bare-root strawberries, timing and technique are key for successful establishment. Optimal planting times are early spring when the weather is cool and plants are dormant.

Begin by soaking the bare-root plants in water for about an hour to rehydrate their roots. Water your soil lightly too and then dig a shallow trench wide enough to accommodate the spread roots, typically 6 to 8 inches wide. Ensure the crown of the plant is level with the soil surface and do not cover it.

Backfill the trench with soil, gently firming it around the roots. Water thoroughly to settle the soil and provide moisture to the roots. Mulch with organic materials to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Following these steps will help your bare-root strawberries establish quickly and yield a fruitful harvest.

Watering Strawberries

Woman collecting ripe strawberries in a cup from a raised bed.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When it comes to watering strawberries, the approach varies depending on whether you’re dealing with newly planted bare-root plants or an established bed. For newly planted bare-root strawberries, it’s crucial to provide adequate moisture to help the roots establish themselves in their new environment. After planting, water the bare-root plants thoroughly to settle the soil and ensure that the roots are well-hydrated. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, checking regularly and adjusting watering frequency as needed based on weather conditions. As the plants become established, gradually reduce the frequency of watering, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings to encourage deep root growth.

In an established strawberry bed, proper watering is essential for maintaining plant health and promoting fruit production. Water deeply and evenly, aiming to keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Avoid overhead watering, as wet foliage can increase the risk of fungal diseases. Instead, use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water directly to the roots while minimizing moisture on the foliage. During hot and dry periods, increase watering frequency to prevent drought stress.

Mulching

Man picking ripe strawberries and placing them in a bowl.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Organic mulching materials offer numerous benefits for both the plants and the soil. One popular option is straw (hence strawberries), which provides excellent insulation, conserves soil moisture, and suppresses weed growth. Straw mulch also helps keep berries clean and prevents soil splashing onto the fruit, reducing the risk of rot.

Another organic mulch option is pine needles, also known as pine straw, which is acidic and can help maintain the slightly acidic pH that strawberries prefer. Pine needles decompose slowly, providing long-lasting mulch coverage.

Other organic materials suitable for mulching strawberries include shredded leaves, compost, and grass clippings. And fee free to use a mix of materials too.

These materials not only help conserve moisture and suppress weeds but also contribute valuable nutrients to the soil as they break down over time. When mulching strawberries, apply a layer of organic material several inches thick around the plants, taking care to leave a gap between the mulch and the crown to prevent rot.

Learn More: The BEST Mulch For Strawberries {Ranked From Best To Worst}

Pinch First-Year Flowers

Male farmer watering young strawberries on a farm.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

You’re not going to like this one, but it’s honestly extremely important.

Pinching flowers from first-year planted strawberry plants is a common practice aimed at promoting strong root development and overall plant vigor. When strawberry plants are allowed to flower and fruit in their first year, they channel much of their energy into producing berries rather than establishing a robust root system.

By removing the flowers, also known as “pinching,” the plant redirects its energy towards developing a strong root system and establishing a healthy foundation for future growth. This focus on root development is critical for ensuring the long-term health and productivity of the strawberry plants, as a well-established root system enables the plant to access water and nutrients more effectively, withstand environmental stresses, and produce higher yields in subsequent years.

While it may seem counterintuitive to sacrifice the first year’s harvest, pinching flowers ultimately leads to healthier, more productive plants for more years.

Tame The Runners

female farmer watering young strawberries in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

In the first year of planting, it’s important to prune the runners from strawberry plants immediately to prioritize root development. Runners are long, trailing stems that emerge from the parent plant and produce new daughter plants along their length.

While these runners can be used to expand the strawberry patch and propagate new plants in subsequent years, allowing them to spread during the first year diverts valuable resources away from root development. By pruning the runners promptly, the plant can focus its energy on establishing a strong root system, which is vital for long-term health and productivity.

This strategic pruning ensures that the first-year plants prioritize root growth, setting the stage for robust growth and abundant fruit production in the years to come. Once the plants are well-established, you can allow the runners to spread and propagate new plants, expanding your strawberry patch and ensuring its continued success for seasons to come.

Refreshing a Strawberry Patch

Fresh strawberries in a bucket.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Your strawberry plants will produce abundant fruits for 3-5 years and then decline.

To refresh a strawberry patch and maintain its productivity, strategic use of runners is vital. Runners are valuable resources that can be utilized to propagate new plants and rejuvenate the patch. However, it’s important to manage them carefully to prevent them from overtaking the bed and reducing yields.

When refreshing a strawberry patch, identify the healthiest, most vigorous parent plants with the best fruit production and select their runners for propagation. Allow these selected runners to root in pots or in designated areas of the garden, ensuring they have adequate space to establish themselves without overcrowding.

To prevent runners from overtaking the bed, regularly monitor and prune them to maintain a manageable density. Remove excess runners that are encroaching on neighboring plants or spreading too densely. By selectively thinning out the runners, you can encourage healthy growth and prevent overcrowding, which can lead to reduced yields and increased susceptibility to disease.

Compost vs Fertilizer

Woman holding a basket of freshly harvested ripe strawberries.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

As no-till growers, we use compost and nothing else. You can choose either method or use both.

When it comes to nutrient application for strawberries, understanding fertilization practices is key to promoting healthy growth and abundant fruit production.

Balanced fertilizers provide a mix of essential nutrients needed for strawberry plants to thrive, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as micronutrients like calcium and magnesium. These fertilizers can be applied at planting time to provide a nutrient boost for young plants and again mid-season to support vigorous growth and fruit development.

Alternatively, compost offers a natural and organic source of nutrients for strawberries. Rich in organic matter, compost improves soil structure, enhances microbial activity, and provides a slow-release source of nutrients for plants. Incorporating compost into the soil at planting time enriches the soil with organic matter and nutrients, promoting healthy root development and overall plant growth.

Get An Earlier Harvest

Gardener arranging strawberries into a plastic box on the farm.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Utilizing a greenhouse, polytunnel, or conservatory can significantly extend the strawberry-growing season and provide an earlier harvest compared to outdoor cultivation. The controlled environment offered by these structures creates a warmer and more stable climate, allowing strawberries to be planted earlier and protected from adverse weather conditions.

The warmer temperatures inside the greenhouse promote faster growth and flowering, accelerating the fruiting process and leading to an earlier harvest. You can harvest strawberries 4 weeks earlier!

Additionally, the protection provided by a greenhouse or polytunnel shields strawberries from frost, wind, and heavy rainfall, reducing the risk of damage to flowers and fruit. This protection allows strawberries to thrive in a more favorable environment, further enhancing their growth and productivity.

Protect Your Strawberries With A Net

Farmer placing a box of strawberries on straw.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

I learned quickly that the birds love strawberries as much as we did.

Covering strawberries with a net is a practical way to protect them from birds eager to snatch the ripe fruit. Bird netting, draped over the plants, creates a barrier that prevents birds from accessing the berries. Install the netting before the fruit ripens and check it regularly to ensure it remains securely in place. By using bird netting, you can safeguard your strawberries and enjoy a bountiful harvest without sharing it with feathered thieves.

Trim Old Leaves After Harvest

Fresh strawberries in a cup.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Trimming back old leaves after harvesting fruit is a beneficial practice for maintaining the health and vitality of strawberry plants. As strawberries produce fruit, the older leaves at the base of the plant can become worn and tattered, potentially harboring diseases or pests.

Removing these old leaves not only improves air circulation around the plant but also reduces the risk of fungal infections and insect infestations.

Beneficial Companions

Strawberry jam in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When choosing companion plants for strawberries, consider edible crops like bush beans and perennial asparagus to maximize growing space and your garden’s food production. Common kitchen herbs allowed to go to flower, and certain other flower species (borage) are also great choices.

Learn More: The Best & Worst Strawberry Companion Plants According To Science

Protect From Winter’s Chill

Baked galette with strawberry and rhubarb pie on the table.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

As the final harvest approaches in late summer or fall, start by removing any old or damaged leaves and debris from the strawberry bed. This cleanup not only tidies up the area but also helps prevent the buildup of disease and pests during the winter months.

Trimming back any excess runners from the strawberry plants is important to prevent overcrowding and maintain adequate airflow within the bed. This practice promotes healthier growth and reduces the risk of disease development.

Take the opportunity to address any weeds that may have emerged in the bed. Removing weeds before winter sets in helps prevent them from competing with your strawberry plants for nutrients and moisture in the spring.

Fall is the best time to add compost for the following season’s benefit too.

Mulching strawberry beds for winter is essential for protecting plants and ensuring a healthy harvest next season. Wait until after the first frost, then apply a layer of mulch around 2 to 4 inches thick evenly across the bed. Choose materials like straw, pine needles, or shredded leaves for effective insulation. Leave a small gap around the crown of each plant to prevent rotting. This helps control weeds, conserve moisture, and protect roots from freezing temperatures. Proper winter mulching sets the stage for a successful growing season ahead.

Storage & Preservation

Strawberries in a basket.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

An interesting trick to keep your strawberries fresh longer is to store them in the refrigerator in mason jars.

Soak your strawberries for a few minutes in a large bowl full of cool water and a splash of vinegar first. Berries should be soaked for two minutes and no longer. Afterwards, rinse them under cool running water in a colander and allow them to completely dry. Place a tea towel or paper towel at the bottom of a large mason ar, place your strawberries inside, store them covered in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Strawberries can also be frozen (whole or sliced) or made into jams, jellies, and preserves.

Recipe: Easy Low Sugar Strawberry Freezer Jam {No-Pectin Option}

No-Till Gardening

Two women working in garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Less work, less weeding, less pests and disease? It lives up to the hype.

Learn More: No-Till Gardening {Everything You Need To Know}

Raised Bed Benefits

woman tending to her raised bed gardens.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

My favorite way to grow strawberries is in raised beds and containers.

Learn More: 22 Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening {And The BEST Alternative}

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