29 In Grow Fruit

How to Grow Strawberries

how to grow strawberries

Learning how to grow strawberries isn’t especially difficult. Like growing most plants, growing strawberries requires the right plants in the right location in the garden, regular care and feeding, and patience.

strawberries in hand

Grow Great Strawberries!

Before planting strawberries, make sure that you have the right conditions available to grow them.

How to Grow Strawberries

If you are new to growing strawberries, the first thing to know is what strawberries need to thrive.

  1. Light: Plant strawberries in full sunlight. Full sunlight is defined as six or more hours of sunshine each day.
  2. Soil: Strawberries need rich, well-drained soil. The pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5. If you don’t have a home pH meter, you can take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension office and, for a minimal fee, have your soil professionally tested. Such tests may seem unnecessary but the results tell you exactly what to add to your soil to improve it. In the long run, this saves money, because you will only add the amendments and fertilizer that you actually need.
  3. Fertilizer: Look for a fertilizer with the number in the middle (phosphorous, for blooms and fruit) slightly higher than the other numbers. Espoma Organic Berry Tone (4-3-4)  is a great fertilizer for strawberries.
  4. Water: Strawberries need plenty of water. In the spring, they usually receive plenty of natural rainfall. If the garden looks dry, or you haven’t had rain in a few days, water them well from the garden hose.
  5. Mulch: It’s a good idea to mulch your strawberry plants in the fall, after the leaves have died back, to prevent cold damage to the plants’ crowns. I use pine straw, which consists of needles dropped from the pine trees on my property. It’s free and it works well. You can also use straw. Bales are available at your local garden center.
  6. Bird netting: Although optional, I need to keep the crows from eating my strawberries. Crows love berries, as do all types of wildlife. A net is a humane way to keep the birds off of the berries.

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Espoma Berry Fertilizer
 

WINZOOM Soil Tester
 

Bird Netting (Protects Berries)

Types of Strawberries for the Home Garden

There are several types of strawberries sold for the home garden. Each produces tasty berries, but some produce more frequently, and others produce larger berries just once a year. It’s up to you to pick the variety that grows best in your region, and that meets your family’s needs and likes.

  • June-bearing strawberry plants bear one crop of large berries. Usually, that’s in June, although depending on the weather and where you live, it might be a little earlier. This is the type you see most often in grocery stores.
  • Ever-bearing plants produce a good crop of small to medium-sized berries in late May and through June, take a little break during the summer, and then produce a smaller crop in the fall. That’s what I have in my garden.
  • Day-neutral plants are like ever-bearing plants except that they don’t take much of a break during the summer. As long as they get plenty of moisture and nutrients, they keep producing strawberries. Before you get all excited about this, note that the berries tend to be small. But if you don’t mind small berries, they may be for you.

Should You Buy Strawberry Plants or Roots?

Strawberries are sold as plants or as roots to be planted in early spring. Bagged roots should be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. These are what is usually shipped through the mail if you order plants by mail, and the roots are cheaper than the plants.

 strawberry plant in bloom

Strawberries in bloom.

For gardeners new to growing strawberries, I’d start with plants available at your local nursery and garden center. Check the stick in the pot to see what type of strawberry they are; usually, the plastic nursery tags will state “Ever Bearing” or “June Bearing” and then you know what you’re buying. You can buy a six-pack to start with or plant more.

Planting Strawberries

Spacing

Strawberries should be planted about 18 to 24 inches apart. This may look strange because there’s all this space between the plants, but here’s the neat thing about strawberries; over time, they set out long stems called runners, and at the end of the runner is a new plant! It’s called a daughter plant, and it roots by itself in the soil, increasing the number of plants in your garden.

By planting the original strawberry “mother” plants far enough apart that they can easily send out “daughter” runners, you’re giving them enough space to do what they do naturally….without crowding them.

Planting Depth

Plant strawberries at the correct depth. There’s a good picture on the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension site that shows the correct way to plant strawberries. If you plant them too high up, the crowns (center portion) can rot.

Weed Control

Weed control is very important during the growing season. Pull weeds by hand so that you don’t disturb the roots of the plants. Mulch helps retain moisture and control weeds.

how to grow strawberries

Strawberry in the raised bed garden.

Pests and Problems

Birds

The biggest pests on strawberries are birds and slugs, at least in my experience growing them both in Virginia and New York.  Here in Virginia, crows were the bane of my existence. Each year, my strawberries would develop, and just before they were ready to be picked, the crows would swoop in overnight and eat them!

I solved this problem quite simply with a bird net. A bird net is a big piece of netting that keeps birds from stealing your fruit but won’t harm them. The net just lays over the top of the strawberry bed, and the birds no longer pick my berries before I can.

Slugs

Slugs are another matter entirely. To combat slugs, you can use several products found at the garden center. One that I like because it is organic and won’t harm wildlife or pets is diatomaceous earth. It’s sold in a shaker can and looks like a powder. It is actually powdered rock, with tiny fossilized diatoms (sea creatures) inside. The powdered rock and shells cut the squishy slug bodies when they slither over it, but won’t hurt people, pets or wildlife who touch it. Very useful organic product to have around the garden for soft-bodied insects like slugs.

Another natural slug control method if copper tape, also available from your garden center. It looks like a roll of masking tape but it is copper. Roll it out and affix it to the edge of the pot or raised bed around the strawberries, making a perimeter fence on the ground, so to speak. As the slugs wiggle over the copper tape, chemicals in their slug slime react with the copper and give them an electrical shock! Nice, right? If you touch the tape, or your pets or a bird, nothing happens. But watch out slugs!

Salt sprinkled on slugs kills them on sight, but most of the time they hide during the heat of the day and come out to feast and play at night. Beer traps are also useful, but I hate to waste beer, so I don’t bother with them. A beer trap is simply a small puddle of beer in an old pie plate set in the garden, or an almost empty beer bottle tipped on its side with a little bit of beer left at the bottom. As much as I hate slugs, they know a good thing when they see it because they’ll crawl right in there to sip at the beer and then drown themselves. I guess they die happy.

Pick Strawberries Often for More Berries

Pick strawberries when the berry is evenly ripe all around, a nice ruby color. Although supermarket berries are often pale on one side you’ll find that homegrown strawberries taste the best when they pull easily and softly from the plant stem. Refrigerate extras or freeze for use in smoothies and recipes later.

How to Grow Strawberries in the Fall and Winter

When fall arrives, and before the first really hard frost, mulch your strawberry plants with straw or pine needles to keep them from freezing. Put a layer about one inch thick over the top. In the spring, when the ground begins warming up, pull back the mulch. If the plants are greening up, it’s time to rake it all off of them, fertilize or compost, and start the season again.

First Published: May 2015 Last Updated: June 16, 2020

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  • Alli
    May 19, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    I didn’t know that strawberries had runners and a daughter plant would spring up. I’ve always been intimidated to grow strawberries. There’s a big peach farm not far from me that grows different varieties of fruit, including strawberries, so I always buy from them. I learned so much about slugs, too. The copper tape is a new one on me. Great info!

  • theartinpartyplanning
    May 19, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    We just built a raised garden bed and plan to plant our first vegetable garden this summer. This is great!

  • Gardener on Sherlock Street
    May 19, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Strawberries have been eluding me. I’ve always heard how they spread so easily and you’ll have them everywhere if you aren’t careful. I want strawberries so I tried to get a patch started, but the drought we had did them in. This spring I bought new plants and am trying a patch in a new bed. So far, so good on the rain helping. Thanks for the info. Maybe I’ll get those strawberries going yet!

  • Kristen from The Road to Domestication
    May 20, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Great tips! I hope that I can eventually add strawberries to my garden. I am, after all, from the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World! 🙂

  • Karen @ mummy do it
    May 27, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    We had a great batch of strawberries this summer from my husband’s new hydroponic garden, but don’t get much from the outside plants – maybe due to birds. Thanks for sharing with the #BlogFair, hope you can visit again this week.

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  • Cheryl
    February 19, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Great information, I just might try these this summer. Pinned so I can!! Have a great weekend!

  • Jamie
    February 19, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Great tips!! We have some berries in our yard that come back every year – beautiful ground cover and food for the birds! 🙂

  • Michelle James
    February 20, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    My Dad grows strawberries & we all fight over them, lol! Nothing like strawberry shortcake with strawberries from your own garden!

  • Melissa
    February 23, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Strawberries are my absolute favorite. Thank you for this article, the local farm that we normally buy our berries from won’t be having strawberries this year I might try growing my own. Love having you as a cohost on #HomeMattersParty

    • Jeanne
      February 23, 2016 at 6:07 am

      Strawberries are fairly easy to grow, and you can grow them in containers, window boxes or planters if your space is limited. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Crystal
        June 12, 2016 at 2:09 pm

        I love that you can grow them in containers, that is what I need to do. This is so informative, saving to my pinterest!

  • Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai
    February 23, 2016 at 12:05 am

    We had a huge strawberry patch in our backyard when I was growing up. They are such pretty little plants, and the spoils are delicious! 🙂 Thanks for sharing and co-hosting at the #HomeMattersParty – you’re awesome! 🙂

    ~Lorelai
    Life With Lorelai

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  • Merit
    June 10, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Love this blog post – I really want to try strawberries and appreciate all the tips. lol! I wouldn’t waste beer on those slugs either!

    • Merit
      June 10, 2016 at 11:53 am

      #HomeMattersParty

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  • Sahana
    June 10, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    These are great tips on growing strawberries. I did not know there are varieties especially for home grown strawberries.

  • Michelle James
    June 11, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Oh I would love to grow strawberries! They are my favorite in summer desserts &’smoothies! #HomeMattersParty

  • Crystal
    June 14, 2016 at 9:43 am

    These are some beautiful looking strawberries. I’d definitely say you know how to do it.

    Thank you for sharing this tutorial with us.

  • Julie Briggs
    June 15, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Great tips! I keep toying with the idea of growing some berries in my garden, but have not pulled the trigger yet. Thanks for sharing. #HomeMattersParty

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