Grow a Treat in Your Garden
Nothing is quite so delicious as a handful of freshly picked, ripe strawberries. If you want to encourage someone to eat well and become hooked on gardening, suggest planting a patch, or pot, of strawberries. Strawberries are among the easiest and most rewarding plants gardeners grow.
Begin by Finding Your Site
Strawberries require at least 8 hours of full sun, and rich, well-drained soil. You don't need a vegetable garden to provide these conditions. You might find the needed sunlight on your deck or patio. Plant your strawberry patch in a half-barrel or other large container on the deck. Strawberries play well with others and can be incorporated into a flower bed as a ground cover or edging plant.
Keep Strawberries Hanging Around
Short on space? Produce a nice crop of strawberries in a few hanging baskets or in "strawberry pots" with wide pockets. The benefits of growing strawberries in these types of containers are that the berries stay cleaner, and smaller containers are child-sized for young gardeners-in-training. Be advised: strawberries like to stay evenly moist and smaller containers will require frequent watering. When growing strawberries in containers, use a well-drained potting mix, such as Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Potting Mix. Moisture-releasing crystals will reduce trips to the garden hose during dry periods.
Check Your Garden Soil
Strawberries like well-drained, slightly acid soil enriched with lots of organic matter, such as Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil. When planting in the ground, dig the soil and work in 3 to 4 inches of compost, composted manure or other organic matter.
Strawberries can grow in clay or poorly drained soils with a little help. Work several inches of organic matter into the soil, then form the soil into mounds or hills. Another good alternative for poorly drained soils is to plant in raised beds.
See our article on raised beds
Varieties that Work Well in the Home Garden
You will find 3 fruiting types of strawberries. 'Ozark Beauty', 'Quinault', and 'Sequoia' are considered "everbearing". These plants produce a large flush of fruit from their spring flowering, rest during the long days of summer, and produce another, smaller crop in fall. "June-bearing" cultivars, like 'Tennessee Beauty', produce their entire crop in a 3-week period about 30 days after flowering. In locations with mild winters, look for 'Camarosa' and 'Sweet Charlie'. Day-neutral plants will produce fruit throughout the growing season.
When to Plant Your Strawberry Plants
Early spring planting is best in Zone 6 northward; fall planting is preferable from Zone 7 south. In the South, strawberries can begin producing as early as February, and, further north, as late as June.
How to Plant Strawberry Plants
Dig a hole wide and deep enough that the roots can be planted vertically. The crown of the plant should remain well above the soil line. Make sure to cover the roots completely with soil and press down gently but firmly.
Space plants 12-18 inches apart. Then add a layer of mulch to retain moisture, reduce competition from weeds, and keep berries clean. If slugs are a problem in your area, consider using a plastic mulch rather than newspaper or hay.
Caring for Strawberry Plants
Strawberries require consistent moisture but should never stay soggy. Apply supplementary water when there has been less than 1 inch of rain during the week. Strawberries produce lots of off-shoots. Plants will produce larger berries if all but 3 off-shoots are removed from the parent plant. Use the new plants to build a new bed or pass them on to another gardener. In the lower south, using the young plants to replace the parent plant each year helps reduce problems with disease.
Strawberries and Birds
Birds love strawberries as much as we do and will devour the ripest spot on the berry. Prevent birds from sharing your harvest with a drape of bird netting.