Growing Strawberries

In years past, I haven’t had too much luck growing strawberries. I’ve tried growing them in containers this year and have had a lot better luck. Strawberry plants grow great in the ground, but when I did this I didn’t get any strawberries! I realize now it was because the chipmunks were eating them all. If a chipmunk didn’t get them, pests would eat a hole in the strawberry making it no longer edible.

Strawberries require some work each year to keep them producing through the years. They are not plant and forget type plants. The plants grow best when planted in the ground, but there are downsides to this.

When growing in-ground, you need an ample amount of space to devote to strawberries because they spread by runners. You have to constantly pull the ones that are growing beyond where you want them. The plants and berries are very susceptible to pests, fungi, and critters. You can literally have a good sized strawberry patch, and not harvest a single one.

Why Grow Strawberries

It’s certainly much easier to just buy strawberries at the grocery. But have you ever tasted a fresh strawberry? Most of the time, grocery store strawberries seriously lack flavor. Since strawberries go bad so quickly, they have to be picked really early to make the journey to the grocery store, so they never ripen naturally.

Strawberries are the #1 food with the most pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group.

They can have 4 times the amount of pesticides on them as compared to other foods. Some tested, had toxic chemical residues so high, it was illegal.

And have you seen the price of organic strawberries? They’re usually around $6, or more. It’s only been one time I found some organic strawberries on sale for $2. Plus, organic doesn’t mean they haven’t been sprayed with something. You know how homegrown strawberries have been grown.

One key tasks to keeping a strawberry patch is to do ‘strawberry rejuvenation’. Old plants need to send out runners to make new plants. These new plants will be the ones to create berries in the future. So, you have to thin out the old plants to make room for the new ones, or they’ll produce less over time.

I’ve also tried growing strawberries in raised beds, but they still escape the raised bed and send runners down to the ground. If your raised bed is short, it’s not going to help a lot against critters.

A couple years ago, I ended up digging up my plants out of the ground, and using them as a groundcover in some pots I have small trees planted in. I figured if I got any strawberries, it’d be a bonus.

It took a while for them to establish, but this year, I’ve had a steady stream of strawberries each day! It is not as easy for the critters to get in the pots and they’re less noticeable. I will still have to do a ‘strawberry renovation’ and remove the older plants and plant with new ones this fall. I can just clip young plants off the runners and plant them.

I also tried growing some in hanging baskets this year and they’ve done well too. I could only get 3 plants in each basket however. By being in hanging baskets, the chipmunks can no longer get to them.

I was sent 3 hanging baskets from the brand, Emerging Green. The material of the baskets is supposed to be more environmentally friendly, however I’m not sure how. The baskets are a typical hanging basket size, which is kind of small. I do like that the wire is thicker than most hanging baskets, which makes them look nicer. They seem like they can hold up for a few years. They also came with the coco fiber liners, and I think they are a good deal for a 3 pack. For an annual hanging basket, you could plant 1 supertunia in it, and have a great colorful display!

The strawberries in the pots overwintered just fine in my zone 7B, but this can be hit or miss depending on your climate and how rough the winter is. Move containers to a protected spot out of wind, but where they will still receive water through the winter. Covering with a frost cloth may help.

You can purchase new strawberries each year instead of overwintering them. However, I’m not interested in buying new plants each year since they’re $6 each at my local nursery. Young plants need time to establish too, which will take away from production.

Here are a few tips to growing strawberries:

Choose a good producing variety.

The type I have is a June bearing type, which forms one crop over the course of 2-3 weeks. Everbearing is supposed to produce 2 crops, one at the beginning of the season and another at the end of the season. The berries will also be smaller. I’ve grown this type before, and it never produced a second crop. Day neutral strawberries will produce small crops throughout the season. The June bearing is the most popular and there’s a reason why.

Cover With Agricultural MESH

If you want to cover up your strawberries, use an agriculture mesh fabric. DO NOT use bird netting, since it will net the birds! I have grown mine in pots and don’t feel like I have lost that much to wildlife, so I have not bothered with covering them.

These are my blueberries covered in mesh organza bags. Twyla approves.

Harvest Before Ripe

Pick the strawberries just right before they’re fully ripe so the wildlife doesn’t get them first. They will finish ripening in the house in 1-2 days.

Keep Watered and Fertilized

Keep the strawberries well watered through summer and fertilized in the spring. Strawberries use a lot of nitrogen, however too much nitrogen can impede production or create soft berries. You can lightly feed a month before they will be producing berries, but it’s best to fertilize after fruiting in order to prepare them for the following year. How fertilizer they need will depend on the soil they’re planted in.

Additional Resources

For more information on growing strawberries in your area, contact your local extension office.

PDF: Strawberry Production in Kentucky