Last updated on March 1st, 2022
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Strawberries are a versatile fruit and they are the perfect picking fruit to have in your home, no matter the size of your garden. In fact, they grow very easily in the ground where they will spread out and quickly take over but they grow just as well in containers and even in hanging baskets. For that reason, strawberries are an incredibly popular fruit to have, and best of all, homegrown strawberries taste amazing.
First, you have to decide where you are going to plant your strawberries. You can choose to plant them inside a planter such as a raised bed or a container, a hanging basket or in the ground. The decision you make will dictate the equipment required.
Slight amendments will need to be made for the compost or soil that you use. And then, of course, you will need to choose the recommended varieties that you want to grow.
Types of strawberries you can plant
The most popular, and probably most the traditional, type of strawberries is the summer-fruiting varieties. They usually produce very heavy crops, often much larger strawberries but only a few weeks. However, you can buy early, mid and later fruiting varieties so it’s a good idea to plant a mix to extend how long you can pick strawberries for.
You can also get what is commonly known as perpetual strawberries, sometimes called ever bearers and these produce smaller crops and smaller fruits. The advantage of these is that they produce consistent crops from early summer, right the way through to autumn. They also grow well in partial shade so they are a good type for these types of areas where they don’t get full sun.
Finally, you can also get alpine strawberries that produce very small strawberries with an excellent sweet taste. They flower from around July through to September and are often a good choice for hanging baskets.
Where to plant strawberries
Strawberries will grow best if they are given sunny conditions with shelter against strong winds. They also prefer having well-drained soil that remains moist.
Growing strawberries in the ground
If you are growing strawberries in the ground you will need to consider which area of your garden you are going to use, and specifically whether that area needs to be altered before you plant the strawberries. Different varieties that you get from nurseries might need special consideration. If your soil, for example, is very heavy and dense, compact or missing key nutrients, you would do well to add perlite and compost to the mix in order to give your strawberries everything they need. If you have fairly good soil, simply dig in some well-rotted manure before finally adding some slow-release fertiliser (such as growmore) at the recommended rate to the soil. Then your area will be ready for planting.
When you are ready, dig out a hole for the plant you have purchased that is 5cm deeper than the root ball of the container in which your strawberries were supplied. Add a layer of compost to the bottom of that hole.
When you place the strawberry plant in the ground make sure that the top of the soil is precisely level with the crown of the plant and not any higher or lower. Once you have planted the strawberries in the ground make sure that you water them well.
To do this you need to keep your eye out for the horizontal stems that grow out of your plants after the first season in your garden. This is a natural way that strawberry plants spread and these are called runners. You have different options here. The runners will help the plant to expand and to produce more fruit long-term, however, if you cut them it’s much easier for you to weed and mulch your garden in exchange for less fruit. We find that you generally get better-sized strawberries when you remove the runners because the plants can concentrate on flowering and fruiting, not growing. This is simply a decision you will need to make based on the space you have available and what your overall goals are with the strawberry plants.
Once the strawberry plants produce fruit it is a good idea to tuck some straw underneath the fruits. Not only does this keep them looking their best, but it also helps to suppress weeds, which of course reduces competition for nutrients in the soil.
No matter where you plant them you should remove any dead leaves to help alleviate the risk of disease and to make sure the growing stems don’t get damaged.
Birds are very partial to fruits and you will likely find that slugs and snails will try to get at your strawberries so it may be worth applying some slug pellets if necessary. To protect them from birds consider using netting or a fruit cage and if you grow them in rows in the ground, a miniature netted tunnel could be an affordable way to protect the fruit. Once they have finished fruiting remember to remove the netting to let the birds eat the many pests.
Top tip – It is recommended that you replace strawberry plants every 3 years and preferably grow them in a different location in your garden in order to prevent the build up of soil-borne diseases.
Growing strawberries in containers
If you are growing strawberries in containers you should follow the same rules as listed above but you will need to use a potting soil mixture rather than the method you use when planting them directly into the ground, using the existing soil and a mixture of compost.
More importantly, growing strawberries in containers allow you to move the containers from place to place. If you are planting in longer containers or raised container beds, for example, you can avoid digging individual holes for each plant and instead just dig a trench in the area you plan to place each of the strawberries and you can place them into the ground in approximately 10 or 15cm apart.
Water the container thoroughly and be aware of the fact that if there is a period of no rain, or if your containers are placed somewhere protected where they wouldn’t get access to rain, you will need to compensate for this.
If you notice that the containers in which you are growing your strawberries have become infected it might be in your best interests to simply start again and replace your strawberries prematurely, while simultaneously replacing any of the soil and properly bleaching the containers before using them again.
Growing strawberries in hanging baskets
Knowing how to plant strawberries in hanging baskets is very simple. Make sure that you have selected the appropriate location that still affords the strawberries protection from the elements while guaranteeing sun exposure.
If you are using a hanging basket, most hanging baskets can be purchased with the coconut hair mat along the bottom, however, this is absolutely terrible at moisture retention, and every time you water your hanging basket the water will fall right through. It is important to consider a layer of plastic underneath to help maintain moisture but with enough holes that you don’t leave your strawberry susceptible to root rot. Ideally, the plastic hanging baskets (as shown in the picture above) are perfect and often resolve this issue, just make sure they have holes in the bottom.
How to feed and water your strawberries
Regardless of where you plant them, strawberries still prefer high humus content, especially if they are younger.
Once you plant your strawberries (in your chosen location) apply a general fertiliser, such as growmore, around the plants but follow the suggested rate on the package. This will help to produce more flowers and subsequently more fruit. Once your strawberry plants begin to flower it is the perfect time to feed your strawberry plants again so that they have the nutrients they need to produce top-of-the-line strawberries. This time give strawberry plants a liquid potash feed – such as a tomato feed, which is super affordable too, feed them every 7 to 14 days and you will be rewarded with better fruit.
If you are feeding strawberries that are in hanging baskets or containers, you should use a good quality potting compost and begin feeding, (as explained above) once they are in flower.
In terms of watering you need to monitor your plants and water them well in the morning and the evening, especially if they are in pots or any other type of hanging container. They will dehydrate quickly and this isn’t good for strawberries, so keeping the soil somewhat moist, but not too wet, will provide the best growing conditions. You don’t want to water directly on top of the fruits or the flowers though because this can lead to rot, and ideally, you want to avoid watering the crowns of the strawberry plants.
When your strawberries are fully red in their appearance you can cut them off at the stem. It is better to cut them off rather than try to pull the fruit because pulling it not only bruises the fruit but bruises the rest of the strawberry plant too.
After you have picked them you should eat them as soon as possible because they will not keep well after they have reached full ripening. Most varieties also don’t seem to freeze very well either.
The first year you plant your strawberries you will likely get a punnet’s worth of berries and thereafter you should see that amount double in quantity.
The best varieties to grow at home include the ‘vibrant strawberry’ and the ‘Snow White strawberry’. The vibrant strawberry produces richly red and glossy berries in high yields. The Snow White Berry offers a white variety that has bright red seeds and can be added to desserts or food in a very fun fashion.