How to grow strawberries

Delicious and nutritious, strawberries are a simple option if you want to raise your own fruit. These succulent berries grow from Florida to Alaska, feeling equally at home in containers, raised beds, in-ground beds or traditional strawberry jar planters.

Add these berried beauties to your yard this spring, and you could savor the fruits of your labor this summer.

Basic Needs

Fuss-free growers, strawberries need just a few things to thrive:

  • Rich, well-drained soil; build raised beds if soil is heavy clay or soggy.
  • Full sun; aim for at least 6 hours of sun daily. Less sun yields more leaves, fewer flowers and fewer berries.
  • Water; plants need consistent soil moisture and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out.

Types of Strawberries

There are three types of strawberries:

June-bearing – Plants ripen one large berry crop each year, usually in early summer. These are said to be the largest and sweetest berries. This type yields plenty of berries for preserving. Plant early, midseason and late selections to extend the harvest a few weeks.

Plants don’t bear the year of planting. Remove all flowers in the planting year to encourage sturdy root systems and an abundant crop in the second, third and possibly fourth years.

Everbearing – Plants ripen berries when days lengthen (more than 12 daylight hours). Expect a heavy berry crop in early summer, a few berries throughout summer and a lighter crop in late summer and early fall. Total harvest is less than June-bearing berries.

After planting, remove flowers until mid- to late June, and then allow plants to bloom and form berries.

Day-neutral – Plants ripen small berries throughout the growing season, typically in three peaks: early, mid- and late summer. High temperatures (greater than 75 degrees F) halt bud formation; expect less fruit during high summer.

After planting, remove flowers until mid- to late June, and then allow plants to bloom and form berries.

To learn which strawberry types and selections perform best in your area, contact your local extension office. For the longest harvest season, plant both June-bearing and everbearing or day-neutral types.

When To Plant

  • In zones where the ground freezes, plant all types in early spring, as soon as soil is workable.
  • In warm zones, plant June-bearers in late summer or early fall for spring harvest. Plant everbearers in spring for summer harvest.

How To Plant

  • Cover soil with weed-cloth or straw to keep berries off soil and away from pests like slugs, snails and pill bugs. Plant through the mulch.
  • Planting depth is critical. Position plants so the crown rests at the soil surface. The crown is the thick, fleshy part that produces leaves. Cover roots fully with soil.

How To Grow

These methods are the best to use for grooming maximum yields. You’ll get enough berries to enjoy if you just tuck a few plants in the ground or a container.

Matted row system – Use for June-bearing types. Place plants 18 to 30 inches apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Direct runners to fill empty spaces between plants. Maintain a 6-inch space between individual plants. Hold runners in place with soil or hairpins.

When new plants root, snip runners. Don’t forget to remove all blooms for the first year on runner plants, too.

June-bearing types grown in the matted row system produce fruit for three to four years if you renovate the patch, which is a four-step process:

1. After harvest, trim leaves to 1 inch above crowns.
2. Narrow rows to 6-12 inches wide by tilling or hoeing.
3. Thin plants so you have 4-6 inches between plants.
4. Water regularly to ensure strong runner development for next year’s crop.

Hill system – Use for everbearing and day-neutral types. Remove all runners to trigger multiple crowns and more flowers to form. Place plants 1 foot apart in a 3- to 4-foot-wide raised bed or hill.

Containers – Strawberries adapt well to container growing. Learn more about growing edibles in containers.

Mulch for Winter – In areas where the ground freezes, lightly cover plants for winter with a loose mulch, such as weed-free straw or pine straw, to protect crowns and help prevent plants against frost-heave. Wait until soil freezes to apply mulch. For zones where soil freezes but snow doesn’t fall, mulch helps keep plants from drying out in winter winds.