Experience the taste of summer by adding strawberries to your garden.

If you’ve ever wanted to grow more fruit at home, strawberries are a great place to start. With vigorous leaves and unfussy roots, they’ll take hold in almost any bed or container. They also taste better than their store bought counterparts. That’s because strawberries left to ripen fully on the plant develop a higher sugar content. Pick yours on a sunny afternoon when they’re at their sweetest and most flavorful: you’ll experience the taste of summer.

Getting started growing strawberries

If you’re new to growing strawberries, there are a few things to consider before getting started. The first decision involves what method you’ll use to grow or propagate your plants.


Probably the most difficult option, growing strawberries from seed is fairly easy once you get past the germination phase. Strawberry seeds require stratification (exposure to cold temperatures before planting). This takes 3 to 4 weeks in the freezer, followed by a ‘thawing’ period. For best results, follow the instructions carefully on your seed package.

Bare root

If you’re planting your strawberry patch in the early spring or fall, you can usually buy bare root strawberry plants at your local nursery or through online suppliers. Bare root strawberries are exactly as described: a single strawberry crown attached to a bundle of roots, without any soil or pot. Since they are dormant, they require soaking for about an hour before planting.


Every year established strawberry plants produce ‘daughter’ plants on the end of horizontal shoots or ‘runners’ that travel along the soil surface. If you know someone with strawberry plants, odds are they have runners to share. Simply trim off the runner and plant the rooted end in your prepared bed.


Often the most expensive option, potted strawberry plants are active and ready to go. Unlike some of the options above, they will often produce in the first season after planting.

day neutral strawberries in hands on soil

Starting strawberries from seed takes longer than other methods, but the end result should be the same. Photo by Adalia Botha on Unsplash

Types of strawberry plants

Another thing to consider before you plant is what type of strawberry you should grow. Strawberries come in three main varieties, each one with different fruiting times.

June bearing

As their name suggests, June bearing strawberries set their fruit in a concentrated period of two to four weeks during the month of June. They develop their buds during the previous year, and then flower once in summer before setting a heavy crop of large, delicious berries. They spend the rest of the growing season making runners. When establishing a new bed of June bearing varieties, you’ll have to wait a year for your first crop–unless you buy plants with buds or flowers.

Everbearing strawberries

Everbearing strawberries produce their crop over a longer period of time. Unlike June-bearers, these plants bud, flower and produce strawberries in the same year. The harvest usually takes place in two periods, early and late summer. While the berries tend to be smaller than the June-bearing varieties, everbearing strawberries give you a consistent harvest with fewer runners to manage.

Day neutral strawberries

Day neutral berries are a more recent development in everbearing types that flower and produce fruit throughout the summer and into fall. Many people choose to grow them as annuals, since their production drops off after the first year. Plant day neutral varieties in raised beds for easier management.

Alpine strawberries

Known also as the woodland or wild strawberry, alpine strawberries grow throughout North America and Europe. With small, delicious berries and a compact, mounding habit, these plants make nice additions to containers and perennial garden borders. They produce fruit in their first year, though the harvest is smaller–as are the berries. For this reason, many home gardeners choose to grow them as ornamental plants.

alpine strawberries in pot

Alpine strawberries produce dainty, sweet berries that work well in ornamental plantings. For larger berries or a more abundant harvest, try one of the other plant types.

Preparing your strawberry bed

Strawberries are a versatile crop that do well in conventional beds, raised garden beds and all manner of planter boxes. The key to their success is rich soil, full sun and ideal planting depth.


To begin, choose a sheltered spot that receives at least 8 to 10 hours of sun per day in summer. Locating your strawberry bed out of the wind will help protect your plants from early frosts in spring.

Soil and nutrition

To prepare your soil for growing strawberries, mix in finished compost or well-rotted manure to make sure you have enough organic matter. Add organic sources of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) at a rate of two pounds each per 1000 square feet. Alternatively, use a complete organic fertilizer with a balance of these three essential nutrients.

Performing a soil test can help you determine if you need to increase or decrease acidity.

Strawberries like soil pH on the slightly acidic side (5.8 to 6.2). Performing a soil test can help you determine if you need to reduce or increase acidity by adding garden lime or sulphur.

Most commercial growers choose to hill up their soil into raised rows before planting. This makes dealing with runners and harvesting berries easier. One ideal method is to create 12 to 15 inch rows spaced four feet apart. Since strawberries are fairly shallow rooted, there’s no need to cultivate your soil too deeply.


Strawberries need regular water to be juicy and delicious, but don’t overwater, since they are also susceptible to molds. Using drip irrigation lines will reduce the chances of overwatering and evaporation. Smaller plantings do well with soaker hoses.

Water regularly to establish new plants. During the growing season, strawberries need about one to two inches of water per week.

Planting your strawberries

If you are planting whole strawberry plants, insert to the same soil level as they are in their pots. For bare roots or runners, be sure the soil only comes to the top of the roots. Burying the crown of the plant too deeply is a surefire way to kill your strawberries.

Space your June-bearing plants 18 inches to 20 inches (45 to 50 cm) apart in each direction. Everbearing and day neutral varieties can be planted more densely–as close as a foot apart. If any of your bare root plants have overly long roots, trim them lightly to fit into the hole.

Fill soil around the roots, tamp down gently and water to settle. Ensure your plants have adequate drainage, since strawberries don’t like wet soil.

Caring for your strawberry plants

During the first season for June bearing strawberries, remove all runners to ensure all the plant’s energy goes into establishing a healthy plant. In subsequent years, let the runners grow out before removing them to expand or replenish your patch.

As much as possible, keep planting rows weed free. Mulch plants to reduce weed seeds, keep soil cool and reduce evaporation–preferably before they start to set fruit.

In the spring of subsequent years, tidy up old plants by removing spent foliage, leaving the new, central leaves to flourish.

Add compost or finished manure in the spring of each new year to replace soil fertility.

Related: Mulch Your Garden to Beat the Heat

raised bed garden strawberries

Strawberries grow very well in raised garden beds, planters, pots and containers. Photo by Jeeray TANG on Unsplash

Growing strawberries in planters

As noted above, strawberries are great choices for raised beds and planters. Ensure soil is absorbent and well draining–with adequate drainage holes in the bottom of your container.

Strawberries are also excellent companions for many potted edibles and ornamentals. Just don’t plant them where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants or melons have been recently. These plants share a propensity for a disease known as verticillium wilt that can wipe out your crop.

How can you make strawberries produce more fruit?

This is a question worth asking, because at least some factors that help strawberry plants thrive are within your control.


No matter where you grow your strawberries, be sure they have enough nutrients in balance. Too much nitrogen (N) can cause a lush and leafy plant that never makes much fruit. Test your soil before planting, fertilize using the three essential nutrients in balance, or apply a complete organic fertilizer.

Know your plant type

Do you know what kind of strawberry plant you’re growing? As noted above, June bearing plants won’t produce during their first year, while everbearing varieties will. After their first year, day neutral varieties will produce less. Planting multiple varieties can help you plan a consistent harvest.

Adequate sunlight

The absolute minimum amount of sunlight for most strawberry varieties is six hours per day. Eight to ten hours is even better. The more sunlight your plants get, the larger the harvest and the better the quality of berries.

bees on strawberry blossoms

Pollinating insects have a huge role to play in the success of your strawberry crop. Photo by Justus Menke on Unsplash


Strawberry flowers have both male and female parts. This means they can self-pollinate with the help of wind and weather, but this isn’t usually enough to produce large, full berries. For that, they need help from pollinators, specifically bees. According to Vegetable Grower’s News, each flower needs to receive 16 to 25 bee visits! Without good pollination, you may end up with small, misshapen berries.

To attract more bees to your strawberries, consider planting flowers beneficial to pollinators in your garden borders. You can also convert lawns to pollinator-friendly ground covers such as clovers and bee-blends. Another solution is to install bee houses near your strawberry patch. Just remember these require yearly maintenance to ensure a healthy bee population.

Related: 5 Early Season Plants to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

Pest and diseases

Verticillium wilt

This nasty fungus can live for many years in the soil. Avoid planting strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants or melon have previously been, since they share a tendency to harbor verticillium wilt. As with other diseases, prevention is the best option for the home gardener. If this disease is common in your area, buy only certified strawberry plants from nurseries, choosing disease-resistant varieties. If you find wilt in your patch, remove infected plants to prevent spread. Don’t replant strawberries in the same area.


In humid climates, mold can take hold on strawberries as they ripen. Most commonly, this appears as a thin, gray coating of fuzz. To prevent this from ruining your berries, keep weeds under control and give plants adequate space to increase air circulation. Water using irrigation lines where possible (rather than overhead sprinkling). Place mulch on the soil surface to lift berries off the ground.

Slugs and bugs

Slugs love a moist environment. Space your plants at least a foot apart, more for June bearing varieties, and don’t overdue mulch during early spring if your weather is wet. Apply diatomaceous earth around plants during dry spells. For more information, see our Natural Garden Pest Control Guide.


In some locations, birds can make short work of ripening strawberries. While covering your crop is the best way to prevent bird damage, some garden netting can trap or ensnare birds, leading to their untimely deaths. If you choose to net your berries, be sure to tightly stretch the mesh over a fence or frame. This will lessen its impact. You can also plant extra for the birds if you have the space.

Frequently asked questions

Can you grow strawberries in pots?

Yes, as noted above, strawberries are excellent choices for container plantings. Just be sure your container is well drained and a potting mix meant for fruiting plants.

Can you grow strawberries on a balcony or patio?

Of course! Strawberries are great at producing fruit in containers, since they don’t need a lot of soil depth to grow. The most important thing to have for balcony growing is ample sunshine (8 to 10 hours per day is best).

Will strawberries grow indoors?

To grow and produce strawberries inside, you’ll need to recreate a full day of sunshine with grow lights designed for fruiting plants. These lights will contain more red-spectrum light than conventional grow lights.

What’s the best way to preserve strawberries?

Lucky you, if you have too many strawberries to eat fresh (the best way to consume them, in our opinion). Thankfully, strawberries can be frozen, canned, dehydrated, freeze-dried and made into jam or fruit leathers. Freeze-dried strawberries offer the best flavor when compared to the original, but not many people have a freeze-drier kicking around. Freezing or dehydrating your berries will also give you a good result if you have a large freezer or home dehydrator.

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