How to Grow and Harvest Strawberries: The Definitive Guide

How to Grow and Harvest Strawberries: The Definitive Home Gardening Guide

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I wouldn’t even consider a grocery store strawberry and a freshly-picked strawberry to be the same fruit. Why? Because quickly after strawberries are picked their sugar turns into starch, lessening their sweetness and flavor dramatically. That is why grocery store strawberries taste dull and muted and fresh strawberries are juicy, delicious, and bursting with flavor.

How do you get your hands on a regular supply of fresh strawberries though? After all, you do need to satisfy your strawberry cravings. It is quite easy, actually: You grow them!

This tutorial will teach you how to grow strawberries, covering how to plant, care for, and harvest them. In no time, with little effort, you could have some of the best strawberries you have ever tasted growing steps from your backdoor.

What You Will Need

  • Strawberry Plants
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Common Gardening Tools
  • Mulch (optional)
  • Fertilizer (optional)

Getting Started: Before You Plant

How to Grow Strawberries Indoors

Growing strawberries indoors has numerous benefits, like giving you full control over how much light they are getting and the temperatures they are exposed to, and keeping your plants free of pests.

Simply, pick out a container to house your strawberry plant. Keep in mind that strawberry plants have shallow roots, so they don’t need a huge container, but crowding them can lead to them developing mold or contracting diseases.

Then, pick a spot within your home to place them. This should be a spot that gets a lot of natural sunlight, or that has a grow lamp. Strawberries need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.

Your strawberries should thrive in whatever your house’s temperature might be because they like the same temperatures that humans do—between 60-80 F.

Water your indoor plant daily until growing season arrives, and then water only when the top inch of soil is dry.

How to Grow Strawberries in a Pot

Strawberries are the perfect container fruit! They have a shallow root system and make great decorative plants.

young girl carrying strawberry plants

You first have to choose which kind of strawberry you want to grow. I advise growing a day-neutral type because they produce the smallest amount of runners. Check to see which specific day-neutral varieties grow best in compact spaces.

Then, choose a container with drainage holes. Strawberries are not picky about their container because of their shallow root system. Plant your strawberries and then place the container in a spot with sunlight.

Be vigilant about watering your strawberries- container soil dries out much more quickly than garden soil so you should frequently check on them.

One of the best things about growing strawberries is that they are a perennial plant. You don’t have to miss out on this advantage just because you are growing them in a container! Simply, keep watering your container plant through the fall and then store it in an unheated garage through the winter. You can bring it back out to its sunny spot once spring returns, and your strawberries will return too.

Growing Strawberries from Seeds

It is easy to grow strawberries from plants, but if you are looking for a challenge, you can also grow them from seeds! You can buy seeds or collect them from the fruit of past plants. Once you have your seeds, plant them in small flower pots or another small container with drainage holes.

Do this by first filling the pots with seed starter mix up to a ½ inch from their rims. Add the seeds on top of the mix, spacing them out so they are 1 inch apart. Press them into the mix, but leave them uncovered. They need light-exposure for germination. Cover the container with plastic wrap and set it on a sunny windowsill or under a grow light. It needs as much light as possible to quickly germinate.

Keep the pot between 60-75 F. The seeds should germinate in 1-6 weeks.

Types of Strawberries

handful of strawberries just picked in gardenJune-Bearing Strawberries

These strawberries are the best option for northern gardeners because they grow in Zones 6-10. Nobody told these strawberries they were named “June-bearing,” so although they often produce midsummer, in warmer climates, they can produce as early as April. June-bearing strawberries only have one harvest for a three week period. However, June-bearing plants tend to yield more and bigger strawberries than the other two types.

Everbearing Plants

Everbearing strawberry plants grow best in Zones 6-8. This variety will produce a big crop in the spring, produce light crops in the summer, and then another big crop at the end of summer. They are a happy medium between the single harvest of June-bearing and the constant harvest of day-neutral plants.

Day-Neutral Varieties

Day-Neutral strawberry plants grow best in Zones 6-8. This variety produces fruit continuously from six weeks after it is planted to the first frost of fall. It has zero sensitivity to day length, producing buds, fruits, and runners no matter the season as long as the temperature is between 35-85 F.

How to Grow Strawberries

Step One: Strawberry Set-up

Strawberries need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day to thrive so make sure that where you are planting has lots of light exposure. You should use well-drained, loamy soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7. Work in fertilizer, either compost or manure, a month or two before you plant the strawberries.

Decide, taking into account your region and harvest preferences, which type of strawberries you want to grow and acquire some plants. Get disease-resistant plants to ensure your crop is healthy.

Pro Tip: It is best to plant new strawberry plants. Plants decrease in their yield strength after a few years and become more susceptible to diseases.

Step Two: Plant Your Strawberries

Plant your strawberries in early Spring after the last frost. Before planting, trim your plant’s roots so that they are no longer than 8 inches. Your strawberry plants should be planted in rows that are 4 feet apart from each other with 2 feet between each plant within the rows. You need this space because strawberries send out “runners,” or daughter plants.

The hole you dig for your strawberry plants should easily fit their whole root system but not be too deep. Cover the roots but the crown should be even with the soil’s surface. If the crown is buried, the plant could rot. Water your strawberry plant as soon as it has been planted.

Step Three: Care for Your Strawberries

Water your plants with about one inch of water a week, taking into account rainfall. When flowers and runners start to develop, water more. Mulch around your strawberries to help them retain water and discourage weeds.

Weeding frequently will deter bugs. If birds keep trying to pick at your strawberries, buy a gun. Just kidding, use peaceful bird deterrents like reflective Mylar bird tape.

gloved hands pruning strawberry plants in home garden

If you are growing June-bearing strawberries, allow runners to create a mat between the plants within the rows. If you are growing everbearing or day-neutral plants you should clip off runners, thinning out daughter plants so there are 10 inches between them.

Pro Tip: Fertilize your strawberries with a balanced fertilizer, however, keep in mind that overfertilizing will hurt the plants, leading to too much energy going into leaf growth and not enough into flowering.

Pro Tip: Remove flowers from your strawberry plants. This will encourage them to direct their energy towards creating a stronger root system which will significantly increase your yield next year.

Step Four: Harvest Your Strawberries

When the berries are fully red, they are ready for harvest. Harvest should typically occur a little more than a month after the plants blossom. When in the season you harvest your strawberries will depend on the type of strawberry plant.

June-bearing strawberries have a single harvest over a three week period. This will normally occur midsummer but can occur earlier if you are in a warmer climate. Everbearing strawberries have a few harvests, one at the end of spring, a smaller one during the summer, and a large harvest at the end of the summer. Day-neutral plants will produce a continual harvest until the first frost of fall.

girl harvesting strawberries in home garden

When you harvest, don’t pull the strawberries off the plants! Clip them off with scissors.

Pro Tip: Strawberries bruise easily so be super careful while harvesting.

Step Five: Enjoy!

You can enjoy your strawberries raw or incorporate them into some incredible recipes. Bake your strawberries into strawberry shortcake, chop them up and add them to fruit salad, or infuse them in a mixed drink. If you can’t eat all of your strawberries right away or want to stretch out enjoying them, they are very easy to store. You can store unwashed strawberries for up to 5 days in the fridge. If you are looking for long-term storage, you can store them in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Bonus Step: Let Your Strawberries Go Dormant

After harvest, rejuvenate your strawberry patch! Strawberries are perennials so they do grow back next Spring. Set your mower blades to a height of 4 inches and mow over your patch a few times. If you don’t have a mower you can just cut each plant down to a height of about 1 inch. Only keep 3-4 runner daughter plants and clip off the rest.

Then, rake out the clipped strawberry plants, and weed out the plant bed. Lastly, add a touch of fertilizer. If you have mild winters, no need to care for them past this. If you have cold winters, cover plants with about 4 inches of mulch. The colder the region, the more mulch you should use. If temperatures drop below 10 F where you live, you are going to need to plant new strawberries come next Spring.

Conclusion

closeup of ripe and unripe strawberries on outdoor plant

Strawberries have been enjoyed for tens of thousands of years by cultures all over the world. It’s no wonder why! Not only are they easy to grow, quick to ripen, and delicious, they also provide valuable nutrients to your body that keep you happy and healthy. Enjoy growing and eating this delicious fruit!

If you learned a lot from this tutorial, or just enjoyed reading it, give it a share. As always, let me know what you thought about it in the comments below!

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