Strawberries and cream. Strawberries in champagne. Who doesn’t love strawberries? But did you know that the U.S. is the largest global producer of strawberries? We produce close to one-third of the world’s strawberries.
Strawberries are often planted in early spring when the soil has been prepared. In California, commercial growers replant in the fall and allow them to lay dormant through winter. In some areas, commercial growers produce them successfully all year round, so planting times will vary even for home gardeners.
What month do you grow strawberries?
It depends where you live and which USDA agricultural zone you live in.
In hotter climates, zones 9 and 10, you can plant strawberries from late spring until mid-summer, from December until February. In cool climates, zones 3 and 4, you will need to plant in mid to late fall, in May.
And everything else will literally be in between these months.
Here’s a much clearer breakdown of when to plant your strawberries in the various USDA plant hardiness zones:
|USDA Zone||Season to Plant||Month to Plant|
|3 & 4||Fall||Early to mid-May|
|5||Fall||Early May to early June|
|6||Fall||Early March to mid-April|
|7||Summer through mid-fall||December to early April|
|8||Summer through early fall||December to mid-March|
|9 & 10||Late spring through mid-summer||December to February|
How to grow strawberries
As mentioned above, the U.S. is the world’s largest strawberry producer. Globally, close to a third of the strawberries produced globally come from the U.S.
The top three strawberry-growing states are California, Florida, and Oregon, all of which incorporate multiple different USDA plant hardiness zones.
While there are many different varieties, there are only three types of strawberries:
June-bearing strawberries produce fruit in early spring and early summer, and sometimes in the fall, depending on the variety.
Day-neutral bloom and fruit throughout spring, summer, and the fall, in what is potentially an extended growing season. They usually do best in cooler regions.
The everbearing strawberry doesn’t keep bearing fruit constantly, as the name may imply. But they do bear fruit from spring through to the fall.
Everbearing varieties usually produce a big crop in spring. But they will produce again in summer and then again in late summer and/or in the fall.
All strawberry plants have a very shallow root system that might only extend about 6 inches deep. Because of this, and because flower blossoms can easily be killed by spring frosts, irrigation is usually a necessity.
Commercial strawberry producers grow their strawberries in raised beds, with plastic mulch, or they use a matted-row production system. Home gardeners can also grow strawberries in the ground or in pots or hanging baskets.
About Strawberry Plants
It’s helpful to understand how strawberries grow.
Above the ground, you will see the crown, a compressed stem from which the leaves, runners, flowers, and fruit form. Sometimes smaller branch crowns form from the mother plant, and daughter plants form on the long runners (officially known as stolons).
You can grow strawberries in many different soil types but they must be well-drained. You will also need a site that gets full sun most of the time.
The other very important element is that your strawberry plants need to be close to an irrigation source to ensure that they will start producing fruit.
If you’re asking the question, how long will a strawberry plant produce? With the correct care, strawberry plants will continue to produce fruit for 3-5 years.
Choose the Best Site
A well-drained sunny site is what you need to grow strawberries. Ideally, it should slope a little, but never more than 12%.
But, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) advises switching planting areas annually. If you plant in the same place every year you risk soilborne diseases and nematodes.
They also warn that strawberries should not be planted in garden beds where you have been growing eggplants, tomatoes, and any other veggies that tend to be susceptible to verticillium wilt.
Ideal Soil Conditions
Ideally, the soil should have a pH of between 6.0 and 6.5. You can buy an inexpensive test kit to check this.
IFAS recommends mixing a good quality fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into the soil before you plant.
Even though commercial growers seldom use compost, it makes sense to add lots of organic matter to the soil.
Sun & Temperature Requirements
Generally, it’s best to grow strawberries in full sun. They should get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight, but no more than 14 hours of daylight.
They need temperatures of between 50°F (10°C) and 80°F (26.6°C) for the plant to produce fruit. Temperatures below 32°F (0°C) will prevent strawberry plants from bearing fruit because really cold weather will damage the flowers and any fruit that has started to form.
Drip irrigation systems are preferred for strawberry fields. They can also be set up relatively easily by home gardeners.
The benefit of drip irrigation is that it delivers water to the roots when needed. It also protects the fruit from contact with irrigation water that can cause mildew and other problems.
Commercial growers often use overhead irrigation for frost protection. Because the water can contaminate the berries, they sometimes treat the water first.
Prepare the soil when it is dry, at the end of winter. Plant in spring. Ideally, they should be 18 inches apart in rows that are about 4 feet apart.
The holes you plant them in should be wide enough for you to spread the roots out just a little. They should be deep enough for the soil to reach halfway up each crown.
Pack the soil firmly around each plant and water well.
First Season Care
Strawberry crowns will produce a few leaves and flower buds soon after planting in spring. The University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension professor and specialist, Becky Sideman, recommends pinching off all the flowers produced in the planting year.
This will make plants stronger and will improve the growth of runners. Allow the runners that emerge from the crowns in early summer to fill out the rows.
Other Tips on How to Help Your Strawberries Grow
Strawberries are incredibly easy to grow. Here are some additional tips to get you going.
Tip 1: Well-drained soil
Well-drained soil will allow water to drain through it easily. Just because a site slopes will not necessarily mean that the site is well-drained.
Tip 2: Plant More Than One Variety
Becky Sideman recommends planting at least two varieties at any one time. This is because performance tends to vary depending on the conditions and it will help you determine which grows best on your site.
Tip 3: Don’t Over Water
Water is critically important when growing strawberries. But if the soil doesn’t drain well, they will end up with their roots in water and are likely to rot.
Tip 4: Grow as a Ground Cover
Strawberry plants can make an effective and attractive ground cover under fruit trees and some vegetables.
Tip 5: When to Harvest Strawberries
Harvest your strawberries when at least ¾ of the surface is red. Don’t leave it too long because, once it is 100% red, the berries will rot very quickly.
Pick them in the morning when the temperature is still cool.
Can I grow strawberries any time of the year?
You can grow strawberries all year round in some places. It depends largely on the climate as well as the variety you plant.
In Southern California, where the climate is mild, a day-neutral variety like Albion or Seascape will enable you to grow strawberries at any time of the year. Plant them in the right conditions and they’ll just keep on producing.
Choose your site carefully and pay attention to your soil preparation. Get rid of weeds before you plant and keep on removing them meticulously thereafter.
An organic mulch like straw or pine needles will create a protective barrier between your strawberries and the soil. This will minimize pests and diseases.
Last of all, if you want your day-neutral strawberries to keep on going, make sure that you keep the soil moist but not wet.
Even though climatic conditions are quite different in Nebraska, an ongoing research project started in 2020 shows that year-round strawberry production can be successful. They aim to identify which cultivars can be grown successfully all year round in Nebraska.
So, if you want to grow strawberries any time of the year, or all year round, give it a try!
Strawberries are an easy fruit to grow and if you follow a few basic rules you will be rewarded with delicious strawberries throughout the growing season. Different types of strawberries produce fruit at different times of the year, and in some areas, you can produce fruit all year round.
If you enjoy eating strawberries and have the space to plant a small patch, give it a try. If you’ve got lots of space, you could be making your own strawberry jam soon.