Strawberries are easy to grow and even easier to eat! Our 2021 planting guide will help you plant and grow delicious strawberries in your home gardens.
The types of strawberries you choose to grow will determine the best time to plant.
When to plant strawberries? The ideal time to plant runners is in early spring. But dormant, bare-root strawberries can be planted anytime in greenhouses or warm climates. You can also plant strawberry seeds anytime in seed starter trays that are kept indoors.
PLANTING STRAWBERRIES IN DIFFERENT CLIMATES
Many different strawberry varieties suit different climatic zones.
Some suit cold winter zones, some produce high-yielding plants in tropical areas, and others are best suited to temperate zones.
Additionally, there are three types of strawberries:
TYPES OF STRAWBERRIES
Classic strawberries produce lots of fruit in June in the northern hemisphere. Also known as June bearers, they usually bud in the fall, and produce flowers and fruit about a year later, in June, over a three-week period.
They bear fruit earlier in warmer climates, between March and May, but need to be planted earlier
Perpetual or everbearing strawberries have two harvests, in June and late summer or early fall. The plants form buds during the short autumn and long summer days. In ideal conditions, some everbearing strawberries will produce three harvests.
Alpine strawberries produce tiny berries from June through to early fall, until the first frost. Also called day neutral varieties, as long as the temperature is between 35°F or 1°C to 85°F or 30°C.
June bearers are the most prolific of the three types, and most varieties produce large fruit. We recommend this classic type for those growing strawberries in home gardens.
Another useful classification for strawberries is based on fruit production. It may be early in the season, in the middle of the season, or late in the season.
Early season varieties normally start to fruit in late spring. So, you can choose a variety that will suit your climatic conditions.
Garden centers in your area will have strawberry seeds, bare-root runners, and young plants that are suitable for your area. If buying online, make sure you check suitability before you order.
There are no plant-killing frosts in tropical climates and temperatures average 77°F/25°C to 82°F/28°C all year round. But summer heat can be a problem.
The most important thing is to set the young plants in the ground late in summer so they establish themselves through the fall. This takes four to five months, so the strawberries produce fruit that will be ready to pick in mid-winter.
Some everbearing strawberry varieties that are not day-length sensitive will do well in a tropical climate.
Dry climate areas usually have very hot summers and cool, but warm, winters. Some dry climates are arid (parched), while others are semi-arid. The air tends to be very dry throughout the year.
Strawberries need good irrigation. They also grow best in areas with cold winter weather.
In hot, dry climates, strawberries will do best if they are planted in the fall and harvested in early spring. They should be watered every morning, and twice a day if the temperature is over 95°F/35°C.
Temperate climate areas have moderate rainfall across the year or parts of the year. Summers are mild to warm and winters cool to cold. Most temperate regions experience all four seasons.
Generally, classic June bearers will all do well in a temperate climate. The young runners, separated from the mother plants, should be planted in early spring. Other types do well too.
Areas with a continental climate generally have very variable weather conditions and significant temperature differences. They experience a moderate amount of rain, mostly in the warmer months, and snow in winter. Spring may begin as early as March or as late as May.
Parts of Arizona and California experience a continental climate. In these areas, strawberries usually thrive if planted in the fall and harvested in spring.
Polar climate zones are extremely cold, even in summer. The temperature never gets higher than 50°F or 10°C – and that’s considered hot!
Many experts warn that strawberries won’t do well in a polar climate. However, the University of Alaska does recommend a few varieties including June bearers, everbearing, and day neutral strawberries, which are also known as the alpine strawberry variety.
If planting out, plant disease-free strawberries in spring in a raised bed that has well-drained fertile soil. Make sure the bed gets full sun.
CHOOSING STRAWBERRY SEEDS
If you decide to try growing strawberries from seed, be aware that it’s probably going to take more than a year for the plant to produce fruit.
Also, bear in mind that except for heirloom seeds, strawberry seeds don’t generally breed true-to-type. This means they won’t necessarily have the same characteristics as the mother plants.
STRAWBERRY SEEDS FROM SEED COMPANIES
If your local garden center doesn’t have strawberry seeds for sale you will find that there is an enormous choice online. Commercially produced seed is shipped from all corners of the globe. So, you need to be sure that the type and variety you choose will grow in your climate.
It is just as important to be sure to buy from a reputable supplier. It will always pay to do a bit of research into seed companies and distributors. Also aim to buy certified seed.
The same rules apply to buying bare-rooted runners, which are dormant plants (roots) that will produce runners. They are also available online.
HOW TO HARVEST STRAWBERRY SEEDS
While most fruits have seeds in pods or inside the fruit itself, strawberries have their tiny seeds studded on the outside of the fruit.
There are several ways to harvest these seeds.
Put a cup of cold water in a blender with a handful of ripe strawberries and blend for three to five seconds. Some seeds will float and some will sink. You want the ones that have sunk to the bottom.
Alternatively, let some of your ripe strawberries dry out completely. Then gently rub the dry fruit so that the seeds fall off.
You can store dry seeds in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them.
HOW TO PLANT STRAWBERRY SEEDS
It’s not difficult to plant the seeds of any strawberry variety. But it is common practice to cold-treat the seeds before planting to encourage germination.
In nature, in cold climates, when strawberry seeds drop to the ground they freeze during winter. If you have harvested your seeds, or if the packet instructions call for it, you can cold-treat your seeds before you plant them in the growing season.
All you do is put the seeds in an airtight container or sandwich bag and pop it into the freezer. This will simulate freezing winter conditions. Leave them there for about a month and then let them warm up gradually to room temperature in the same container.
Plant the seeds in seed trays filled with good quality soil. Any loamy soil or a 3:1 mix of peat to organic-rich soil will work well. Sprinkle a few seeds on top and then scatter soil over them to barely cover the seeds.
Keep the seed trays in a well-lit room, if possible, in full sun. Be sure to keep the soil moist. The seeds should germinate in two or three weeks.
You can also plant seeds directly in the ground in warm climates.
HOW TO WATER STRAWBERRY SEEDS
Strawberry seeds need regular watering while they germinate. But you don’t want to drown them. They are shallow rooted plants, so too much water can cause the roots to rot.
It’s best to just mist the surface of the soil using an atomizer.
Once you transplant the strawberries into the ground, they are going to need a lot of water, especially while the runners develop and start to form flowers.
HOW TO GROW STRAWBERRIES
Most strawberry varieties will continue to grow, producing fruit for three years. You can grow them in a raised bed or a patch together with good companion plants like roses, beans and other legumes, or spinach.
Borage is another great companion plant that is rich in the minerals strawberry plants need during the growing season.
When the time comes to plant out your seedlings grown from seed or from runners thrown by the mother plants, prepare the soil well adding lots of compost.
It’s best not to plant where you have previously grown tomatoes, potatoes, or peppers as there could be pathogens in the soil.
It’s also a good idea to rotate crops once your strawberries have outlived themselves, and grow flowers or vegetables that will add nitrogen to the soil for four or five years.
Plant the seedlings or runners between eight and 18 inches apart, depending on their size. Mulch with straw to help drainage. They are, after all, strawberries, and it will also help to minimize weeds.
Water all types of strawberries well until the plants are mature. Also, fertilize the soil with all-purpose granules to encourage strong growth.
Because they are shallow rooted, strawberries are also easy to grow in containers. Just be sure to place the pots in full sun and to water them well.
Harvest your strawberries when the fruit is ripe because they won’t continue to ripen after they’ve been picked.
HOW LONG DO STRAWBERRIES TAKE TO GROW?
If you’re wondering how long it will take your strawberries to grow, it depends whether you start them from seed, bare-root plants, from runners, or established plants sold by garden centers.
As discussed earlier, it also depends on the type and strawberry variety to choose to grow.
Growing from seed is a long, slow process that can take years. Even growing June bearers take more than a year to produce fruit in the first year.
Bare-root strawberry plants can produce fruit within four or five months of planting. If you cut established runners from mother plants or buy from garden centers you could be producing fruit within three months.
Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow. While they do better in some climates than others, they are always rewarding when they produce fruit in home gardens.
Our new planting guide is filled with tips and information that will show you how to grow strawberries from seeds, bare-root plants, runners, or more established plants purchased from garden centers.
It also offers guidelines for planting, watering, and other elements of growing this delicious fruit.
Whether you are inspired by the idea of homegrown strawberries and cream or the possibility of picking luscious snacks straight out of your garden, why not give it a go? It’s got to be one of the yummiest garden growing challenges you’ve had!