Guide to Growing Strawberries
These bright and cheery fruits are easy to grow and a welcome addition to any garden.
2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited
Every garden has room for strawberry plants, which give sweet, succulent fruit when planted in pots, baskets and growing bags, as well as in traditional beds. Choose the right varieties, and enjoy them from spring to fall.
How to Grow
Strawberries need full sun to ripen completely, and prefer free-draining, fertile, acidic (pH 6.0–6.5) soil. They also grow well in raised beds and especially in containers and baskets, which suit their trailing style. Plant in the spring or summer, depending on type, 18 inches (45 cm) apart in rows spaced at 30 inches (75 cm). To avoid soil-borne diseases, don’t plant in beds recently used for tomatoes, potatoes or chrysanthemums. After cropping, cut back old leaves to expose the crown to sunlight. This will encourage better fruiting the following year. Replace plants grown in the soil every two years and those in containers annually.
Types of Strawberries
Traditional strawberries are either “summer-fruiting,” which are the tastiest, or “everbearing,” which crop over a longer period. Alpine strawberries crop for only one season. Although their fruits are small, they are deliciously sweet and flavorful.
Varieties to Try
Summer-fruiting strawberries crop from early to midsummer. Everbearing types fruit in early then late summer and into midautumn. Replace plants annually. Alpine varieties fruit freely throughout summer.
- Summer-fruiting: Varieties include 'Alice’ (early), ‘Cambridge Favourite’ (mid), ‘Elsanta’ (mid), ‘Honeoye’ (early), ‘Pegasus’ (mid) and ‘Symphony’ (late).
- Everbearing types: Varieties include ’Albion’, ‘Aromel’, ‘Flamenco’, ‘Mara des Bois’ and ‘Muricata’.
- Alpine strawberries: Varieties include ’Alexandria’, ‘Baron Solemacher’, ‘Mignonette’ and ‘Rugen’.
Strawberries can be grown in almost any type of container with adequate drainage holes, including hanging baskets, stackable towers, traditional strawberry planters and growing bags. All will need watering at least once a day during the growing season and should be fed weekly with a high-potash tomato fertilizer. Turn containers often to avoid leaving some fruit in the shade.
Keep the Fruit Clean
Strawberries grow on the ground, and to keep them clean, they are best lifted off the soil. Straw mulch is commonly used; barley straw is considered the best since it is softer. Fiber mats wrapped around each plant are also popular and easy to use. You can also plant through black plastic stretched over a slightly raised bed. As well as keeping fruit clean, this warms the soil, retains moisture and suppresses weeds.
Strawberries can be encouraged to crop at least one or two weeks early by placing a cloche over them in spring. Container-grown plants can also be moved into an unheated greenhouse in spring to fruit earlier. In fall, move everbearing varieties under cover to prolong their fruiting season. Make sure plants are placed in the sun to help ripen the fruit.
Watch Out for These Pests and Diseases
Botrytis, or gray mold, enters through the flowers and remains dormant until the fruit matures. Destroy all infected plant debris.
Vine weevil grubs can also be a problem, destroying the roots, particularly on container-grown plants. Adults chew notches from the leaf margins, but the white grubs cause more serious damage. Control with nematodes in late summer.