Balcony, Patio or Backyard, Strawberries Grow Anywhere!
Strawberries are great edible plants to grow in any size garden. As long as you can find a spot with sun for at least six hours a day, you can grow strawberries. They are happy and prolific producers in hanging baskets, pots, raised beds, or in the ground. And the best thing about growing them yourself is you can wait to pick them until they are fully ripe and at their peak of flavor. Often the fruit in the supermarket has been picked a little early when the fruit is more firm, but less sweet.
What Strawberries Need
Soil – Must be well drained because strawberry plants are prone to crown rot. If you have clay soil, plant strawberries in containers or raised beds, or plant in soil which has been amended with plenty of compost and built into mounds 5-6″ high. They prefer acidic soil. If planting in pots or baskets, use an acidic potting soil (often labeled ‘camellia/azalea mix’).
Planting – Plant either bare root strawberries or container grown plants. Space plants 8″ – 12″ apart. Plant the crown of the plant a little above soil level so it does not rot. Clear or black plastic can be used as a mulch (as is done in commercial agriculture) to keep berries from resting on the soil where they may rot or become targets for slugs and snails. To use plastic, place on top of soil, cut an ‘X’ in the plastic where you want to plant. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses should be placed on the soil before plastic is laid. Everbearing varieties (see below) can be planted in fall or February or March. See University of California planting chart for more info on when to plant in various California regions.
Fertilizing – Mix organic vegetable or berry fertilizer in the soil at the time of planting according to fertilizer directions. Apply additional fertilizer monthly throughout the growing season.
Watering – Plants need consistent moisture. Drip irrigation is preferred to keep moisture away from and minimize fruit rot.
Types of Strawberries
June Bearing – Produce one crop per year in late spring or early summer. ‘Chandler’ and ‘Sequoia’ are recommended varieties.
Everbearing (‘day neutral’) – Set fruit over a longer season which peaks in early summer and may continue sporadically through fall. They stop producing when temperatures get above 85 degrees. ‘Seascape’, ‘Tristar’, and ‘Quinalt’ are recommended varieties.
How to Grow Strawberries in Containers
Growing strawberries in containers provides the good drainage that they love. Use hanging baskets, strawberry pots, or narrow planter boxes 6 – 8″ deep, 5 – 7″ wide, and any length. Use a fresh, acidic potting soil and mix in fertilizer at the time of planting.
Refreshing Strawberry Beds
Strawberries are perennial plants, that is, they will last more than one year. They send out ‘runners’ after they finish fruiting. Runners provide ‘daughter’ plants. Pinch off all runners the first year to focus the plant’s energy into fruit production. The second and third years you can allow the runners to root and produce new plants. Throw away ‘mother’ plants whose production has declined. After three years you may wish to start with fresh plants in a new bed if vigor is declining.