How to Grow Strawberries

Growing strawberries and vegetables is something I’ve done for over 6 decades.  Among the many fruits and vegetables I’ve cultivated over the years, strawberries hold a special place in my heart. These delicious, juicy berries not only offer a pop of flavor but also provide a sense of satisfaction when I can pluck them straight from my own garden and bring them into the kitchen for salads, sauces, desserts and snacks.  

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share my expertise on the art of growing strawberries. Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a beginner gardener, this article will give you the knowledge and tools to cultivate a thriving strawberry patch. 

strawberries in a basket in a strawberry patch

Six Benefits of Growing Strawberries at Home.

Growing your own strawberries offers a so many benefits that go beyond their juicy sweet taste. 

  1. Homegrown strawberries taste better and are more nutrient-dense than their store-bought counterparts, as they can be harvested at the peak of ripeness.
  2. The contain more antioxidants for better brain and heart health. 
  3. By controlling the growing process, you can ensure that your strawberries are free from harmful pesticides and chemicals, providing a healthier option for you and your family.  A recent study of the top dirty dozen fruits and vegetables listed commercially grown strawberries as containing 13 different pesticides.  Making it number 2 in the rankings. 
  4. Another advantage of growing strawberries is the sense of accomplishment and connection to nature that comes with tending to your own plants. This is a healthy way to maintain brain health and function.
  5. Watching your strawberry plants flourish and bearing fruit can instill a deeper appreciation for the food you consume.
  6. Strawberries are a versatile crop that can be grown in a variety of settings, from traditional garden beds to containers and raised planters. This makes them an excellent choice for gardeners with limited space or those looking to add a touch of edible beauty to their outdoor living areas.

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What to Consider Before you Purchase your Strawberry Plants

Before you shop for the  strawberry varieties for your home garden, there are several key factors to consider:

  1. Flavor Profile: Different strawberry varieties offer a range of flavors, from sweet and juicy to tart and tangy. Consider your personal taste preferences and choose varieties that you will want to eat.
  2. Growing Conditions: Strawberries have specific climate and soil requirements, so it’s essential to select varieties that thrive in your local environment. factors such as temperature, rainfall, and sunlight exposure should all be taken into account.
  3. Harvest Season: Strawberry varieties can have different maturity rates and harvest timelines, ranging from early-bearing to late-bearing. Choosing a mix of varieties can extend your strawberry season and provide a continuous supply of fresh fruit.
  4. Plant Characteristics: Some strawberry varieties are more compact and suitable for container gardening, while others may be more suitable for in-ground planting. Consider the growth habits and space requirements of the varieties you’re interested in.
  5. Disease Resistance: Certain strawberry cultivars have been bred to be more resistant to common strawberry plant diseases and pests. Selecting disease-resistant varieties can help reduce the need for chemical interventions and ensure a healthier, more productive crop.

By carefully considering these factors, you can ensure that you choose the best strawberry varieties for your unique growing conditions and personal preferences.

Growing strawberries int

My Favorite Varieties for a Home Garden

Over the past several decades I’ve planted and grown a many different varieties of strawberries.  Here are some of my favorite  strawberry varieties  that I’ve had success with in my home garden.  I prefer the ever-bearing varieties that give me an early heavy crop and then berries throughout the summer vs. the June-bearing which give me one large crop in June.  I’ve included a couple of June-bearing varieties in addition to my favorite ever-bearing.  I prefer to purchase plants initially and then propigate them using the runners. 

  1. Seascape:  This variety is my all time favorite.  It is a highly productive, ever-bearing variety.  I love  its large, firm, and flavorful berries. Seascape is well-suited for a wide range of climates and is resistant to many common strawberry diseases.  I mostly grow this variety in my NY garden.
  2. Albion: An ever-bearing variety that produces high-quality, conical-shaped berries with a delicious sweet-tart flavor. Albion is prized for its extended harvest season and ability to thrive in warmer climates.
  3. Mara des Bois: A French variety that has a deep red color and is one of the sweetest berries I’ve grown.   It is a smaller berry but so tasty.  Mara des Bois is a day-neutral cultivar, meaning it can produce fruit throughout the growing season.
  4. San Andreas: This variety yields a large crop of berries in June and isn’t everbearing.  It’s berries are large and juicy with a classic strawberry taste. San Andreas is known for its disease resistance and adaptability to various soil types.
  5. Chandler: A classic June-bearing variety that produces large, glossy berries with an exceptional sweet-tart balance. Chandler is known for its high yields and adaptability to a wide range of growing conditions.

These are just a few of the many excellent strawberry varieties available to home gardeners. By exploring the unique characteristics of each cultivar, you can find the perfect fit for your growing conditions and personal taste preferences.

grow strawberries

My Top Tips and Techniques for Growing Strawberries in your Home Garden

Growing a successful harvest of ripe, juicy strawberries takes a bit of care and attention, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Here are some essential tips to help you grow and care for your strawberry plants:

  1. Soil Preparation: Strawberries thrive in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil with a slightly acidic pH (between 5.5 and 6.5). Amend your soil with compost or aged manure to improve fertility and drainage.  Add sand to the soil if it is heavy soil with lots of clay.  I prefer about 30% sand in the soil. 
  2. Planting/propagating: Plant your strawberry runners or crowns in early spring, spacing them 12 to 15 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. Ensure the crowns are planted at the correct depth, with the top of the crown level with the soil surface.
  3. Watering: Strawberries require consistent moisture, especially during the flowering and fruiting stages. Water your plants regularly, aiming for about 1 to 2 inches of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation. I prefer a dripper irrigation system to water them as it cuts down on fungus, mold, and disease.
  4. Mulching: Apply a 2 to 4-inch layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around your strawberry plants. This helps retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and protect the berries from soil splashing during rain or irrigation.
  5. Fertilizing: Feed your strawberry plants with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring, and consider a side-dressing of compost or well-rotted manure during the growing season to maintain optimal nutrient levels.
  6. Pruning and Runner Management: Regularly remove any dead or damaged leaves, as well as any unwanted runners (stolons) that can compete with the main plant. This helps to direct the plant’s energy into producing larger, higher-quality berries.
  7. Overwintering: In colder climates, protect your strawberry plants over the winter by applying a thick layer of mulch or straw around the crowns. This helps insulate the roots and prevent frost damage.

With these tips, you can create the ideal growing conditions for your strawberry plants, ensuring a bountiful and flavorful harvest season after season.

fresh strawberries

Picking and Storing your Strawberries

In early June I start checking the strawberry patch for the first ripe strawberries.  That very first bite is always so delicious.   Here are some tips to ensure you get lots of beautiful ripe berries to enjoy.  

  1. Harvest Timing: Monitor your strawberry plants closely, and begin harvesting the berries as soon as they develop a deep, red color and come off the plant with a gentle tug.  I like to cut the stems above the leaves so each berry has a bit of stem attached.   Aim to pick your strawberries in the morning, when they are the coolest and most flavorful.
  2. Harvesting Technique: Either cut the berries stem just above the leaves or alternatively, gently grasp the berry by the cap (the green leafy part) and twist it off the plant. Avoid pulling the berries, as this can damage the plant and future fruit production.
  3. Storage: After harvesting, refrigerate your strawberries as soon as possible to preserve their freshness and flavor. Store them layered between sheets of paper towel in a container.  I don’t layer more than 3 layers in a container.  Avoid washing them until you’re ready to use them.  When I have a lot of berries I will, hull, rinse and freeze them in a single layer right after I pick them.  This makes them easy to remove a few berries for a smoothie or snack. 
  4. Freezing: For long-term storage, you can freeze your excess strawberries. Simply wash, hull, and pat the berries dry before arranging them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the berries to an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 12 months.
  5. Preserving: Strawberries are versatile and can be easily preserved through canning, jam-making, or dehydrating. These methods allow you to enjoy the taste of summer all year round.

Follow these harvesting and storage tips, and your homegrown strawberries reach their full flavor potential and give you with a bountiful supply of this berry yummy fruit.

Problem-Solving Common Problems for Growing Strawberries

Growing strawberries can be a rewarding experience.  However, it’s not without its challenges. Here are some common problems you may encounter and how to address them:

  1. Pests: Strawberry plants can fall victim to a variety of pests, including aphids, spider mites, and slugs. Regularly inspect your plants and use organic pest control methods, such as introducing beneficial insects or applying neem oil, to keep these invaders at bay.
  2. Diseases: Strawberries are susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew, leaf scorch, and root rot. Maintain good air circulation, avoid overhead watering, and consider planting some of the disease-resistant varieties I mentioned earlier to minimize the risk of these problems.
  3. Poor Fruit Production: If your strawberry plants are not producing as much fruit as expected, it could be due to factors like inadequate sunlight, nutrient deficiencies, or overcrowding. Ensure your plants are getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, fertilize regularly, and thin out the plants if necessary.
  4. Runners and Spreading: Strawberry plants can be quite prolific, sending out runners that can quickly overtake your garden. Regularly remove these runners to maintain a tidy, manageable strawberry patch.
  5. Winter Damage: In colder climates, the crowns of your strawberry plants may be susceptible to frost damage. Protect them over the winter by applying a thick layer of mulch or straw to insulate the roots.

By staying watchful and addressing any issues promptly, you can keep your strawberry plants healthy and productive, ensuring a bountiful harvest year after year.

brain boosting salad

Delicious Strawberry Recipes

One of the best parts about growing your own strawberries is all the yummy ways you can incorporate them into your meals. Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate fresh, homegrown strawberries into your culinary creations:

  1. Fresh Strawberry Pie: Add fresh ripe strawberries to a pre-baked pie crust.  Pour a glaze over the strawberries, chill and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  
  2. Strawberry Salad: Toss fresh strawberry slices with mixed greens, sugar snap peas. toasted pecans, and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette for a refreshing and flavorful salad.
  3. Strawberry Sauce: cook fresh or frozen strawberries with your favorite sweetener and a some fruit thickener.  cool and serve over ice cream. 
  4. Strawberry Jam: Preserve the flavors of your harvest by making homemade strawberry jam, perfect for spreading on toast, scones, or serving alongside cheese and crackers.
  5. Strawberry Lemonade: Combine freshly squeezed lemon juice, strawberry puree, and a touch of sweetener for a refreshing and vibrant summer beverage.
  6. Strawberry Macarons: Add strawberry puree to the macaron filling for a stunning strawberry macaron. 
  7. Strawberry Topped Chocolate Hummus: Top toasted pita or naan bread with chocolate hummus and sliced strawberries.  with a mixture of diced strawberries.

By incorporating your homegrown strawberries into these and other recipes, you can truly savor the fruits of your labor and share the bounty with your family and friends.

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