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Growing Strawberries in Pots or Garden

Growing Strawberries in Pots or Garden
Home » Grow Your Own Food » Container Gardening Ideas and Help » Growing Strawberries in Pots or Garden

Growing strawberries at home, either in pots or the garden, can be relatively easy if you get 5 key requirements right. This guide will help you successfully grow long-lived berries with that old-fashioned truly sweet flavor.

Strawberries in containers can also be wintered over successfully if you take a few of our recommended tips.

Strawberries in plastic containers on wood crates.
The strawberry harvest

Jump to: Differences of Strawberry Varieties | Planting & Growing Needs | Strawberry Disease & Pests

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Selecting the Right Variety

  1. In choosing the strawberry variety to plant, start with researching those that are successful in your particular zone. This is going to be mostly dependent on how cold your winters are and how hot your summers are. The best information on this is going to come from your local extension service.
  2. Decide if your priority is flavor, firmness, or disease resistance
  3. Learn the difference between June bearing, ever-bearing, and day neutral (summary of this below), and decide which best fits your needs and your climate.

I am in Zone 4 (Minnesota) and I am an experienced gardener, but our summers are quite hot and humid. I opted for Jewel and Sparkle because they are the sweetest varieties of the June-bearing plants that are appropriate for my climate.

In addition to varieties, strawberries are categorized by ripening season. Below is a summary of the various types:

June-Bearing vs Ever-bearing vs Day Neutral

June bearing varieties form buds in the Fall and bloom the following Spring. These are often preferred if you want to grow via the mat method of letting the runners form new plants. Since they bloom in the spring, they are best for areas that don’t have a history of Spring frosts, as that can kill the blooms before producing

Ever-bearing varieties have 2 main harvests: June and early Fall. This is preferable for climates that have really hot summers. Typically these varieties are not productive as many years as are the June-bearing varieties. With these varieties, you typically pinch off the runners and encourage one healthy plant instead of a mat.

Day Neutral varieties are sensitive to temperature instead of day length. They will stop producing in temperatures above 75 degrees, so in areas with warm summers they will behave like the ever-bearing plants with an early and late harvest.

Growing in Containers vs Garden

Strawberries can offer good yields whether grown in containers or in the garden. Here are some key tips for success in both situations:

Growing Strawberries in Containers

  1. Most strawberries do not bear much (if at all) the first year. It is important, therefore, to grow them in moveable pots or removable planters if you live in a cold climate.
  2. The soil isn’t deep enough in most containers to prevent freezing in the winter in colder climates. Moving them to a basement or garage for the winter is therefore necessary.
  3. Don’t forget to drill drainage holes in the bottom of your containers. Strawberries do not like wet feet.
  4. Also consider a small berry called an Alpine strawberry. It is a very easy and hardy strawberry variety to grow at home. They are more like a wild strawberry in size and growth habit, but they are very sweet and are perfect in hanging baskets or containers.
Strawberries growing in a raised bed.
Strawberries growing in a raised bed.

Growing Strawberries in the Garden:

This is where I usually end up planting the bulk of my strawberries, as we have a small farm. The mistake I have made in the past is planting in an area where grasses and weeds take over the beds within a year.

It is really important to get rid of as many weeds (by the roots) as possible before planting. Strawberries have shallow roots and are easily out-competed.

Grass is really tough to eliminate, and almost impossible to weed out once the strawberries start growing. Pick your location carefully!

Also, cover them with straw in the Fall to prevent weed growth and freezing.

Strawberry plant growing in the garden.
Strawberry plant growing in the garden.

Planting and Growing Requirements

The Runners:

For June-bearing plants use a mat approach with runners. Plant strawberries 18 to 24 inches apart and then plant the new runners in between the spaces when they appear.

For ever-bearing varieties, pinch off the runners, and plant them 12 to 15 inches apart.

The Crown:

With bare root strawberry plants, the “crown” is the part of the plant where the leaves start.

To plant in the ground, first dig a small hole and make a mound of soil in the middle of the hole. Spread the bare roots out over the mound and fill in with soil.

Plant the strawberry deep enough that the crown of the plant sits towards the top of the soil (but covered with soil).

Planting a young strawberry plant in the ground, showing the root ball and the green crown.
Planting a strawberry plant in the ground

To plant strawberries in containers use the same method as in the ground. If you plan to Winter over the containers, make sure they are deep containers and that they are semi-protected in the winter if you live in a cold climate. I store my containers in the shop which gets down to 40 degrees in the winter (sometimes a bit colder)

Sun and Soil Requirements

Sun: Strawberries, like most berries, require full sun. They like 6 hours or more a day. The small Alpine strawberries can tolerate a bit more shade, but if you want large, sweet strawberries of old, they will need full sun

Soil: In a perfect world strawberries would have a loam soil that is well drained with a pH of 6 to 7 and plenty of micronutrients and worms. The key requirement is well drained. Strawberries do not like clay soils and wet feet. Amend your soil with as much compost as you can find. Fertilize with an all purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer if you can’t get good compost material.

Here is a photo of my strawberry container plants in May after wintering over in the shop:

Strawberries in containers that were wintered over
Strawberries in containers that were wintered over

Disease or Pests

Strawberries are susceptible to leaf blight, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew.

Be careful not to plant them in areas where you have grown tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, or potatoes, as the soil where these plants have grown frequently carry verticillium wilt.

Full sun, well-drained soil, and lack of weeds are the best preventative cure for disease.

There are several “pests” that can be problematic for strawberries. Birds are wonderful, but they can devour your crop and you may need to cover with bird netting.

An insect called the tarnished plant bug is particularly problematic for strawberry plants.

Close up photo of a tarnished plant bug.
Tarnished plant bug eating strawberry leaves

Slugs, mites and weevils can also be a problem. If they are really bad, you may want to try some diatomaceous earth as a remedy.

Longevity of Strawberry Plants

You may have to wait a year after planting for fruit, especially if you pinched the flowers off to get bigger, stronger fruit.

The plants tend to be productive for 2 to 5 years, with the June-bearing varieties being the longest lived. You may have to replant your crop after 5 years to continue getting a good crop.

Favorite Recipes for Homegrown Strawberries

A good home-grown strawberry is completely different from the tasteless berries you usually get in the grocery store. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them:

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Video Tutorial:

How to grow strawberries in containers, raised beds or the garden - 5 key requirements
Watch this video on YouTube.
Watch the Step by Step Video for More Details

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  1. I like the recipe! Thank you, Dorothy!

  2. Richard Gomsrud says:

    I’m a fellow Minnesotan for whom your comment about freezing raises a question as to viability when using raised beds. I have recently relocated and am able to finally have a substantial garden and other plants. I have raised beds or rather large raised growing containers about four feet by four feet but they are not in contact with the ground. If I plant strawberries in them will a Minnesota winter be too cold for them? The soil in the container is about two feet deep with wood chips of about a foot below that but 2-3 feet of open air between that and the ground.

    I am familiar with the Jewel and Sparkle variety but I am adventuresome so I would plan on planting other varieties as well, both June bearing and everbearing. Any suggestions as to varieties that you know of? Also, ones to avoid?

    I started several alpines from seeds two years ago that I was thinking of transplanting to the containers. I presume that they have the same viability issues that I asked about above.

    • Hi Richard, happy to hear from a fellow Minnesotan! Re raised beds and strawberries, it sounds like your beds/containers are surrounded by enough soil that they should be safe. In addition to the amount of soil, it is going to help this year as we have had such a deep blanket of snow, which will insulate them. Most people will cover the berries with straw and that is a good thing to do when we don’t have a lot of snow cover (it can breed voles and pests however)

      The problem comes when the containers are thin or porous and the cold temps end up freezing the roots. It’s not so much that they need to be in contact with the ground as it is making sure their roots don’t freeze. When we don’t have this much snow, and if your containers are porous, then it would help to wrap them in something to insulate the roots.

      Re varieties, I don’t know that much about other varities. I just chose the Jewel and Sparkle on flavor and not really on growing conditions.

      Re alpine strawberries: they are wilder and more hardy so you shouldn’t have any trouble with those.

      Good luck! Let me know how they come out.

  3. Dennis says:

    I believe the Tarnished plant bug pictured is the Colorado Potato Beetle. I’ve picked many of these off my potatoes and crushed them…. Their larvae will destroy a crop if not controlled.

    • Yes, you’re right. It was a place holder until I could get a photo that someone would release the copyright to (and then I forgot about it!). I’ve now replaced it with an image of the “real” tarnished plant bug. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

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