Growing strawberries: from planting to picking

Growing strawberries: from planting to picking

There is no doubt about it: the best tasting strawberries are the ones that you grow yourself. Here is our ultimate guide for growing strawberries.

The beginning of the season of locally grown strawberries (Fragaria) is impatiently awaited by many strawberry enthusiasts. With the onset of strawberry harvest season, simply everybody is joyful, adults and children alike. Growing strawberry plants, picking the wonderful red fruit in the garden bed and then eating them every year anew is one of the most beautiful gardening experiences.

Strawberries

In the following, we discuss the best way to plant, care for, overwinter and ultimately harvest and store strawberries so that you can enjoy your harvest to the full. We also provide an overview of the best strawberry varieties for your garden.

Strawberry varieties

You might have noticed that the supermarkets as well as garden centres do not usually offer a huge choice of strawberry varieties. Therefore, a large number of varieties are less well known, but are well worth a try. Generally, strawberry varieties can be distinguished according to the time of harvest. Some of the precocious varieties (such as ‘Fraroma’, ‘Lambada’, ‘Honeoye’ or ‘Elvira’) can be harvested as early as May. The late ripening varieties (for example ‘Symphony’ or ‘Mieze Schindler’) bear fruit until about the end of August. The popular varieties ‘Korona’ and ‘Sonata’ belong to the medium early ripening varieties which ripen exactly in the strawberry season. There are also two or more bearing varieties such as ‘Ostara’. The different varieties differ not only in their time of ripening but also in taste, texture, soil and location requirements, susceptibility to disease and other. In this article you can read in detail about the strawberry varieties and find out which one suits your needs and your garden the best.

Planting strawberries

Right at the beginning, some things have to be considered in order to have a bountiful harvest at the end of the season. In the following, you can learn how to plant strawberries in the best way possible. We will give you tips on location and planting time and show you how to grow strawberries on the balcony or even vertically.

Planting strawberries: choosing a location

In order to cultivate strawberries successfully, the choice of location and the right approach to planting is vital.

Strawberry plants are very sensitive to frost. They therefore prefer wind-protected areas where they are sheltered from the elements. Sunny locations with well structured, well ventilated and rich in humus soils are therefore ideal. Like most berries, strawberries (although in botanical terms they are not berries at all but aggregate accessory fruits), also like a slightly acidic soil. If the soil is too compact and there is waterlogging, the plant might suffer. In short, the perfect spot to plant strawberries has a not too loamy, heavy soil, with a lot of sun and is protected from the wind.

Strawberries are relatively low maintenance and can therefore be easily planted in pots or containers. For this reason, balcony owners can also grow these delicious summer fruits at home. In addition, pots have the benefit of being easy to move to, therefore the strawberries can be simply moved inside as a protection from frost at the end of the season. However, a disadvantage to growing strawberries in pots is that during dry weather, the soil in the pots dries out quickly and the plants have less water available to them. Therefore, it is essential to water strawberries in pots frequently and more attentively than in garden beds.

Planting strawberries in 4 steps:

  1. Work some compost, composted manure or organic fertiliser into the soil before planting, or put some into the planting hole when planting. This will give the young strawberry plants energy to grow.
  2. Place the plants into the bed so that there is always space of 25 to 30 cm between the strawberries in a row. Leave a distance of about 40 to 45 cm to the next row. In pots or containers, make space with a diameter of 25 cm for each plant.
  3. Next, the young plants are planted in the soil. Keep in mind that it is important to plant the strawberries deep enough (but not too deep!). This is vital because the inner leaves (the small vegetation tips in the middle of the plant) or the roots can rot easily if the plants are too deep. If the strawberries are planted too shallow, there is a risk of their roots drying out.
  4. Now water the plants thoroughly. In summer, water a little every day for a week if possible. Afterwards, make sure that the strawberries do not dry out for another two to three weeks and water them every few days if necessary.

You can find more detailed information about the perfect location for your strawberries and how to plant them here.

Growing strawberries on the balcony

Especially if you have a limited amount of space available, consider growing hanging and climbing strawberries. All strawberry varieties that produce strong runners are suitable to grow both as over-hanging or as climbing plants. In order to have a climbing plant, the tendrils should be supported with a climbing aid to go upwards. Without a climbing aid, you will automatically have hanging strawberries, as the runners hang from the mother plant. Growing strawberries in hanging planters is another way of harvesting strawberries on balconies or making them look decorative.

Strawberries grown vertically

If you have very little space available, you can also grow strawberries vertically, i.e. on top of each other. This is a popular trend of the so-called vertical gardening, which saves space and looks neat.

Maintaining strawberries

Strawberries have to be properly fertilised, watered and overwintered for a high-yield harvest. We will also show you why it is worth cutting back after the harvest.

Fertilising strawberries

Nutrient requirements of strawberries are not very high and most garden soils are usually well supplied with everything strawberries need. Nevertheless, a little extra support will do no harm. When planting, you should add a little compost to the strawberries to help them grow. Slow-release organic fertilisers are a great option. After each harvest it is recommended to fertilise with compost (approx. 3 to 5 l/m²), composted manure or potassium-rich fertiliser. In autumn, the plants form the flowers for the next year and therefore need a lot of fuel. In the following spring use a little compost (3 to 5 l/m²) or fertiliser for the small plants (to find out more about application see packaging). Continue this way until autumn, when the plants are harvested for the last time (usually after three harvest years).

Summary of how to fertilise strawberries:

  1. Before planting work 60 – 110 g/m² (5 to 9 tablespoons) of organic fertiliser suitable for strawberries into the top soil layers
  2. Water the soil and the freshly planted plants well so that the granulate can dissolve
  3. In autumn after harvest and in spring, 40 – 70 g per plant (3 to 5 heaped tablespoons) of fertiliser per plant

Watering strawberries

Strawberries need a sufficient water supply. When budding, the plants can still survive on the relatively damp winter soil. Between flowering and ripening, however, it should always be watered during the dry periods, also during the growth phase. In the latter, it is particularly important to water daily, whereas with adult plants it is normally sufficient to water every few days, depending on the weather. Waterlogging should be avoided. And remember to water in the morning (this is usually better against snails) or in the evening. After harvesting, the metabolism of the plants stabilizes and they no longer need much water. Only after the leaves have been cut off and until the plants have produced a new foliage, they need to be given a little water in case of drought.

Pruning strawberries

Strawberry leaves are often attacked by fungal diseases. These fungi like to spend the winter on the strawberry leaves in order to spread quickly in spring. For this reason, strawberries are trimmed after harvesting in summer either as a precaution or to contain the pathogen if there a disease is already present. However, the leaves must be cut by the end of July at the latest so that the plants have enough time to form young, healthy leaves and flowers for the next year before it gets cold in autumn.

cutting back strawberries
Pruning strawberry plants helps decrease the risk of fungal diseases [Shutterstock.com/ Vadym Zaitsev]

Summary of pruning strawberries:

  • For plants that have already borne fruit, the leaves are cut off
  • Freshly planted strawberries are not cut
  • In the case of very late ripening varieties, cutting is only carried out until mid-August if the disease is severe
  • All leaves are removed in such a way that the inner leaves of plants are not damaged
  • The leaves are removed from the bed so that no potential pathogens are left behind

Overwintering strawberries

Both the roots and the flowers of the strawberry plants unfortunately cannot withstand frost. The roots are not very deep and therefore not well protected. The flowers are particularly sensitive in spring and should therefore be protected from late frosts. Strawberries in pots or flower boxes should spend the winter in a place sheltered from the wind. If you choose a covered winter location, don’t forget to water your plants lightly every now and then on frost-free days. In areas at risk of frost, strawberry plants in pots should be covered with brushwood, straw or fleece in the same way as their counterparts in beds. However, the straw should not cover all the plants, as there is a risk of a moist and fungus-attracting microclimate. Therefore, only place the straw around the plants. Brushwood and fleece are more permeable to air and moisture and can therefore be laid over the entire plant.

You can find out more about overwintering and pruning strawberries here.

Reproducing strawberries yourself vs. buying plants

If you want strawberries for your own garden, the question arises whether you should propagate them yourself or buy strawberry plants. We will compare these two options in the following.

Multiplying strawberries: buying strawberries

Strawberry plants are easy to buy in hardware stores, garden shops or even online. The price for single plants or sets of several plants is extremely low. However, search with an idea of certain variety in mind. We recommend doing some research beforehand to find out which It is recommended to inform yourself beforehand about varieties adapted to the location and taste and not to disregard the time of ripening. If you consider all these criteria, it can take a while until you have chosen the ideal variety for your garden. But this time is usually worth it and you can enjoy your own harvest even more.

Multiplying strawberries: sowing seeds or planting runners

Strawberries can easily be propagated by themselves via the so-called runners, which are often mistakenly referred to as offshoots. This type of propagation has the advantage that the runners are clones of the mother plants, i.e. you have the identical variety that you originally planted. However, depending on how the runners are obtained, there is a risk that the runners will spread soil-borne fungal diseases. But you can avoid this with the right technique.

Picking, storing and preserving strawberries

With strawberries, the line between not yet quite ripe and overripe is extremely slim. It is therefore all the more pleasing to be able to harvest the red delicacies at the perfect time. But what is the best way to store strawberries if the harvest is plentiful and there is more fruit than can actually be eaten fresh?

Picking strawberries

Depending on the variety, the time for picking is between the end of May and the end of August. However, in order for the fruit to hold better, you should harvest in the morning when the fruit is still cool. Keep in mind that strawberries do not ripen after harvesting. They should therefore not be harvested until they are bright red all around. It is advisable to pick them two to three times a week during harvest time.

Storing and preserving strawberries

Strawberries are very sensitive fruits and therefore do not keep fresh very long. In particular, the tasty varieties from the garden should be eaten or processed within two days because they do not last. During this time, strawberries take the least damage if they are spread out on a plate or a flatter bowl and stay in the refrigerator.

The good thing is that there are countless ways to preserve the delicious fruits. Sometimes it makes them even better. Strawberries can be preserved very well in jam, compote or frozen in an ice cream, pressed or frozen whole. Here you can read more helpful tips for freezing and preserving strawberries.



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