How to Grow Strawberries
It’s not difficult to learn how to grow strawberries, and it’s a rewarding task to undertake! The most crucial factor to know is that strawberry plants need a lot of energy to produce berries, so they should always be planted in a location with full sun. Although the plants themselves can survive in shaded areas, the lack of sunlight can significantly reduce berry production. Also, strawberry plants prefer well-draining, moist and slightly acidic soils. If you can meet all of the plants’ requirements, it can increase their berry yield and quality.
Most strawberry plants produce ‘runners’ (stolons); these are shoots that the plants send out, and eventually, they grow roots and turn into another strawberry plant. Most varieties will propagate quite quickly this way, so If you have a friend or neighbour that grows strawberries in their garden, they will probably be willing to give you some. Not all strawberry plants are the same, though; some produce one big harvest, others produce multiple, and the size and flavour of the berries vary.
Types of Strawberry Plants
There are three main garden strawberry types:
- June-bearing strawberries – Just as the name implies, this type produces one large crop over 2-3 weeks, and usually in June. While most produce berries in June, there are early season, mid-season, and late-season varieties as well. Typically this strawberry type produces the biggest strawberries.
- Everbearing strawberries – This type produces up to three crops per year. Typically though, you get one harvest in late spring and another in late summer. All wild strawberry varieties are everbearing.
- Day-neutral strawberries – Flowers and produces strawberries all year from late spring and into the fall. The fruits are smaller than the June-bearing types—they are typically medium to small in size. You never get a large crop, but you can find strawberries almost every day throughout the warm months.
There’s a fourth type of strawberry, but perhaps I should say it’s the first, and that is the wild strawberry. All wild strawberry varieties are everbearing. Wild strawberry seeds produce seeds ‘true’ to their parent, whereas garden strawberries—typical types you find in garden centers—are hybrid plants, and do not produce true seed.
Growing Wild Strawberries
All wild strawberry varieties are everbearing, which means they will produce up to 3 main crops per year. In general, the berries are much smaller than the standard, hybrid garden varieties, but they are very aromatic and packed with flavour! The alpine type will produce berries that are approx twice the size of the common (woodland) wild strawberry.
Growing wild strawberries from seed can be easy to a moderately difficult task. The plants, once established, are hardy, drought-resistant, and require very little maintenance. When growing strawberries from seed, it’s best to use a wild variety. Common hybrid garden varieties do not produce true seed. The best time to start strawberries is in the spring when the temperature is still cool outside.
Germinating Strawberry Seeds
Only wild strawberry seeds produce true seeds. The larger garden varieties are hybrid plants and do not produce true seeds, and therefore runners or cuttings are used to propagate the plant. All strawberry seeds require some form of cold treatment before they will germinate. One way to do this is to sow the seeds outdoors in late fall, or 4-8 weeks before the last frost in spring. Another option to increase the germination rate is to cold-stratify the seeds.
How to Cold Stratify Strawberry Seeds
- Mix seeds with equal parts of moistened peat moss
- Place in a ziplock bag
- Keep in the refrigerator for at least 4-8 weeks
- Do not allow the peat moss to dry out
- Afterwards, sow seeds in pots filled with sterilized potting soil
After the seeds have been cold stratified, they can be surface sown on to some prepared, soil-filled containers. It’s best to use a quality garden soil when starting seeds. Leave the seeds uncovered, as exposure to light, helps stimulate the germination process. Keep the soil moist and do not allow to dry out completely. Also, be sure to keep the seeds in a location with good air circulation to avoid fungi and mould issues. Wild strawberries can be slow to germinate, and it takes anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.
If you start the strawberry seeds early in the spring, the plants will generally produce strawberries in the late summer of the same year. The following years will have a larger harvest. Keep the plants well-watered for the first year.
Strawberries prefer fertile, well-draining, acidic soil with a pH of 6 to 6.5. Sphagnum peat moss is often mixed into the soil as it is slightly acidic and helps the soil maintain moisture.
Once the strawberry plants have at least two sets of leaves, they can be transplanted outdoors. Wait a couple of weeks after the last frost date has passed before transplanting them outside. You should prepare the garden bed at least one week before transplanting, so the soil has time to set. Till the soil at least 6″ deep, break up the clumps and remove any debris. Then mix in compost and sphagnum peat moss. Thoroughly water the soil at least a few hours before transplanting the plants or sowing the seeds.
Every year the soil can be amended with compost, composted manure or vermicompost (worm castings). Using mulch around your plants will also help; as the mulch breaks down, it releases nutrients into the soil—this is usually enough to feed the plants.
Strawberries can be watered at least once a week or whenever the soil starts to dry out. Once the plants begin to produce berries, you may want to cover them with netting. Various types of animals, birds and rodents, love to eat strawberries! The plants are very hardy and resistant to disease and pests, so you shouldn’t have much trouble in this aspect.
Wild strawberry plants will produce berries from the spring through to fall. In late fall, be sure to cover them with piles of leaves as it will protect your plants for the next year. In late winter or early spring, the plants will start to grow under all of those leaves; this will give you a nice head start on the season. The plants are very cold hardy but don’t uncover them too early, especially if there is a chance of snowfall.
Try our Wild Strawberry Varieties
You can find all of our strawberry seeds here:
- Alpine Strawberries: Very prolific and produces sweet berries twice the size as other wild varieties.
- Wild Strawberry: Produces sweet, highly aromatic strawberries.
- White Soul Strawberry: An alpine variety that produces white, sweet strawberries.
Do you have any questions or tips on how to grow strawberries? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!