Growing your own strawberries can be so much fun. They taste great and if you know where to start, growing Strawberries can be really easy and can be grown on balconies, patios and window boxes in containers too.
Growing your own strawberries can be a rewarding experience and they do well in containers and pots, if given the right conditions. Strawberries do best in a sunny spot, planted in a rich, fertile soil.
When you grow strawberries in the ground, there is a higher risk of the fruit being eaten by pests, rotting on wet soil and covered in mud. Growing them in containers helps to avoid all of these problems as well as the ability to move the plants around the garden to optimise their growing conditions.
You can grow strawberries in a variety of containers. Window boxes, pots, hanging baskets and strawberry tower pots all work well.
Types of Strawberry Plants
When it comes to buying strawberry plants for containers, it’s best to go for potted plants rather than the bareroot varieties. Pre-potted plants have already started their growth, so will do much better in containers due to this head start. There are different varieties of strawberry plant, you can buy for the garden:
- June Bearing Strawberries are the most common type of plant. These hardy varieties give you one plentiful supply of strawberries around early summer. The downside to June bearing strawberries is the possibility of damage from cold weather or frosts when planting in cooler climates. If a frost is imminent, cover your strawberry plants in fleece or move them inside temporarily, until the risk has passed.
- Ever-bearing Strawberries will produce a few harvests over the summer season. They tend to be less winter-hardy than the June bearing varieties.
- Day Neutral Strawberries will produce a fruit that is smaller than the previous two varieties and provide smaller harvests from late spring to early Autumn.
What You Will Need to Plant Strawberries
To grow strawberries in containers, you will need the following:
- Strawberry Plants
- Moisture Retentive Compost
- Container(s) of your Choice
- Watering Can or Hose
- Hand Trowel (optional)
- Gloves (optional)
- Sunny Spot for your container which receives at least 6-8 hours of sun per day.
If you’re using a tower planter you will also need:
- Plastic Piping approximately 20-30mm wide
- Drill fitted with medium sized drill piece, suitable for making holes in plastic.
How to Plant Strawberries in Pots or Containers
Once you have established which type of pot you want to grow strawberries in, you can begin to plant them up.
Strawberry plants are usually available in garden centres around Spring, which is the best time to plant them in containers.
Establish how many plants your container will hold. Strawberry plants usually need around 25cm space between each one. A medium size hanging basket will house around 2-3 plants, whereas a tower planter will house one plant per hole.
Begin by watering your strawberry plants around an hour before planting. This helps to give them a little support before they are transferred.
Fill your chosen container with compost and carefully remove the plants from their pots. Tease the root ball out of the pot gently into your hand. Do not pull the strawberry plants out of the pots by their stems or leaves as this could damage the plant.
Plant each one with the crown or base of the plant sticking just above the compost surface level. Gently firm them in and give them another watering.
When planting in pots, be sure to leave a gap between the top level of the compost and the top of the pot. Don’t fill the pots right to the very top. This way, when it comes to watering, you won’t wash the compost out from the top of the pot and make a mess.
Place your pots in a sunny spot and keep an eye on the weather. If a risk of frost is imminent, be sure to protect your strawberries with a fleece cover or move them inside temporarily. Strawberries in containers are at much more risk from frosts as their roots sit above ground level and are therefore, more exposed to the elements.
Watering Strawberry Tower Planters
Tower planters come in many different shapes and sizes but all contain various areas within the same pot for planting strawberries. The main difficulty with these types of planters is watering all the way to the bottom plants without washing away the soil from the top.
A good way to solve any potential watering problems is to plant a piece of plastic piping with multiple holes drilled through it. Plant the pipe the middle of the tower pot and plant around it as you go. This pipe should stick out above the soil at the top.
When you water the strawberries, pour the water directly into the pipe. The holes will deliver the water throughout the planter, directly to the strawberry plants roots.
Caring for Your Container Strawberries
Sometimes even before planting out, you will notice strawberry flowers on the plants. Each one of these flowers has the potential to turn into a strawberry so it’s important to care for your plants accordingly, to enable you to get the most from your harvest.
Strawberries in containers will need to be watered regularly but not left soggy. Soggy plants will rot the root system and make the plant weak or kill it completely.
Strawberry plants need to be fed with a high potash feed every two weeks throughout the growing season. This feed helps the plant to produce larger fruits and supports their growth. It is particularly important to feed container strawberries as there is less soil and therefore, nutrients available to them.
You can harvest the strawberries as soon as the fruit is completely red and ripened. White fruit will not continue to ripen after it has been picked, so wait until the fruit is red all over. Strawberries are best eaten on the day they are harvested. However, you can keep them in the fridge, unwashed, for a few days, if needed. Fresh strawberries can also be frozen, made into jam or dehydrated, if you end up with a glut which you won’t use right away.
At the end of the growing season, the leaves of the strawberry plants will begin to turn brown and die back. This doesn’t mean that the plant has died, but that they have begun their dormant season. Don’t cut the plants back during autumn, simply remove the dead foliage.
Over winter, your containers will need protection from the elements. You can bring them inside into a greenhouse, garage or shed, or insulate the pots with fleece or bubble wrap. Bringing them closer to the house, where there will be a degree of heat emanating from the walls will also offer them some protection.
Companion Plants for Strawberries
Strawberry plants can be prone to various pests and diseases and an age old method to help reduce this risk is to plant various different plants in close proximity to each other that interact well. This is called companion planting.
While there isn’t an exact, proven science behind companion planting, it is an age old method used by gardeners to help support pollination, deter pests and make the best use of available space.
Companion Plants for Strawberries include:
- Strong smelling herbs such as sage, fennel, thyme and basil can help to deter pests. Place your strawberry containers close by these herbs to garner their benefit and keep pests at bay. Herbs for beginners can give you an idea about how to grow some of these herbs.
- Marigolds have been known to keep pests at bay for strawberries as well as other plants. If you want to grow tomatoes, planting marigolds near them too, will provide a pest deterring benefit. However keep tomatoes and strawberries separate from each other. Tomatoes can transfer fungal diseases to strawberry plants.
- Borage is an all round, easy plant to grow that produces beautiful blue flowers. The flowers attract pollinating insects such as bees, which will help your strawberries to bloom. The flowers of borage plants are also edible and can be added to your home grown salad leaves. Like mint, borage can be quite invasive, so it also does well to keep it planted in containers near to your strawberries.
- Onions and Garlic produce a strong smell that will help ward off pests and therefore, make a good companion to strawberries.
Propagating New Strawberry Plants from Runners
You might start to notice that your plant begins to produce long horizontal stems with leaves at the end, trailing from the original plant. These are called runners and are an exact replica of the parent plant.
Strawberry runners are a good way to propagate the strawberry plants as they reach the end of their life cycle. However, they drain the plant of energy, which means they will produce less fruit and isn’t recommended in the first year of planting as the plants need time to establish their root system. If you aren’t propagating, it is best to remove the runners to conserve the plants energy.
If you want to propagate your plants in the coming seasons, these runners simply need to be planted in a small pot where the leaves arise. Choose a strong runner that has produced at least one leaf and plant in a small pot filled with compost. Keep it attached to the parent plant until it has established it’s own strong root system and water the pot regularly. Once the plant has established itself, you can then snip them off from the original plant and continue to grow them on their own.
It’s important to refrain from propagating runners in the Autumn as this is a time when they parent plant needs to preserve energy for the following year and make it through the winter months.
The best time to plant strawberries is the spring.
Most strawberry plants with last around 5-6 years but tend to lose their vigour after about 3 years, when they will produce less fruit than previously.
Strawberry plants like potassium rich feeds, You can use the same one you feed to tomato plants.
Weather dependent, strawberries are usually ready to begin picking in June. Try not to leave the ripe strawberries on the plants for too long, otherwise you might find that birds and bugs will get there first. Don’t forget if you have a glut, you can always make jam or freeze them.
You can keep the plants in the container and bring it inside in a cool place such as a shed or garage to protect them from frost. Alternatively if you don’t have an indoor space, you can insulate the pot by wrapping it in bubble wrap, or a specifically designed fleece frost protector.
It’s a good idea to remove the dead foliage at the end of summer but they should not be cut right back. You risk the plants being killed during winter if you cut them back to ground level.