Container Gardening: Strawberries
Tight on garden space? Plant strawberries in containers! Grow a crop of tasty strawberries even in limited space. Growing strawberries in containers is easy just about everywhere. Hanging baskets, flower boxes, shallow beds and vertical pots all make growing strawberries in tight spaces easy and rewarding (yum!)
Container Strawberry Varieties:
Choosing a strawberry variety is easy because your can plant literally any variety in a container. All strawberries like full sun but most will also tolerate partial shade.
June Bearing strawberries will produce large amounts of berries once a year in the spring. This strawberry variety will grow shoots and reproduce even more strawberry plants.
New transplants should be plucked of all blossoms the first year, and shoots should be removed as soon as possible allowing the plants to heartily establish themselves.
This type needs an overhaul at the end of it’s growing season.
Everbearing strawberries will produce berries at least twice a year. In the spring and in the fall. Remove all blossoms on new plants throughout the spring generally until the end of June even if these plants were planted in the fall. This will encourage strong strawberry plants.
Day Neutral strawberries will produce sweet little strawberries all growing season. To establish heartiness remove the first set of blossoms.
I like growing Day Neutrals & Everbearings because they require less attention and supply fruit throughout the season.
Buy the Right Strawberry Planter or Container:
Strawberry plants are shallow rooted plants that need more surface space than depth to grow.
Choose a container with a surface 13 – 14 inches wide and at least 6″ deep. Plant 4 to 5 plants per container.
Drainage: Choose containers with good drainage. Strawberries love water but detest soppiness.
Soil: Strawberries love nutritious, aerated soil. A hearty mix of 1 part compost, 1 part sand and 2 parts soil please. An unpacked, aerated growing medium works best.
Light: Strawberries love sun. The best harvests come with the most sun but if tons of sunshine is unavailable hang or place the container in the sunniest location possible. Strawberry plants will produce strawberries well enough if they have at least six hours of sun.
Planting: Crowns, the middle of the plant, should be at soil level. Ideally 4 plants per pot. I grew 3 hanging baskets of strawberries with 5 strawberry plants in each. The yield was a steady, sufficient supply for myself. I used them as fruit for my daily yogurt and I don’t skimp on the fruit that I add.
Feeding: When flowering ceases. So for June Bearers this would be more evident than with the all season bearers. For Ever Bearers and Day Neutrals this would be at intervals between their most significant blooming periods.
Mulching: Even container strawberries can use some mulch. Mulching will keep the roots warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It will prevent the soil from drying out quickly. Mulching will also prevent the fruit from resting on the soil.
Avoid using leaf mulch on strawberry plants. Leaf mulch will pack down and prevent top of the soil aeration, cause rot, and prevent new growth.
To maintain top of the soil aeration, use hay, salt hay or straw mulch about an inch from the crowns and spread outward. Move the mulch away from the crowns of the plants in spring and during long periods of wet weather to avoid rot.
I used salt hay on my container strawberries and not only did it do all of the above but once applied it discouraged the local squirrel from destructively burrowing holes to stash his treasures.
Strawberry Maintenance: Depending on the strawberry variety it is wise to pluck the first flowers and / or shoots while the strawberry plant is adjusting to it’s new home. Different varieties require different plucking times and rates.
After season June Bearing strawberry plants require cropping and re-spacing. Everbearing Strawberries and Day Neutrals do not.
Protect your container strawberry plants by bringing them in in the winter and storing them in a cool dry place.
Harvesting: Harvest ripe berries right away. Un-harvested, ripe strawberries are an invitation to disease & pests. Cool quickly and wash just before using.
Winter Care: Mulch with at least 3 to 4 inches of straw or hay or bring them in for the winter and place them in a cool dry place.
I hung four hanging grass baskets with five strawberry plants in each. The grass baskets were easy enough to create small holes in for new strawberry runners to attach. The grass baskets allowed for good drainage, slugs didn’t climb in; but the birds and squirrels expected me to share.
A good carpet of salt hay deterred the squirrels from digging. As for the birds I was on my own but their curiosity was simply just that and they didn’t bother them.
I’m a third floor urban farmer. I hung the hanging planters outside my kitchen. This allowed me the luxury and simplicity of harvesting and eating my own fresh fruit in a peaceful morning atmosphere. A great way to begin my day!
May 30, 2011 Update: My hanging strawberries, the same ones from last year, 2010, are just beginning to emerge to date; well behind their cousins in the community garden. Stay tuned for more on this.
June 19, 2011 Update: The hanging strawberry plants emerged and are doing well. I simply moved them to a sunnier location. It seems that the sleeping phase needed more sun than the already grown transplants that did fine in the same location the year before. Once the plants are fully grown I will return them to their more convenient location.