Growing Strawberries in Containers
When most people think of container gardening, flowers are the first things that come to mind. Container gardening is becoming increasingly popular as an easy and inexpensive way to brighten up your space. In addition to flowers, this year try something different: strawberries in containers.
Strawberries are one of the easiest plants to grow in containers. With strawberries, you get a plant with pretty foliage, flowers and yummy fruit to snack on!
Types of Strawberries
There are three main categories of strawberries: June-bearing, Everbearing, and Day-neutral.
June-bearing strawberries produce a large, concentrated crop once a year during late spring or early summer (usually in June). They send out a lot of runners that can quickly become a tangle of vines. This category is better suited for a garden bed.
Everbearing strawberries’ fruiting season stretches from early spring until fall. They send out fewer runners and will not produce as much as the June-bearing types. Although it will produce fewer berries, it’s enough for snacking and tastes better than any store-bought berries. This category does well in containers.
Day-neutral is a newer variety of everbearing strawberries. They produce more consistently throughout the growing season. Day-neutral strawberries prefer cooler temperatures and will not bear fruit in hot weather. If you live in an area with hot summers, skip this category.
When shopping for strawberries, the varieties will not always specify which category the strawberries will fall under. Ask the garden center associate to aid you in the category identification.
Type of Pots
When selecting a container for strawberries, pick a pot that will be large enough: at least 8-12 inches wide. Strawberries have a spreading growing habit and shallow roots. A wide, shallow container is a good choice. Most importantly, the container must have good drainage. Also, select a pot that is light colored; this will help keep the plant’s roots cool in the summer.
How to Plant Strawberries
Strawberries prefer a loose, loamy soil with a pH between 5.3 and 6.5 (acidic). Select an area that receives 6-8 hours of sun per day. You can plant strawberries in the early spring or in the fall (if you live in a warm area). They need to be spaced at least 2 ft apart, so only plant 1 or 2 plants per container. Fill the container with a potting mix and make a small mound in the middle. Spread the roots out over the mound. Cover the roots and up to the crown with additional mix and water well.
Caring for Strawberries in Containers
Containers require frequent waterings, but only water when the soil is dry to the touch. You may have to water daily during hot weather; containers dry out faster than soil in the ground. Feed your strawberries every 3-4 weeks with a liquid fertilizer.
You can overwinter strawberries. They will produce better the following year if they are allowed to go dormant during the winter. If you live in an area that gets extremely cold, move your strawberry containers into an unheated garage or basement in the winter. Water the container only when the soil becomes dry. In milder winter climates, mulch up around the container and leave it until spring.
Strawberries are short-lived perennials. Even with the most dedicated care, you will have to replace the plants about every 3 years. No worries, enjoy them for a season. If you are able to get them to grow again for an additional summer, it will be well worth the effort.
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