Even if space is a problem, you can certainly find a corner of your world to hang a strawberry planter. The sun-warmed, sweet berries are far superior to the store bought ones that ripen in plastic domes. Once established you have plenty more plants year after year. Growing strawberries in hanging containers is a simple way to grow a large number of plants, and you don’t even need a garden. I grow 30 of them in just two feet of space!
It’s around this time each year that I start salivating for sweet, fresh berries as I see my hanging strawberry planter growing in and the flowers forming. Establishing a fruit-bearing crop in a growing bag is not difficult, but there are a few key steps that will certainly help.
Strawberries like many fruiting plants really like lots of sun. It’s not to say that that a crop in a partly shaded are won’t bear fruit, but the fruit will be larger, sweeter and more prolific in 8-12 hours of fun sun a day. Hanging planters will make the soil much warmer than the ground warm and out of reach from many pests which creates an more environment that can tolerate a less sun if necessary.
I was able to find a green “Flower Tower” at a thrift store many years ago, but there are also very inexpensive grow bags that you can buy online or at hardware and garden stores. You could certainly make your own, although with the price of these and all the hardware included, it seems more trouble than it’s worth. If you don’t like the look of the bags (they ARE ugly) then wait a few months. Soon you won’t see it at all with all the plants growing in.
Hanging baskets can get pretty heavy when filled with soil and water. Regular garden soil isn’t light enough and compacts too easily for hanging planters. The best choice is a container gardening mix that has lots of material mixed in to hold water, ensure drainage, and promote good air circulation. Add a few scoops of organic matter and mix well. Strawberries like an acidic soil so stay away from mushroom manure which typically has lime in it. I like to use my garden compost for the organic matter.
Strawberries are either June-Bearing (one large crop in early Summer) or Ever-Bearing (crop spread out over the summer months). I like June-bearing as they produce more fruit. Choose plants that are free from pests and disease, often it’s best to get them from a nursery to be sure. Strawberry plants spread quickly through runners so if you have an established patch somewhere, or a neighbour does, you can easily clip those to start your planter.
1. Fill the bag loosely with potting soil water thoroughly and slowly to ensure water gets absorbed throughout.
2. Shake the soil off the roots of the strawberry plants and gently tuck them into the planting holes. Snip off any brown leaves, runners or roots and top up with more soil mix.
3. Water thoroughly and slowly again, allowing the water to absorb into the soil rather than just running straight off through the holes.
Watering these hanging bags can be tricky. The water tends to quickly flow through the holes while the plant gets established. If you lack the patience and arm strength to water very slowly, try a watering spike attached to a soda bottle or make your own by cutting a hole in the bottom of a soda bottle and poking a few weep holes in the cap. Screw the cap on firmly and sink into the soil. Fill with water and let drain. Be careful not to let the planter dry out, particularly when it’s hot.
Add a slow-release organic fertilizer at planting (a balanced 10-10-10) and a compost tea when flowering. A compost tea or some Moo Poo Tea (from my friend, Annie Haven) are perfect to water with every few weeks in the spring and early summer. Stop fertilizing when the fruit forms and water frequently for plump fruit.