Planting Strawberries at Home: 7 Simple Steps for Beginners

Growing strawberries at home can be both a rewarding and tasty experience. Whether you choose to plant them in pots on your balcony or deck, or in elevated beds in your garden, following a few key steps is essential for a successful harvest. In this guide, we'll walk you through seven simple steps on how to plant strawberries at home.

Step 1: Choose the Right Variety
The first step in growing strawberries at home is selecting the appropriate variety. There are several types of strawberries, each with its own unique characteristics. The three main types are:

June-bearing: Primarily produce a single harvest in June but can extend into July, influenced by daylight hours.
Day-neutral: Also known as everbearing, these are not affected by day length and produce fruit from mid-summer to fall.
Alpine strawberries: Day-neutral and can grow from seeds. They are great for container planting and produce tiny, flavorful berries for an extended period.
Step 2: Decide How to Start Them
You have three options to begin planting strawberries: seeds, bare-root, or live plants.

Starting from seeds means initiating them indoors and transplanting them outside.
Bare-root is live roots you receive through mail-order and plant immediately in pots or the garden.
Live plants can be found at nurseries and transplanted into your garden or pots.
For June-bearing or everbearing varieties, it's best to buy started plants from a nursery or bare-root from seed catalogs. For alpine strawberries, starting from seeds is preferable, although you might find some started at nurseries.

Step 3: Choose the Right Location
Strawberries need fertile, well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. If planting them in pots, make sure to use potting mix specifically designed for strawberries. Proper drainage is essential as strawberries can't tolerate waterlogged conditions.

Step 4: Plant Them
For bare-root plants, transplant them into the garden or pots immediately upon arrival.

For larger plantings with multiple varieties for staggered harvests, it's best to contain them in one area or bed, planting four per square foot.

Avoid planting the bare roots too deep; the soil level should be just below the crown.

It's advisable to plant on mounds as it aids in drainage and prevents most of the fruits from touching the soil. Cover immediately after planting with straw or mulch.

For alpine strawberries, start seeding indoors about eight weeks before the last anticipated frost in a seed-starting mix. Keep them moist and at a constant temperature of 60-75°F. Once they have grown two sets of leaves, transplant them into four-inch pots.

Step 5: Provide Proper Care After Planting
Some suggest removing all flowers the first year to encourage the plants to put their energy into root growth.

However, I ate some berries the first year, more the second, and even more the third.

Still, ensure to trim any new runners before they establish as they divert energy from the mother plant, so keeping them tidy is essential.

Step 6: Protect Your Plants and Harvest
As soon as the fruits appear, critters might become interested in your delicious berries. It might be necessary to cover them with netting to prevent them from being eaten. Harvest when fully red or just before they become very dark. Slice and freeze any surplus.

Step 7: Prepare the Strawberry Beds for Winter
At the end of the year, remove all runners and cover the plants with straw or shredded leaves. In spring, pull back the straw to expose the plants, leaving the covering between the plants to suppress weeds. With proper maintenance, healthy plants can produce for three to five years.

Thinning Your Strawberry Patch in Spring
Thinning your strawberry patch helps improve overall plant health and productivity, resulting in larger, more flavorful berries. Here are a few steps to thin your strawberry patch:

Wait for the Right Time: The best time to thin your strawberry patch is early spring when plants start putting out new leaves. This is typically around April, after the threat of frost has passed.
Inspect Your Plants: Assess your strawberry plants for overall health and vigor. Look for small, weak, or diseased plants, as they may produce smaller or fewer berries.
Remove Excess Plants: Using a sharp knife or pruning shears, carefully remove excess plants from the patch, leaving about 6-8 inches of space between each plant. Ensure to cut close to the ground to avoid damaging the roots.
Clear Out Excess Weeds: Clear away any weeds that may have survived the winter and then cover.
Spring Mulching:
Don't forget to mulch in the spring. Mulching your strawberry patch also helps improve plant health and productivity. Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. You can use several types of mulch for strawberry patches, such as straw, wood chips, or grass clippings. Simply lay a layer around the base of the plants, leaving a few inches between the mulch and the plants to allow for air circulation.

Monitoring Your Strawberry Patch:
Keep a close eye on your strawberry patch throughout the season. If you notice any new runners or excess plant growth, remove them as needed to maintain proper spacing and allow for the remaining plants to grow and thrive.

Note: Mother Nature may do some thinning for you. Some runners may not survive the winter and die off in the spring. If you find any dead runners, be sure to remove them to make space for healthy plants.