How to Grow Strawberries in 10 Easy Steps

how to grow strawberries 10 stepsAs the strawberry growing season starts to really ramp up, there are lots of experienced gardeners who know what they need to do to harvest a crop of bulging strawberries this year.  But, if you aren’t completely confident about what to do and where to start, this quick guide to growing strawberries will walk you through the essentials.  Virtually everyone loves those delicious icons of taste supremacy.  So, if you haven’t even considered growing strawberries yourself, why not take the plunge this year?

Follow these 10 easy steps, and you should have the knowledge you need to have to walk confidently out to your garden and see happy strawberry plants.  From the planning and selection all the way to picking and preserving, this information will teach virtually anyone how to grow strawberries successfully.

How to Grow Strawberries in 10 Easy Steps

Walk through these 10 steps, and it is virtually guaranteed that you’ll end up experiencing strawberry success:

1. Pick Which Type of Strawberry

There are three main types of strawberries: June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral.  Some people consider everbearing and day-neutral varieties to be the same thing, but they are actually different.  For a full discussion of each, see the Strawberry Varieties reference page.  In short, June-bearers have the largest fruit but only produce one big crop over a week or two.  Everbearers produce a larger early crop, smaller late crop, and a few berries in between, while day-neutrals produce throughout the growing season.  Everbearers and day-neutrals typically produce less and smaller berries overall than do the June-bearing varieties.

Considering these characteristics will determine which type is right for you.  If you want fresh berries throughout the year and don’t mind picking smaller and fewer, go with a day-neutral or everbearing variety.  If you want sheer quantity of berries, go with a June-bearer (what most people do).

Considerations on how you plan to use your strawberries also come into play when determining which type to buy and plant.  If you want to can or preserve your harvest, it is easiest to accomplish your goals with the larger size and quantity that come from June-bearing strawberries.

2. Pick the Right Variety

Not all strawberry varieties are created equally.  Strawberries are temperate by nature and can be finicky as to what makes them happy.  So, thanks to decades of dedicated breeding programs, scores of specialized strawberry varieties have been developed and released.  The most generally-adapted cultivars have become quite popular, but the popular varieties might not be the best choice for your location.  To help you find which variety is suitable for your state/location, I have gathered the recommendations by state Extensions and compiled them in one place.  To be sure you get an appropriate variety, check the recommended varieties for your area and choose one suitable to your locale.

You may also want to extend your growing season by choosing early-, mid-, and late-season varieties.  Doing so can extend your harvesting period as follows:

how to grow strawberries

By choosing multiple strawberry varieties with different production peaks, it is possible to extend the strawberry season to about a full month for the June-bearing plants, which tend to produce the biggest strawberries.

And, if you have garden space, you might want to consider growing some novelty or specialty strawberries.  Pineberries are the latest to spark wide-spread interest due to their white color, red seeds, and pineapple taste.  Also, this season is also expected to be the first prominent one for the brand-new Purple Strawberries (not-GMO).  And, absolutely no strawberry variety tops the classic and diminutive Alpine varieties for sheer taste and aroma for specialty and gourmet recipes.  The possibilities are almost endless!

3. Pick the Right Quantity to Order

Part of learning how to grow strawberries is picking the right amount of plants to begin your patch.  Thinking through your goals and planned uses for your berries will guide your ordering/buying.  If you buy too many, you might be overwhelmed.  If you buy too few, you might be frustrated with the lack of berries when you need them.   Before you order, be sure to think about and study up on what you are going to need.  These resources should give you the information you need: How Many Strawberry Plants per Person, How Many Strawberries do Strawberry Plants Produce, and Strawberries per Day.

4. Buy the Strawberry Plants

Once you have settled on the type, variety, and quantity of strawberry plants, all that is left is to get the best possible deal on plants.  We’ve made it as easy for you as it can possibly be.  Go to the Buy Strawberry Plants page, click your chosen variety in the alphabetical table at the top.  That will take you to a list of every online nursery that offers your variety for sale.  Check the prices on each of your desired varieties and then order whichever offers you the best deal!  If you’d rather buy from a bricks-and-mortar establishment or nursery, see our directory of local Strawberry Nurseries.

5. Plant the Strawberry Plants

planting strawberriesWhether you buy them at the store or order them online, as soon as you get the strawberry plants to your garden, get them in the ground as quickly as possible.  Strawberry plants have a thick section of tissue called the “crown” between the stems and roots.  Your plants should be planted so that the crown is even with the soil.  Plant them too high, and the roots dry out.  Plant them too low or completely bury the crown under the soil, and your plants will be much more likely to suffer injury or disease.

The time of year is a consideration in planting strawberries as well.  Most gardeners plant strawberries when the weather is warming up in the spring.  That is fine, of course, but planting in the fall has its benefits.  I won’t go into those here, however, as this is mainly a guide for spring planting!

There are also multiple different ways you can arrange your strawberry patch.  Your growing system tends to determine how you plant.  For most gardeners, the easiest and most productive method is the matted row system.  You simply plant, let ‘em go wild, and harvest abundantly!  Ok, that may be a bit oversimplified, but not by too much.  For the other systems, see the Growing Strawberries reference page, which is linked immediately below in the next section about on-going care.

6. How to Grow Strawberries: On-going Care

To maximize the vitality of your strawberry plants, and to help them put as much effort as possible into producing strawberries for you to enjoy, some on-going care is required.  To maximize the future yields of strawberries, it is best to snip the strawberry flowers during the first planting season.  This allows the roots to develop and will help your plants ratchet up future production.  Additionally, be sure to water them appropriately, fertilize with either conventional or organic fertilizers, and protect your plants.  For the details of how to do this effectively, be sure to review the appropriate sections on the Growing Strawberries reference page.

7. Harvest Your Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the first plants to fruit in the spring.  The strawberry harvest is heralded as a good omen in many locations, and numerous Strawberry Festivals celebrate the little red berries all around the country.  Picking your home-grown strawberries is rewarding and should be celebrated as well!  The temptation, however, is to pluck the fruits before they are ripe and to rip the fruit off at the calyx.  Both can be problematic.  Review the ripeness spectrum in the picture, and try to refrain from picking white-tipped or pale red fruits.  Stick to harvesting berries that look like the ones at the right, and you’ll enjoy sweeter, bioflavonoid-rich, high-Vitamin C strawberries.

grow strawberries

When picking your strawberries, be sure to exercise patience and pick the fruits that look like the ones at the right end of the spectrum. Picking prematurely halts the development of the natural sugars, nutrients, and vitamins and will result in harder, tart or sour berries.

When it comes to actually separating the fruit from the plant, try not to grab the berry and pull.  Ripe fruits will be damaged by this technique.  Instead, use the nails of your thumb and forefinger to “snip” the stem holding the fruit.  The freed berry will roll gently into your palm without damage.  To see this illustrated, see the Strawberry Picking page.

Once harvested, shelf life is limited.  If you plan on using your haul fresh, be sure you know How to Store Strawberries.   If you plan on saving them for later use, move on to the next step!

8. Preserve or Use Your Strawberries

Like most garden plants, strawberries produce in season.  While the seasons vary, it is difficult to keep a plant producing all year (and, it is hard on the plants!).  So, taking the harvest and preserving them for future use makes a lot of sense.  Whether they are jammed, jellied, dried, or saved in some other form, most people love Strawberry Preserves.  If you don’t have a traditional family recipe for strawberry preserves, feel free to use any of those!  Or, if you prefer more Fragaria delightfulness at a lower temperature, try one of the 8 main methods of Freezing Strawberries to preserve your harvest.  And, of course, be sure to use as many as you can in delicious Strawberry Recipes!

9. How to Grow Strawberries: Perennial!

One of the most fantastic aspects of the humble strawberry is the fact that it is perennial.  Plus, most varieties propagate like crazy, thus multiplying an initial strawberry plant purchase into more runner plants than you know what to do with!  To make sure your strawberries do well year to year, your beds need to be renovated after they are finished producing.  The how-to is here: Strawberry Renovation.  Additionally, to make the most of your plants’ vitality, you can use a simple system to effectively Transplant Strawberries (there are actually several ways to Propagate Strawberry Plants).

10. Protect Your Plants

how to grow strawberry plants winterStrawberry plants are perennial, but can and do suffer cold injury in the winter if the temperatures drop too low, or if a warm spell is followed by another cold snap.  The final step in learning how to grow strawberries is to learn how to keep them alive year-to-year.  To adequately protect your plants, there are two main ways to keep them in a more hospitable environment: overwinter them in the ground or move them into a more protected place (if they are in containers).

To overwinter them in the ground, it is usually best to protect them with a mulch of some sort.  This most commonly done with straw, but can be done with other materials like recycled newspaper as well.  If you plan on leaving them in containers, see this guide on overwintering strawberries for how to do it.

How to Grow Strawberries: Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, you are probably already committed and excited about growing your own strawberries.  But, if you are still on the fence, let me give you 10 reasons to grow your own strawberries this year!  Good luck, happy gardening, and feel free to use the comments to ask any questions you might have!

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28 comments to How to Grow Strawberries in 10 Easy Steps

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Sara,
    You don’t need to put them in the fridge. I’d recommend going ahead and planting them in the ground as soon as possible and then overwintering them there. The perennating buds that will turn into strawberries next year will have already started developing if the runners are old enough. Good luck!

  • Sara

    Mr Strawberry,

    I have three Elsanta runners from a friend that just cut them for me. They have grown outside (in Yorkshire, UK), but cover by plastic, during the summer. I was wondering if you would recommend me a overwintering period to obtain a better harvest next year. May I do it in an old fridge (40-50 Fahrenheit degrees), covering the planlets with a black plastic bag? For how long may I apply this “cold treatment”?
    Thanks for sharing your knowlege in strawberries to spread this delicious fruit!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Wahab ghobashi,
    Yes, they can be grown like that, but peat moss alone as a substrate will be inadequate for good fruit setting. Insect pollination also improved yield for most varieties. Good luck!

  • Wahab ghobashi

    Can I grow strawberries in soft plastic pots filled with peat moss in a temperature controlled tunnel? Do the plants need insect pollination to set fruits? Your comment is appreciated.Thanx

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Terry,
    Yes, flowers should be snipped off during the first year after planting (if you planted in the spring). This isn’t because your plants won’t produce a single berry, but because allowing the strawberry plant to devote energy to developing sub-par strawberries takes away energy from establishing a healthy and vigorous root system that will then help produce significantly larger berries the following spring (and more of them). The perennating buds are formed in the crown and aren’t visible until they emerge in the spring as flowers. So, snipping off flowers during the first year doesn’t affect the development of perennating buds in the crown other than allowing the plant to make more of them! Good luck, and thanks for visiting!

  • Terry

    I am confused about first year strawberries. Should I cut off the blooms and the berries (mine are making a lot of both, but the berries are small and squishy) or not? If “strawberry flowers are produced during the fall season of the prior year. If the strawberry plants didn’t have time to develop their perennating buds (what turns into the flowers and then strawberries, eventually), they will only send out runners this year.” Then maybe I shouldn’t cut off the flowers?? Great site, thanks!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Allen Lee,
    It is called viviparous germination, or vivipary.

  • Allen Lee

    My son inlaw sent me a photo of a strawberry forming fruit but instead of normal berry with seed small leaves are coming out instead can you explain what’s happening?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Mudpuddle,
    Most commercially available strawberry plants are June-bearers. They have a 2-3 week season, then don’t produce again until the next year. See here and here for more details. Good luck!

  • Mudpuddle

    My strawberry plants produced only a few strawberries and they usually rotted before they were ripe enough to pick. Now they’re producing lots of runners but no strawberries. How do I get them to produce strawberries and not the runners? Thanks!

  • Straw Berry

    Kado,
    The extra couple of hours of light the indoor strawberry plants receive can make a difference. It is likely that the outdoor greenhouse strawberries will catch up shortly. I’d just give them some time if everything else looks healthy. Good luck!

  • Kado

    I grew my White soul strawberries in house, then I moved some of them to the green house in my back yard.
    And now the “in-house strawberries” have flowers, while the “greenhouse strawberries” have no flowers. I use the same nutrient liquid. I think it must be the light and temperature.

    In house:
    80F – 86F | 8 hrs of light

    Greenhouse:
    50F – 80F | 6-8 hrs of light

    What should I do to have my “green house strawberries” have fruits?
    PLEASE HELP!!!

  • Straw Berry

    Yifei,
    Congratulations on your first strawberry plant! I would recommend starting by reading the material on the Growing Strawberries reference page (see the posts linked at the end of the page also). That should get you started on the right path. I believe that Red Gauntlet is a June-bearing variety. After reviewing that reference page, if you still have questions, feel free to ask! Good luck!

  • Yifei

    Hi there,
    I started growing my first ever strawberry last month here in Australia from a seedling. I’m glad to find your website with all these information! There are a lot of questions I want to ask:
    Q1. The name on the pot was ‘red gauntlet’, is it a ‘June’ (I assume it will be December for us then) variety or ‘all year’ one? Since we have VERY long summer here, do I expect fruit this year?
    Q2. I used chicken manure mixed in the soil prior transplanting also sprinkle some ‘all purpose’ fertilizer couple days ago. There are new leaves coming out every day and a runner already, however only 2 tiny fruits looking no larger since I bought the plant. Am I over fertilizing it? Or did I use the wrong fertilizer?
    Q3. Should I trim off the fruits and the runner (unfortunately I pinned it to the ground a week ago, wish I found your website earlier!) as well as some leaves (the old ones start to ‘lie down’ onto the ground) to promote root growth? And what tells me it has good root system? If I do need to trim the leaves, how many should I leave behind?
    Q4. I water it twice a day, about 500ml each time for this one plant now, how do I check the soil is ok? Or any guidelines on watering?
    Q5. Will mulch help in spring/summer? Or it’s only a winter thing? I assume I can water less often after mulching?
    Forgive me if I asked too many stupid questions. :D. this is also my first ever plant!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Ron,
    If you place the root tip at the end of the runner plant in contact with the ground, it will root itself. If you snip the runner between the mother plant and the daughter plant, the runner plant will die if it isn’t already firmly established with its own root system. Good luck!

  • Ron

    My strawberry plants are producing runners from the main plant, will they root themselves or do I have to snip them and plant them myself?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Janet,
    Check the details on the Growing Strawberries reference page to make sure all the details were done. Pay special attention to the link at the bottom under the “More” section about transplanting strawberries. That information should help! Good luck!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    brigitte,
    Start here, and good luck!

  • Janet

    Good reading here! I manage to harvest a lot of strawberries, but then I don’t know what to do to keep up the big yields. last year I transplanted runners to a new bed, but there they sat. Maybe I waited to long after the harvest? It was probably late August or early September before I did the transplant. This spring they came up, but are still just single plants – should I have snipped the blossoms for the first year? If I transplant now (July), will the runners start making runners and be ready for next year?

  • brigitte

    My plants produce many strawberries, but theturn brown or black and rot before they ripen. Looks like some type of mold. Is there anything I can do short of replacing all the plants?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Dwight swanson,
    Assuming you selected a variety that is recommended for your area, you’ll do the best if you follow the full guidelines on the growing strawberries reference page. Good luck!

  • Dwight swanson

    My strawberries are mot sweet. Is there anything i can do?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Brenda,
    If it is truly the leaves turning yellow that is causing the plants to die, you probably have a fungal infection. It could also be nitrogen deficiency or a host of other things, however.

  • Brenda

    Why do my strawberry leaves turn yellow then cause the plant to die?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Dr. Fields,
    No, there aren’t specifically male and female plants, but strawberry flowers are produced during the fall season of the prior year. If the strawberry plants didn’t have time to develop their perennating buds (what turns into the flowers and then strawberries, eventually), they will only send out runners this year. Next year, though, you can expect a bumper crop as long as your plants stay healthy! Good luck!

  • Dr. Fields

    Why do some of my plants from last year, all genetically identical only make runners and the others are full of blooms and fruit? Is there a male amd female plant?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    ravioli,
    Welcome! This site is all about help. For more information on what you need to do, see the Growing Strawberries reference page, and be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom where a plethora of other, more specific articles can be read. For more on the fascinating plant, see this page: Strawberry Plant. Good luck this year!

  • ravioli

    I transplanted some strawberries i found in the yard of an old abandoned house in my side yard last year.. I didn’t know what i was doing unfortunately..i just got berry madness lol..when i found them i took 4 of the biggest thickest leaf bunches i seen and those are what i used in my yard….
    To my surprise they actually started growing (usually plants come to my house to die haha) and i even got one berry..next thing i knew all these, i guess runners started growing and i cant even tell where i put the original ones..
    Due to my ignorance on how to care for the plants i left them outside unprotected all winter but they are still green..spring is almost here and i want to do right by these lil guys..how do i no when to trim the runners or if i even should?? will they make berry babies this year?? do they flower??
    This whole process is scary to me..i’ve never been able to grow anything in my life and its not for lack of trying..i guess i was born with a black thumb instead of a green one..PLEASE HELP!!

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