How to Grow Strawberries

If you like gardening, and live in a cooler climate, you might try growing your own strawberries. Compared to other berries like blueberries or raspberries, strawberries are the easiest to grow and are the most prolific.
 You will likely find this more "doable" in a cooler climate. Berries grow great in cooler climates. So If you live in a state where summer days start in the upper 70s and go up from there, you would do best to buy your berries instead!
 So, this article is based on my experience with growing berries in Oregon, which is a big "Blueberry State". But my experience is that strawberries grow here so readily that they're almost like an "invasive" plant.


As with blueberries (or virtually any other plant!), a raised bed with a mixture of good topsoil and mulch will yield healthy, prolific plants. In the case of strawberries, instead of individual mounds of the topsoil/mulch mixture, just make a raised row, say maybe 2 feet wide and as long as you want. Leave space between rows to allow for access when picking.
 The "raised bed" and rich soil thing is really quite easy to do. I have more detail in my "Growing Blueberries" article, which can be reached from a link on my "home" page.

I have prepared a raised bed using a topsoil/mulch mixture. Anybody's good quality topsoil and mulch will do. I used "Ace Potting Soil" from Ace Hardware and "Filthy Rich Mulch" (Douglas Fir based), also from Ace. (There's no "big box" home improvement centers out here on the Oregon coast.)
 It is well, however, to work the existing soil first with a hoe or some other tool and mix that soil in with the topsoil/mulch. This way, there won't be a sudden change from rich soil to the existing soil, particularly if the existing soil is hard clay. If it is hard clay, you will find it easier to work if it is relatively moist. Also, if it's hard to dig with a hoe, try a "fork" type shovel.

As with the blueberries, I decided to add a rock border around the strawberry bed. I started with about 20 or so plants. They look innocent enough here, don't they? Hah!

strawberries strawberries

Some additional information:

Strawberries prefer a soil pH between 6 and 7.

Once planted, it is well to add some organic "starter" solution, as discussed in the blueberry section above. And don't forget to water your new plants every other day or so.

Strawberries, like raspberries, are sensitive to excessively wet soils (once established). So the raised beds are essential.

Removing any new strawberry flowers for a month or two will help the plants get started, by reserving all the growth energy to be directed toward plant growth.

Strawberry types and cultivars:

Junebearing Produce one crop per year in June-July

Everbearing Produce two crops per year; one in June-July and the next in the fall

Day Neutral Produce crops from June until fall

I planted "Tristar" cultivar (day-neutral) and "Totem" cultivar (June-bearing). I have no idea what the difference is in actual growth and production! Why? See the pictures below! Within minutes, they all grew together in one big mass. OK, would you believe a few weeks?

A link to further information from the University of Oregon:

 Growing Strawberries in Your Home Garden

Growing Strawberries

During the growing season

Water thoroughly once a week during the growing season, particularly during time of strawberry production. Actually, the leaves of established strawberries are so dense, you might get away with once every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. Just test the moisture level of the soil from time to time. I just poke a bare finger into the soil.

I planted the strawberries in July (2017). By October, I was still picking strawberries (notice the filled plastic lid). Also the bushes had filled the bed by way of their numerous rhizomes (runners) and "daughter" plants. They had even mounted a breakout, so that the area surrounding the bed was also covered in strawberies.

So I created another raised bed and transplanted most of the extra strawberry runners and smaller plants into the bed. The original bed is in the back.
Strawberries are bulletproof! I made only a rudimentary effort to keep some soil around the little plants when I dug them up. But the majority were transplanted with bare roots; I just poked them into the ground. If you've done any gardening, you will probably agree that most plants would die if transplanted this way. Not so with strawberries. They all thrived - 100%!

strawberries strawberries

Time for some fertilizer.
 The yellowish and purple tipped leaves indicate the plants could use some extra nitrogen. So I treated the plants with an organic vegetable/fruit fertilizer. They greened up in a week. I recommend application of this type of fertilizer in the Spring. Please see the note at the end of this article ablut fertilizing during the summer!

Jobe's "Vegetable and Tomato" or Jobe's "Berry" granular fertilizers work fine.

Or try Dr. Earth's "Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb", or "Premium Gold". Dr Earth's "Acid Lovers" fertilizer would be good for blueberries, but is a bit too acid for strawberries.

Why "Vegetable and Tomato" type fertilizers? Simply because they have good amounts of all three types of nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Fertilizers with only nitrogen encourage foliage growth at the expense of root and fruit growth.
 Remember to keep the strawberries watered during the producing season - once a week seems to be fine. This helps produce plump juicy strawberries.

Strawberry picking tip.
 Let the strawberries reach a deep crimson color, like the ones on the right of this image. The ones on the left taste fine, but the ones on the right - incredible.
Caution! You are hereby warned that you will never be able to eat store-bought strawberries again after you have tasted some of your own like this! The ones in stores have been picked unripe for longer storage.

need fertilizer Desired color

Boatloads of Strawberries!

This picture shows my strawberries as of September 2018 - their second growing season.
 The foreground right is the original strawberry patch. The center was created from the first patch's runners.
The uppermost left was created from strawberry bushes that were moved from another bed (to make room for extra raspberry plants).
 Still producing strawberries (after a late summer pause).
 Still producing even more runners. I have created yet a fourth raised bed from these runners a few days after this picture was taken.
As you can see, if you give strawberry plants rich soil, they'll thrive!

(Gasp!) This may be my last transmission. They've made it into the house! No! No! NO! AArrrggghhh!!

lots of strawberries

Sometime in the fall, it would be well to thin out your strawberries. This will encourage new growth and fresh plants next spring
 Here are the beds prior to thinning. The original bed is in the back. You can't really see it in this picture. I removed the strawberries from it because the fence gave too much shade, and the plants did not produce very many berries.
 So the three beds you see here came from the original 20 small plants!!

Try to remove the mature plants. and leave the fresh new ones. This picture is after I thinned them out. I have an empty 20 gallon plant container. I filled it four times with the excess plants.
 HINT: Don't do this in August, like I did. (And certainly DON'T do it in July!!) They'll simply grow right back and fill their beds! In three weeks, they looked essentially like the first picture!
Also, see note below about fertilizing in the Spring or Summer!

Before After

So what do strawberries look like in winter? They look like this! Some of the leaves turn red or yellow, but they don't lose their leaves in the winter, and can handle temperatures below freezing. Note that I am talking about the Oregon coast here; So "below freezing" meant upper 20s.
 This would be a good time to remove the dead leaves, however.

By April, they began to perk up and turn all green.

strawberries in winter strawberries in spring

A couple of extra notes:
 As discussed above, strawberries are pretty "invasive"! They will put out runners and quickly bust out of their beds, rocks or no rocks. See the image on the right, as well as the larger image above titled "Boatloads of Strawberries".
 You should cut the runners and dig up the new plants from time to time in early and late fall. Why? Because they are very hard to remove once established, particularly in river rocks like I have. Do this from time to time before the winter season.
 You might be saying to yourself, "Well, that's simple. I'll just clip the runners when they start growing outside of my strawberry beds." Well, that's apparently not a good plan, from what the articles say, because it just encourages the little buggers to put out even more runners! So just let the new shoots become partly established and just pull them up (and cut the runners) every once in a while before their roots get too deep.

 While strawberries are producing, the plants need lots of water! The OSU article whose link is above suggests 1 to 1.5 inches a week. They will produce bigger and juicier berries and fewer "deformed" berries if given lots of water.


Want bigger strawberries?
 Strawberry plants produce lots of berry-producing multi-branched shoots in early summer. Each multi-branched set of shoots might have as many as 10 - 15 berry buds. The vast majority of these shoots are around the outer border of the berry plants (assuming you have relatively dense plant concentrations as you see in most of these pictures).
 Simply cut about 1/3 to 1/2 of these shoots - depending on how dense your plants are. In the picture you see here, I am actually too late! You want to do this while your berries are just buds. This allows more plant energy to go to the remaining buds, thus creating larger berries.
  So this year I served boatloads of little strawberries to my visiting kids and grandkids in late June. (That's about 15 medium bowls worth. By "medium" I mean the equivalent of 3 - three - of the small bowls that you see in the picture above)!
 I did have to supply about 5% of the strawberries as "insurance" to the local chipmunk mafia!
 Or else. . .

Another note about fertilizer:
 Apply the fertilizers discussed above in the Spring. And, do NOT apply fertilizer during the summer! Why? Because they seem to revert to growth mode and quit producing strawberries!
 Check out the prodigious growth, but - alas - NO strawberries! Strawberry production just simply stopped a few weeks after I applied fertilizer in mid summer.

bigger fertilize

When it's time to quit.

 Starting with the third year, and certainly by the fourth year (2022), some changes became apparent:

The strawberries produced were smaller, and not nearly as tasty.

Many of them were deformed.

The plants weren't producing the copious runners.

As with any single crop, the time comes when the soil becomes exhausted of the nutrients which that crop needs. Applying the rich organic fertilizers - even the ones with extra soil microbes - does not seem to sustain the crop.

Further, each clump of plants simply becomes too crowded, so that many plants are trying to draw nutrients from too small an area. See the picture on the right. I have pulled up one clump of plants and laid it on its side for the picture. It's simply too hard to separate tight bunches like this like this until only one plant is left. And, virtually all the plants in the original bed have become clumped up like this one.
 It's time to pull them all out and plant new seedlings, preferably in another area. Or, you could allow the strawberry beds to lie fallow for a year or two, and then plant some new seedlings.


Copyright © 2022 J.A.