Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring. For me, nothing says sunshine like a juicy, red strawberry freckled with seeds.
Strawberries are one of the most commonly found plants in backyard gardens. They are grown in every state in the United States and all provinces of Canada. Store bought strawberries fail in comparison to the flavor and aroma of those freshly picked from your backyard garden and growing them yourself ensures that you will have a safe, pesticide-free crop. Luckily growing them is easy as pie…strawberry pie!
♫ Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to strawberry fields ♫
One common question gardeners have is when to plant strawberries.
Strawberries are cold hardy perennials, but that does not mean that the cold will not hurt them. Seventy percent of a strawberry plant’s roots are in the top 3 inches of soil. Soil (even cold soil) will protect the shallow roots from freezing temperatures, but frost can damage tender, new leaves and stems.
Strawberries can be planted up to six weeks before the last expected frost as long as:
- They are in a dormant state and have not begun putting out new growth.
- The ground is not frozen and the soil is workable.
If you plant is putting out new growth, then you must wait until after the threat of frost is over before planting outdoors.
The most common time to plant strawberries is in the spring, but if you have mild winters then it will benefit you to plant in the fall.
When planting in the spring, its best to pinch off the first season of flowers. This lets your plant grow a stronger root system and will result in better fruit production the following year. I’m told that its worth the wait…but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I’m impatient and I love strawberries.
If you are able to plant your strawberries in the fall, they will have time to establish themselves before the mild winter hits. By springtime, the roots will be large enough and healthy enough to support a fruitful growing season in the spring. There is no need to pinch off the flowers.
So…When to plant strawberries? Plant in the spring, plant in the fall. Avoid planting in the summer. Strawberries prefer growing in cool soil. If you plant in the summer, the soil is warm and causes unneeded stress to unestablished plants.
Tip: Strawberries prefer growing in cool soil. Mulching with straw or pine needles will help keep the soil around them cool. Strawberries are acid-loving plants. Pine needle mulch makes them very happy.
Strawberries are most commonly sold as potted plants or bare root. If you bought your plant already potted then you will need to wait until the threat of frost has gone before planting. Hardening off your plants will help them get better acclimated with the new home outdoors. Harden them by bringing them outdoors for a few hours when the temperature reaches 50 degrees. Gradually increase the amount the time they are outside.
Bare root strawberries are usually sold in bunches. Its best to get them in the ground right away. If you can’t get them planted right away, they can be stored in your refrigerator to keep them from breaking dormancy. Cover the roots with a wet paper towel to keep them from drying out until you are ready to plant.
I ordered my strawberries online with some other plants. When they arrived the strawberries were dormant, but the other plants had already begun to sprout new growth. It is still too cold to move them outside so I potted them and stuck them in a window. I went ahead and planted the strawberries too. They have begun to grow and I will start putting them outside to harden off very soon.
Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside. The average strawberry has 200 seeds. Some strawberries can be grown from seed. Heirloom varieties and most Alpine varieties come true from seed. Hybrid varieties can be if-y.
Click here to learn more about the different types of strawberries.
An easy way to collect seeds from your strawberries is to put a handful of ripe berries in the blender with 1 cup of water. Blend on high for a quick 3-5 seconds (any longer and you risk damaging the seeds). The viable seeds will sink the bottom. The “bad seeds” and pulp will float. Pour out the pulp and carefully collect the good seeds on a paper towel. Lay them out to dry.
The seeds from most varieties will need to be cold treated before they will grow. This is easy to do. Just fold the seeds in a paper towel and then place the towel in an air tight container. Put them in your freezer for 2-3 weeks. Thaw them at room temperature and then they are ready for planting.
Make a seed starting mix with 3 parts peat moss to 1 part potting soil. Sprinkle the seeds on top and very scarcely cover with peat. You want the sunlight to be able to reach the seeds. Place them in direct sunlight. You can expect to see sprouting in 2-3 weeks.
When it comes time to plant, be sure keep the base of the crown right at soil level.
Most strawberry plants will produce berries for 3-4 years. Plan accordingly to keep an ever-ready supply on hand.