Strawberries are a deliciously sweet fruit that are quite easy to grow in the garden. While they naturally grow in the ground, strawberries can be grown in pots, which is great for anyone lacking enough space to plant them directly into the ground.
Whether planting from seeds or seedlings, strawberries planted out in early spring can expect to produce fruits in just a few months, providing you give them the right care. Thankfully, strawberries aren’t the fussiest plants – keep them watered and protect them from disease and they’ll likely produce a great harvest during the summer.
Choosing the Right Pots
One of the best things about growing strawberries in pots is that you can use almost any type of container. Hanging baskets and willow boxes are popular as they offer a lovely rustic appearance for the garden, although standard plastic or terracotta pots are more than suitable for growing strawberries.
Planting Strawberries in Pots or Containers
Regardless of the type of pot or container, make sure to avoid overcrowding pots with too many plants. Aim to plant no more than three strawberry plants per square foot of soil, otherwise you may find very few fruits are produced.
If you’re buying strawberry runners or pot-sold plants, simply plant them out in a larger container any time between early spring and late summer. Runners are a great choice because they’re cheap and grow very quickly, producing fruits in around two months with the right conditions, while pot-sold strawberries also produce fruit that same summer.
Repotting them into larger containers is a good idea as this ensures they have enough nutrients in the soil to produce a bigger harvest. Use multipurpose compost and leave about an inch of space in the pot, ensuring the crown is just above the soil.
Tips for Caring for Strawberries in Pots
Strawberries don’t need much to grow – providing it’s not excessively warm or cold they should survive most conditions. However, they do like to be well-watered, so make sure to water frequently to avoid drying out.
While the weather will influence how they need watered, consider watering them frequently but with less water, as this ensures the soil doesn’t get too dry or too wet. Look for soil to always be damp but not soaking!
Warm weather dries the soil out quickly so you may need to water several times per day during the warmest periods of the summer.
Don’t Get the Leaves too Wet
While hardy, strawberry plants are susceptible to fungal diseases, do your best to reduce the risks by avoiding getting leaves wet when watering. This is easy enough – just pull back the leaves and water directly into the soil surface.
Fertilizing Strawberry Plants
As the strawberries are developing in spring, apply a general fertilizer to encourage bulkier growth during this period.
Once the plants reach growing season in late spring, start to use a high-potash liquid feed, which is easily found in most tomato plant liquid feeds. Apply this fertilizer once every week or two throughout growing season to encourage more fruit to grow.
Move Pots to be in Sunlight
A great part of growing strawberries in pots is that you can easily move the pots around the garden to follow the sun. This is great for the fruits, encouraging them to become even larger, so try moving the pots around your garden to get as much sun as possible throughout the day.
Netting May be Required
Depending on the birds in your area you may need to apply some netting around the pot to protect your fruit. Birds are known to eat strawberries throughout the season, so some sort of netting if needed. Squirrels may also try their luck, in which case a stronger wire mesh may be a good idea.
Protect Fruits as they Appear
Strawberries are quite delicate so it’s important to keep them protected once they start developing. Always raise strawberries off the soil to avoid them getting dirty or mouldy, with straw or fibre mats being a good way to keep them raised from the soil.
Cut Away Leaves with Signs of Mould
Grey mould is a common disease that effect strawberry plants so be sure to cut away any leaves that look like they have fuzzy mould or discoloured areas. Any infected area should be immediately removed, while you may need to increase ventilation if your pots are in a greenhouse, as the humidity may be causing the mould to develop.
Strawberry plants send out long shoots called runners as they begin to flower. These can be propagated for future plants, yet it’s best to wait until after the fruits have been as these runners take a lot of the plant’s valuable energy and resources to grow – this is best used producing strawberries rather than runners.
After you’ve produced fruit for the summer, then consider using runners to produce new plants for the following year. Until then, cut back all runners as soon as they appear – your strawberries will be much better for it.
Don’t Stop Plant Care After Fruiting
While it’s easy to leave your strawberry plant once it fruits, taking the time to properly care after fruiting only benefits the plant for the following year. This is because strawberry plants don’t actually die off during the winter, instead they go dormant and slowly prepare themselves for the next year.
Not only that, they continue growing well into autumn, and while they won’t produce fruit, they are preparing their crowns for flowering next year. Be sure to care for these to ensure maximum budding for the following year!
Cut back all leaves after fruiting and allow them to regrow during autumn. Provide regular liquid feed throughout the autumn to ensure they remain strong and bulky for the winter. Doing this means your plant will be much healthier next season, so don’ stop caring after the summer months pass!
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