Fresh strawberries from the garden taste a thousand times better than what you’ve been buying from the store. It’s just a fact. Home gardeners can grow their own delicious strawberries right on their patio or in their backyard for very little effort. These plants are easy to grow, and if you have the right varieties, you can actually harvest fruits for several months out of the year.

Here’s everything you need to know to start your own little strawberry patch, starting with the best soil for strawberries.

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best soil mix for strawberry plants

THE BEST SOIL FOR GROWING STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries actually grow really well in the same sandy loam soil you might have in your vegetable garden. These little perennials like soil that’s, one, rich in organic matter and, two, well draining. Strawberries appreciate consistent moisture, but they really don’t like their roots to hang out in water for very long.

Here are two different soil mixes that will give you a nutrient-rich, well-drained soil ideal for your strawberries:

Strawberry Soil Mix #1

Mix equal parts topsoil, garden compost, and coarse sand together. The sand might sound weird, but it’s there to help with drainage. This mix is best for raised bed gardens or to amend soil for in-ground planting.

Strawberry Soil Mix #2

This is actually the Mel’s Mix from Mel Bartholomew’s book Square Foot Gardening. It’s equal parts compost, coarse vermiculite, and either peat moss or coco coir. The vermiculite keeps the soil light and fluffy, while the peat moss or coco coir retains a little bit of water.

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All these soil “ingredients” can be found at local landscape suppliers, nurseries, and garden centers. If you don’t want to mix up your own blend, most landscape supply stores have a loamy soil mix very similar to these. You’ll want to buy soil in bulk if you have more than a yard soil needed for your growing space. (Learn more about ordering soil for raised beds.)

Once you’ve mixed up your soil, add some worm castings or rabbit or chicken manure to the top of your soil blend for an extra nutrient boost. Strawberries have a shallow root system, so it’s great to have lots of nutrients right at the top for them to pick up.

The Best Soil for Growing Strawberries in Containers

If you’re growing strawberries in containers, I recommend grabbing a bag of organic potting soil (I love the Ocean Forest Potting Soil from FoxFarm) and mixing it with some fresh compost. This potting soil/compost mix works great for container gardens. Add some compost to the top of your containers every couple of months to replenish nutrients.

WHEN TO PLANT STRAWBERRY PLANTS

Strawberry plants are perennials, which means they can live and produce for several years. You can probably enjoy fruit from one plant for 3 to 4 years before it tires out and it’s time to either start with new plants or propagate runners from the old plants.

The best time to plant strawberries is in the early spring and then again in the fall.

In the spring, you can plant bare-root strawberries (more on that in a minute) or buy young plants from your local nursery. You just want to wait to plant until you’re past the likelihood of heavy frost. Your plants should be okay with a couple of light frosts and will enjoy nice, cool weather.

Their prime growing season will be throughout the spring and into the summer months, when they’ll ideally produce fruits for you to harvest. Some strawberry varieties will halt their fruit production when it’s hot.

In early fall, your plants will finish producing but can stay in your garden. This is the time to add any new strawberry plants you’d like so that they can get established in your garden before winter. Strawberries will die back during the coldest months and then produce new stems in the spring.

when to plant strawberry plants

STRAWBERRY VARIETIES YOU SHOULD GROW

My favorite source for strawberries is Stark Bros Nursery. They’re a really reliable online nursery, and they have collections of different varieties so that you can pick berries over a longer season. That’s because different strawberry varieties actually produce fruit at different times. The two main types are June-bearing and ever-bearing.

June-bearing varieties

June-bearing varieties produce all their fruits in the late spring and early summer. You typically shouldn’t expect fruit your first year of growing this type.

Ever-bearing varieties

These are the same thing as day-neutral varieties. These plants will give you fruit the first season, and then if you’re lucky, you might even get another round of berries in the late summer or early fall.

Alpine strawberries (aka woodland strawberries) are a type of ever-bearing. You can actually grow this type from seed, and they’re great for container gardens because they don’t produce runners. What they do grow is flavorful berries in shades of red, yellow, or cream, depending on the seeds or plants you buy.

The biggest difference between alpine berries and the grocery store kind is the fruit size. These guys will be much smaller than what you’re used to. Though smaller, they are a sweet treat to grow and I highly recommend!

You can my favorite alpine strawberries here:

Heirloom Pineapple

Mignonette

pineapple alpine strawberries harvested

WHERE TO PLANT STRAWBERRY PLANTS

One of the most important considerations when choosing a planting area will be sunlight. You want full sun (at least 8 hours) so that you can get as many super-sweet fruits as possible. In warmer climates, a spot that would provide some afternoon shade is ideal.

Other than that, strawberries can grow in the ground or in raised beds, containers, hanging baskets, pots, grow bags, and even special planters called strawberry towers.

Growing Strawberries In-Ground

You can grow strawberries in the ground, but the key consideration will be drainage. Don’t pick a spot where the ground stays wet for long periods of time. If you have heavy clay soil, dig up the top 6″ of topsoil and amend it with compost and coarse sand to improve drainage. You’ll plant your strawberries in little mounds spaced about 12″ apart.

To keep fruits off the ground when they’re ripening, grab some strawberry supports (those little plastic collars) to go around each plant.

Growing Strawberries in a Raised Garden Bed

I love growing my strawberries right on the edges of my raised garden beds. The flowers and fruits look so beautiful draped over the side. Keep in mind that June-bearing types will send out runners and spread, so it might be best to stick with Alpine strawberries. Otherwise, be sure to carefully prune any runners that are heading toward the interior of your raised bed.

Containers

Strawberries grow really well in a small space. All you need is a pot or container at least 6″ or so wide for one plant, and you can grow a lot of plants in a wide container or grow bag. (Check out some of my favorite options here.) Just make sure whatever pot or container you choose has drainage holes. You might need to add some if not. If you’re growing on a porch or patio, put down some weed barrier cloth or burlap before filling your container with soil to keep the soil inside when you’re watering.

Strawberry Tower

This is a really fun option for apartment balconies and small spaces. These are basically just multi-tiered towers made of plastic or terracotta. You can plant one strawberry plant per slot. These towers have good drainage, but you do need to monitor the plants on the very bottom tier to make sure they’re getting watered. Turn your tower daily if it’s under a patio so all your plants have access to sunlight.

HOW TO PLANT STRAWBERRY PLANTS

When planting strawberries it’s a good idea to add some compost to the top of the strawberry bed before planting. Strawberries should be planted 12 inches apart in the ground. In a raised bed or container, you can space them every 6″ or so. 

You might be starting with a set of plants from the nursery in the spring. These plants will have leaves on them. All you have to do is plant them so that their roots are just below the soil surface. 

If you’re starting with bare roots in the spring or fall, then you’ll soak the roots in some water for 4 to 6 hours before planting. Separate each little root out and plant them in shallow holes, right where the roots meet the stem. Backfill each hole. 

Make sure to water your strawberries in well and keep them watered for the next couple of weeks while they’re getting established. 

how to plant strawberry plants in the garden

HOW TO CARE FOR STRAWBERRY PLANTS

Strawberries are overall very easy to maintain. There’s a reason you can go foraging for wild strawberries in many places.

Watering

Strawberries need about an inch of water every week once they’re established. The best way to give them consistent water is with a simple drip irrigation system like this one for raised beds or Growoya’s for pots and containers. If you’re watering by hand, check that the top inch of soil feels dry before adding more water. Avoid getting water on the leaves or fruits to prevent mold and fungal diseases.

Fertilizing

To maximize your fruit production, you can add a couple inches of fresh compost every quarter. Once you see the first little flowers appear, I recommend fertilizing with MicroLife Maximum Blooms. This is my go-to fertilizer for fruiting plants–it gives them everything they need to form flowers and then fruit. Just follow the instructions on the bottle.

Pruning

If your plants produce runners, consider pinching them off. Runners are capable of turning into strawberry plants, but they drain energy from the parent plant. You want all that energy focused on fruit production. (You can actually replant any runners you remove. Just use a landscaping pin to hold them down so that they’re touching the soil—that’s where new roots will form.)

Once your plants are done fruiting for the year, cut them down to about 2″ tall. Feed them with an all purpose organic fertilizer like MicroLife to set them up for the following year.

If a plant has been in your garden for several years and is no longer producing well, it’s time to remove it.

COMMON ISSUES WITH STRAWBERRY PLANTS

Here’s how to prevent two of the most common problems that might arise.

Fungal Diseases

Strawberries are prone to something called gray mold in wet climates, which is one reason good drainage is so important. Fruits turn soft and brown on the plant before they begin growing mold. Aim water at the roots instead of the leaves and fruits of the plant to avoid gray mold and other diseases like powdery mildew. It’s also best to water in the morning so that plants have time to dry out a bit before nighttime. If you notice diseased leaves or fruits, remove them so that it doesn’t spread.

One last thing, keep the soil around your plants clear of plant debris, which can harbor nasty stuff that then gets splashed up onto your plants when you water.

Pests Eating Berries

This is the worst! The easiest way to protect fruits while they ripen is to wrap them in organza bags (the type you’d store jewelry in). Some people put netting or pest cloth over their entire plant, but that prevents pollinators from getting access to the flowers. You can certainly cover your plants while they’re ripening fruits, but first make sure that no pests are currently present. For maximum pest protection, you can install wire cages around your plants to keep out larger pests like rabbits, birds, and squirrels.

If you’re growing in the ground and pill bugs (roly-polies), slugs, or snails are a problem, make sure to have a strawberry mat around each plant to hold it off the ground. You can treat the issue with organic Sluggo if necessary.

WHEN TO HARVEST STRAWBERRIES

You likely won’t get any fruits your first year growing a June-bearing variety. You might even pinch off any flower buds that form so that your plants can focus on getting established in your garden and give you more fruits the second year.

June-bearing strawberries produce fruit in late spring and early summer, while day-neutral strawberries might give you two crops over summer.

Everbearing strawberries will have two harvest season. One in late spring and early summer and a second harvest in late summer and early fall.

Wait to harvest fruits until they’re red all over. Fruits won’t continue to ripen once picked. You can harvest by pinching the stalks right above the fruit with your fingernails. That way, you avoid bruising the fruit. Each plant might give you 5 to 7 fruits.

Eat as many strawberries right then and there as you can stand. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! They’ll be at their absolute most delicious. If you have any berries left to bring inside, avoid washing them and store them in the fridge. They’ll stay fresh for a couple of days.

when to harvest strawberries

That’s all there is to growing delicious strawberries at home. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments!