FRUIT > STRAWBERRIES > CONTAINER-GROWING
IN THIS GUIDE
Growing strawberries in pots can be a great choice for small space gardens.
Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow, and you can grow them in even the tiniest of spaces.
You can grow them in small containers in your garden, on a patio, or balcony, or even on a sunny windowsill indoors.
If you are new to growing your own, then growing strawberries in pots is one great way to get started.
Why Grow Strawberries In Pots?
Strawberries can be grown in a variety of different ways.
You can place them in their own dedicated beds or strawberry patches.
They can also work very well in polycultures alongside other perennial edibles such as perennial onions, perennial herbs, asparagus, rhubarb etc.
You can grow them as bed edging along pathways, around the edges of your beds, or at the front of garden borders.
Strawberries can also be useful additions to fruit tree guilds and forest gardens.
Growing strawberries in pots or containers of different types, however, can be an excellent way to make the most of your space.
Whether you have only a tiny amount of space, or are trying to make the most of every inch in a larger space, this can be a good solution.
When you grow strawberries in pots or other containers, this can also make it easier to keep your strawberries up off the ground.
It can help make sure they are not nibbled by something else before you can harvest them, while making the harvest easier for you too, since the strawberries can be positioned within easy reach.
Once you have decided to grow strawberries in containers, you will of course have to decide which strawberries you would like to grow.
There are several different types of strawberry ideal for pots –
Most commonly, gardeners will choose a cultivar of the garden strawberry – Fragaria x ananassa.
Fragaria x ananassa are the main strawberry type grown in gardens and in commercial cultivation. [source]
There are many named varieties to choose from.
They all originate from hybrid crosses between the wild strawberry or Virginia strawberry – Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria chiloensis, which were developed in the 18th Century. [source]
These strawberries require a bright and light location, and will always fruit best in full sun.
Woodland / Wild / Alpine
In addition to typical garden strawberries, you can also consider Fragaria vesca (woodland or ‘wild’ strawberries).
These were the first strawberries to be cultivated around the 13th Century. [source]
Fragaria vesca ‘Semperflora’ L. is one type of wild strawberry, sometimes called the alpine strawberry.
It has small fruits but they are said to be even more delicious than the garden types.
One of the great things about woodland/wild/alpine strawberries is that they can be grown in more shaded conditions.
They will fruit well even in light or dappled shade.
June-Bearing, Ever-bearing Or Day-Neutral
When choosing strawberry varieties, you should note that there are several different categories to consider.
Varieties are categorised according to their cropping characteristics.
There are early, mid-season and later harvested varietals – and also ever-bearing and day-neutral options.
The first three types are by far the most common.
These will all bear their fruits over a relatively short period around June or July (depending on climate and conditions).
Ever-bearing strawberries (a few Fragaria x ananassa strawberries are of this type, as are woodland or alpine strawberries) are not really ever-bearing.
But they do have a longer period of harvesting and can offer 2 or even 3 harvests per year.
Day-neutral modern cultivars are far rarer, but these genuinely can fruit right through from June to autumn in mild-warm conditions.
Choosing A Strawberry Container
Once you have decided which strawberries to grow, and know where your strawberry containers will be positioned, it is time to choose your containers.
Growing strawberries in pots does not necessarily mean growing individual plants in individual plant pots.
There are a number of different container options that you could choose.
For example, you could consider:
- Larger planters, window boxes, grow bags or traditional terracotta pots for strawberries , perhaps alongside other companion plants.
- Stacking planters, which allow you to grow tiers of strawberries.
- Self-watering strawberry pots, which make watering easier.
- Vertical gardens (made from fabric with pockets for strawberries to be placed within, or made from old wood pallets, for example). Vertical gardens might also include those made from old guttering, or pots held onto a trellis in which strawberries can be grown. Or they may also simply be shelving on which pots for strawberries can be placed.
- Planting barrels (with strawberries planted in the top and in holes in the sides).
- Planting towers (made from a range of reclaimed materials – such as plastic drinks bottles, for example).
- Hanging baskets, or other hanging containers.
- Containers within a hydroponic or aquaponic system (growing strawberries in water rather than a more traditional growing medium).
Remember, there are a range of reclaimed items and materials that you can use to make places to grow these easy, unfussy and forgiving plants.
Strawberries are quick growing and shallow-rooted so they can be grown in a huge range of different containers.
Unless you are growing strawberries in a hydroponic or aquaponic system, once you have chosen your containers you will need to think about the growing medium.
Strawberries need soil which is moist yet free-draining, and they need a fertile potting mix to grow and yield at their best.
Make sure you create (or choose) a potting mix that will retain moisture and yet drain freely, to keep your strawberry plants happy and healthy.
Sowing / Planting Strawberries
Strawberries can be grown from seed.
However, it is far more common, and much easier, to grow strawberries from runners or buy in young plants.
Runners are small plants that branch off from existing ones and form new roots.
These can be bought bare-root during the dormant period and are planted out early in autumn or early in spring.
Bare-root runners are generally cheaper than pot-grown young plants.
You can also buy runners which have been placed in cold store in late spring or early summer.
These will typically fruit after a couple of months.
Many gardeners, however, will opt to purchase young plug plants in pots.
These are available from late spring into early summer and can be planted out or repotted as soon as you buy them.
When you grow strawberries in pots or other containers, watering is a key consideration.
When choosing your containers, you should remember that strawberries will need to be watered more frequently when grown in containers than they will when grown in the ground.
You will need to think about watering and how easily you will be able to do so when working out which solution is best for your home growing efforts.
Strawberries need reliable moisture throughout the growing season, though won’t like having waterlogged roots.
Like other fruiting plants, strawberries will benefit from the addition of a potassium-rich liquid plant feed during the growing season.
Organic fertilisers which work well for tomatoes should work well for strawberries too.
A potash rich liquid feed made from comfrey – comfrey tea – is one excellent organic solution.
A liquid feed made from Chenopodium album (fat hen – which is said to be a good dynamic accumulator of potassium) can also be a good choice.
Even in pots, it can be a good idea to mulch around your strawberries as the fruits begin to form.
Use straw, untreated cardboard, dry leaves or other carbon-rich mulch material to keep the fruits up off the soil and to retain moisture in the containers where it is possible to do so.
If runners form on your strawberry plants while they are still fruiting, you may wish to cut these off in order to allow plants to focus on fruit production.
Later, you may like to keep runners attached and peg down the new plants into new pots to increase your stock of strawberry plants.
This way, you can easily propagate new plants for next year.
Simply peg down the plants into the new pots, keeping them attached to the parent plant until new roots have formed.
Then you can cut the runner and place your new pot wherever you wish to grow on.
Protection From Pests
If something is eating your strawberries before you get to them, you can consider creating some sort of physical barrier to protect your crop, or growing undercover.
Placing red stones around your plants to ‘trick’ birds etc. may also help protect your fruits, though is unlikely to be 100% effective.
Most strawberries will be harvested when they are bright red all over.
Keep checking regularly on your crop so you can harvest them as soon as they are ready.
If possible, try to harvest on sunny days, during the warmest part of the day – since this is when the fruits will taste best.
Eat, cook or preserve your fresh strawberries as soon as possible.
They won’t store fresh all that well once ripened, but most gardeners will find that this is not usually a problem, since these delicious fruits are likely to be very popular in your household.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.