Strawberries are a delightful plant to grow for gardeners of all skill levels, even beginners. But, to get the best from your strawberry plants, they do require certain growing conditions that you have to understand. Strawberries are quite particular about their sun, water, and soil requirements, but if you follow our guidelines, you can’t go wrong.
Do Strawberries Need Sun or Shade?
Strawberries are sun-loving plants and need around 8 hours of sunlight every day. This will ensure that your plant produces lots of lovely fruit and that the fruit is sweet and not sour. When allowed to ripen on the plant, strawberries will use sunlight to increase the sugar content in the fruit.
If you’ve grown strawberries before, you might have noticed that sometimes, the fruit will be small and misshapen. This is because the plants have not received enough sunlight. Quite often, this happens when you’re experiencing days of cloudy and rainy weather as the fruit is developing.
Another drawback of a lack of sunlight is that strawberry flowers need to be pollinated to produce the best fruit. On rainy days, the bees may not be as active, and, therefore, your strawberry flowers may not receive adequate pollination.
This can be remedied by ensuring that your plants receive plenty of sunlight. Especially the early morning sun. In really hot climates, however, you can provide some shade for your strawberry plants in the afternoon. As long as your plants are receiving at least 8 hours of sunlight almost every day, they will reward you with lovely sweet fruit.
So, what can you do if the weather forecast predicts days of cloudy and rainy weather? The simple solution to this is to use a grow light. Of course, this means growing your strawberries in pots or grow bags so that you can easily provide them with additional sunlight hours by using artificial light.
Where Should You Ideally Plant Strawberries?
If you have a patch of ground in the garden that gets plenty of sunlight, especially in the morning, then this is ideal for planting strawberries. However, one of the best ways to grow strawberries is to use large containers or grow bags.
This means that you can position your strawberry plants to follow the sun. For example, you may have a nice patio or deck area that receives morning sun and is a little shaded in the late afternoon. This would be the ideal spot for growing your strawberries.
You also have plenty of options when it comes to choosing the types of containers to grow your plants in. There are even containers specifically designed for growing strawberries. These include terracotta pots that have multiple planting holes, large grow bags, also with multiple holes, and even tall strawberry towers.
Another advantage of using these containers is that it keeps the fruit off the ground and out of reach of slugs and snails. Then all you have to worry about is sharing your harvest with the local bird population.
Apart from large pots that sit on the ground, you can also grow strawberries in hanging planters. These are ideal if you have a nice sunny balcony to hang these pots from. This also keeps the fruit off the ground and makes it easy to harvest. In fact, many seasoned gardeners have found that this is one of the best ways to grow this luscious fruit to ensure that the plants get plenty of sunlight.
Even commercial growers will grow acres of strawberries in hanging planters to get the highest yield of fruit production. These growers often use multiple lengths of polypipe suspended from above or on raised platforms to grow the fruit that they send to market.
Whether you choose to grow your strawberries in the ground or in large pots or hanging planters, just ensure that they get plenty of sunlight if you want the highest yield and the sweetest fruit.
How Often Should I Water Strawberries?
Apart from an adequate amount of sunlight, strawberries also need plenty of water as they have a shallow root system. They are definitely not drought-hardy and don’t like being allowed to dry out. The soil needs to be kept moist at all times during their growing season.
How often you have to water your strawberries will depend entirely on how much rainfall your area receives and how you’re growing them. Strawberries that are grown in the ground in areas with plenty of rainfall may only need supplemental watering during summer. This could be every day or just once a week.
Bear in mind, though, that strawberry plants also need good drainage. They don’t like sitting in water as this will cause the roots to rot. Therefore, don’t plant your strawberries in an area that is constantly waterlogged, or you won’t have much success.
One of the most beneficial tools that you should invest in as a first-time strawberry grower is a moisture meter. With this tool, you can easily test the amount of moisture in the soil to determine whether you need to give your plants additional water or not. Basically, if the top inch or two of soil is dry, then you need to water.
Another helpful idea is to install an automatic watering system. This eliminates the need to get out with the hose and water your plants manually. Especially if you have to do this on a daily basis. For strawberries, a drip system is best because it directs the water straight to the roots where the plants need it.
The added advantage of using a drip system is that you can easily control the amount of water that your plants get to avoid over or under-watering them. Additionally, if you attach your drip system to a tap timer, you can set this to water automatically so that you don’t have to remember to turn it on when the weather is hot and dry.
Plants Grown In Pots Need More Water
If you’re growing your strawberry plants in containers, you have to be aware that these will dry out quicker and will need more water than plants grown in the ground. Terracotta pots are ideal for growing strawberries but are porous. This means that the water will drain away freely.
During the warmer weather, these will require watering on a daily basis. Once again, if the top inch or two of the soil is dry, the plants will need to be watered. You can help your plants to stay a little more hydrated by incorporating water-holding crystals into the potting mix. These crystals will absorb the moisture when you water and then release it to the plants as they need it.
Additionally, there are plenty of watering aids that you can purchase for plants grown in pots. These include watering bulbs and automatic drip systems designed to be used in containers.
Remember, too, that hanging baskets will dry out even faster than other containers. Therefore, you’ll have to be vigilant in keeping an eye on these when you’re experiencing very little rainfall.
Once again, you can rig up automatic drip systems for hanging pots that either connect to a tap or a water reservoir that you have to fill manually.
Best Soil For Strawberries
Strawberries do best in well-drained soil that has plenty of organic matter added to it. The soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. Adding plenty of compost or organic manure will ensure that your soil maintains this acidity and also provides plenty of nutrients for the growing plants.
If growing your strawberries in the ground, the soil should be friable and loamy. In fact, strawberries prefer a nice sandy loam that contains lots of added compost or decomposed organic matter. Once you’ve planted your strawberries, add a layer of mulch to the soil surface. It’s best to use hay or straw for this. This not only helps to hold some moisture in but will also keep the fruit off the soil and much cleaner.
It’s important to remember that strawberry plants do not like waterlogged soils. The plants need adequate drainage to grow well. If you feel that the plot that you want to plant your strawberries in does not have sufficient drainage, you can easily fix this by creating raised rows for your plants.
To do this, you can either create raised mounds using compost or quality potting mix, or you can install a raised garden bed. The raised bed should be around 6 to 8 inches high to facilitate good drainage. Fill this with either your own compost or buy some from your local garden center.
If you have the time, you can also improve your soil a couple of months before planting by adding lots of compost and aged manure. This is particularly useful if you have clay soil. As you add the organic material, work it into the clay to break up the particles as best as you can.
If you’re growing your strawberries in containers, then a commercially available potting mix will work extremely well. You could even add some additional compost to the mix to raise the acidity level and to add extra nutrients. For large pots, it’s also a good idea to add a layer of composted straw or hay to the surface of the soil. This will help to keep the soil cooler and keep enough moisture in.
Fertilizing Your Plants
Strawberries are heavy feeders, so they need plenty of nutrients to keep them growing, thriving, and producing plenty of luscious fruits. When you first plant your strawberries, you want to add a balanced fertilizer to encourage strong growth so that the plants can establish a good root system.
A balanced fertilizer should have close to equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). When looking at commercial fertilizers, you’ll see this listed on the pack as a series of three numbers. So, if fertilizer is labeled as 10-10-10, it means that it contains equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Organic fertilizers such as animal manures or bone meal are ideal for this as they generally contain fairly balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium. If the nitrogen content of the fertilizer is slightly higher, this is fine, as it will stimulate strong growth in your young plants.
The compost that you added to the soil will also help to provide the plants with additional nutrients. Then, once the plants are well established and they’re starting to produce flowers, it’s time to add some fertilizer that is high in potassium. This will help to stimulate fruit production.
You can use something like a tomato fertilizer from your local garden center, as this will be high in potassium. Alternatively, you can make your own potassium fertilizer by brewing some banana skin tea. Here’s what to do:
- Chop up some banana skins and pop them into a glass jar.
- Fill the jar to the brim with water.
- Put the lid on the jar and set it aside in a cool, dry spot for a week or so.
- After the water has colored, remove the peels and add them to your compost.
- Use nutrient-rich water on your strawberries.
Bananas are very high in potassium which fruiting plants absolutely love. Another tip is to bury some banana skins in the soil before you plant your strawberries. Once the skins break down, they’ll be feeding your plants for quite some time.
In containers, you can also use a slow-release fertilizer that will release nutrients to your plants when they need it. Then, around fruiting time, use a liquid fertilizer high in potassium once a week. This will feed the plants, and any excess will drain away so that there’s no buildup of fertilizer in the potting mix.
Strawberries are one of the easiest plants to grow for home gardeners. As long as you provide the plants with plenty of sunlight, water, and nutrients, you should be able to harvest some delicious, sweet fruit to enjoy all summer long.