A lot of home gardeners grow their strawberries in pots and discard them like annuals, but did you know that you can save money and actually grow more and more strawberries every year?!
Strawberries Are a Perennial Plant
Strawberries are actually perennial plants, which means they go dormant over the winter months and grow back the following year! Many gardeners treat them like annuals and repurchase new plants the following spring. While strawberry plants can continue to produce fruit for multiple years, they can tend to decline in productivity after the first year or two. But don’t make this stop reading…Strawberries have a big secret behind them that many gardeners don’t take advantage of that I will explain further in this post.
Tip: Learn how to keep your freshly picked strawberries fresh for weeks using just a mason jar!
Types of Strawberry Plants
These are the most common type of strawberries and are often referred to as “spring-bearing” strawberries. They produce a single large crop of fruit in early summer, typically in June, depending on the region. June-bearing strawberries are known for their high-quality, sweet fruit.
Fruiting Season: June-bearing strawberries typically produce a single, large crop of fruit in early summer, usually in the month of June. The exact timing of fruiting can vary depending on your location and local climate conditions. In some regions, they may start producing as early as late May or extend into early July!
Plant Growth: These strawberries tend to have a more compact growth habit compared to other types. They produce a cluster of flowers at the end of each runner, leading to the formation of fruit. After fruiting, the plants may send out runners to establish new plants.
Yield: June-bearing varieties are known for producing a high yield of fruit during their main harvest period. The abundant crop makes them well-suited for backyard gardens and those looking to harvest a significant quantity of strawberries at once for preserving.
Want to preserve your own strawberries? Learn how to dehydrate strawberries for a sweet snack, or can some strawberry jam with this beginner friendly strawberry jam canning recipe!
Everbearing varieties produce two or more crops of fruit throughout the growing season. The first crop is usually in late spring or early summer, followed by additional smaller crops in late summer and early fall. Everbearing strawberries are suitable for growers who want a more extended harvest period.
Fruiting Season: Everbearing strawberries are called “everbearing” or “day-neutral” because they produce fruit continuously throughout the growing season. While they may produce fewer fruits during extreme heat or cold, they typically bear fruit in late spring or early summer, followed by smaller crops in late summer and early fall. Some varieties may produce fruit even earlier and later in the season, depending on your location.
Plant Growth: Everbearing strawberry plants tend to have a more compact and bushy growth habit, which can make them suitable for smaller garden spaces. They produce flowers and fruit continuously throughout the summer months.
Yield: While everbearing strawberries produce multiple crops, the individual crop sizes are generally smaller compared to the single, large harvest of June-bearing strawberries. This makes them a good choice for gardeners who prefer a more extended harvest season.
hese strawberries produce fruit continuously throughout the growing season, regardless of day length. They are similar to everbearing strawberries in that they offer a more extended harvest period. Day-neutral varieties are often chosen for their ability to provide a consistent supply of fruit.
Fruiting Season: Day-neutral strawberries live up to their name by producing fruit throughout the growing season, regardless of the day length or temperature. They can bear fruit from late spring to early fall, and in some regions, even longer, providing a steady supply of strawberries.
Plant Growth: Day-neutral strawberry plants are known for their compact, bushy growth habit, which makes them well-suited for small garden spaces and container gardening. They continuously produce flowers and fruit as long as the conditions are suitable.
Yield: While individual crops of day-neutral strawberries are generally smaller compared to the single large harvest of June-bearing strawberries, the cumulative yield over the season can be substantial. This makes them an excellent choice for those who want a continuous supply of fresh strawberries.
These are native strawberry species that grow in the wild. They are typically smaller and have a more intense, sweet flavor. Wild strawberries can be used for culinary purposes and are sometimes cultivated in gardens.
Fruiting Season: Wild strawberries, also known as woodland strawberries, typically produce fruit in late spring to early summer, although the exact timing may vary based on local climate and conditions.
Plant Growth: Wild strawberries have a trailing growth habit and tend to form low ground covers. Their leaves are trifoliate, and they produce small, white flowers that give rise to the small, red berries.
Yield: Wild strawberries usually have a lower yield compared to domestic varieties because of their smaller fruit size.
2 Ways to Reproduce Strawberry Plants
Strawberries reproduce through two main methods: runners (also called stolons) and by seed. Here’s an overview of each method:
Runners are the most common method of strawberry reproduction. These are long, horizontal stems that grow from the parent plant and develop new plantlets (baby strawberry plants) along their length. Here’s how the process works:
- The mother plants send out runners, which are thin, above-ground stems that creep along the soil’s surface.
- At regular intervals along the runner, small nodes or “daughter plants” develop.
- Each node or daughter plant has the potential to develop into a new, genetically identical strawberry plant if it is allowed to root in the soil.
- You can choose to either allow these daughter plants to root and grow into new strawberry plants or cut the runners to control the spread of the plant and encourage fruit production on the parent plant.
Strawberries can also be propagated from seeds, though this method take a little longer and effort before you will see your first fruits. Here’s how it works:
- Strawberry seeds are obtained from ripe strawberries by scraping them from the fruit’s surface.
- The seeds are then sown in a seed-starting mix or potting soil, typically in the late winter or early spring.
- Once the seeds germinate and develop into seedlings, they can be transplanted into the garden or into individual pots for further growth.
While both methods of growing new strawberry plants are successful, runners are the favorite of propagating strawberries for most gardeners.
Overwintering Strawberry Plants
Avoiding pruning: Many gardeners suggest pruning in the fall or winter. You want as much foliage to protect the crown of the plant from the cold temperatures. If you want to prune back your plants, do so after they are finished fruiting in the summer and avoid any pruning past late summer.
Put the strawberry plantings in the ground: If you grew your strawberries as container plants, plant them in the ground in mid to late fall. If you want to take advantage of their runners to produce more plants, plant them in the ground mid to late summer to allow the runners to grow. I will be creating a post in propagating runners very soon.
Fertilize: Apply a balanced, slow-release organic fertilizer. The goal is to provide the plants with the nutrients they need for the upcoming growing season that will release as the soil warms up in the spring.
Watering: Reduce the frequency of watering in the fall as the plants begin to go dormant. Make sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged.
Mulch the Strawberry Patch: Apply a layer of mulch using pine straw, straw, or other types of mulch. Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch over the strawberry plants once the weather starts to cool. I cover our strawberry bed with straw the same time I plant garlic in the fall. This mulch helps protect the plants from freezing temperatures and temperature fluctuations.
Uncovering Strawberries in Spring
Uncover strawberry bed: In early spring, after your last frost date, begin gradually removing the straw mulch from the strawberry bed to allow the plants to wake up from dormancy.
Clean out debris and add compost: After removing the mulch, remove any dead or damaged plants and foliage. Apply a generous amount of organic compost to the top of the fertile soil and work in lightly with your fingers. Avoid covering the crown of the strawberry plant, as this is where new shoots will form.
Apply new mulch: apply a thin layer of new straw mulch, but this time work the mulch around the strawberry plants, ensuring the crown is not covered.
Water: Water if needed (if the soil seems dry, or no rain is in the 12 hour forecast).
Fertilize: Once new leaves start to form, apply a fish emulsion fertilizer while watering to give the strawberries a boost. I also like to apply a natural fruit or flower fertilizer to encourage blossom growth.
Maintaining the Size of Your Strawberry Patch
If you let the runners of the mother plants go wild, your strawberry patch will double each year. We started with 12 strawberry plants our first year, and it grew to over 50 the next year, and over 150 the third. During your second or third year, monitor what strawberry plants are producing well and which are not. As the plant ages, it will produce less and less strawberries. It is a good idea to remove any plants that are not producing well or at all.
If left unmaintained, your strawberry patch will take over and spread, if you have runners growing in walkways or rooted in an area you don’t like, simple dig up the small daughter plant, cut from the mother, and plant in a new location. Be sure to water to help new root growth in it’s new location.
You can even pot up and sell your daughter plants to make some extra side income. Sell them at your local farmers market, online marketplace, or at a roadside stand.
Overwintering Potted Strawberries
Choose the Right Container: Ensure that you have your strawberries planted in containers that are suitable for overwintering. Terracotta or plastic pots are commonly used. Make sure the containers have drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging.
Overwinter Location: Find a location that provides protection from extreme cold, strong winds, and excessive moisture. You can move the pots into an unheated garage, shed, or porch if the temperature in those spaces doesn’t drop too low.
Prune the Plants: In late fall, remove any dead or diseased leaves.
Mulch for Insulation: Apply a layer of mulch to the top of the soil in the pots. Straw, pine straw, or shredded leaves work well. This mulch layer will help insulate the soil and protect the roots from freezing.
Protect from Extreme Temperatures: If the winter temperatures in your area regularly drop below freezing, you may need additional insulation. You can wrap the pots in bubble wrap or burlap to provide extra protection.
Watering: Water the potted strawberries sparingly during the winter. The soil should be kept slightly moist, but not soggy as overwatering can lead to root rot.
Check Periodically: Throughout the winter, check on your potted strawberries periodically to ensure they are not drying out or experiencing any issues with pests or diseases.
Bringing Them Back Out: As spring approaches after your last frost date, you can gradually acclimate your strawberries to outdoor conditions by moving them back to their original outdoor location. Remove the protective mulch and gradually expose them to increasing amounts of sunlight.
Fertilize and Prune: After the last frost, give your plants a light dose of balanced organic fertilizer. Once they start to show signs of new growth, prune any dead or damaged leaves and thin the plants to encourage healthy leaf and blossom growth.
Regular Care: Resume your regular care routine, including regular watering and feeding, throughout the growing season.
By following these steps, you can successfully overwinter strawberries and ensure a healthy crop for your upcoming growing season!
More Fall Gardening Tip:
- How to Overwinter Geraniums
- How to Plant Garlic in the Fall
- How to Compost with a Compost Tumbler
- How to Plan a Canning Garden