Nothing beats the taste of fresh homegrown strawberries in the summertime! Strawberry plants are a great crop for beginner gardeners; they’re super easy to plant and will keep growing year after year. In this guide, I’m going to cover 5 simple steps on how to grow strawberries, as well as include a few tips of my own to ensure you maximise your harvest come summertime.
I’ve also included a short video below of us planting strawberries in our new strawberry patch this year. Watch out for a certain uninvited guest that appeared partway through filming!
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1) Choose a Sunny Spot, Plant in Winter
Wintertime is the time to plant strawberries. Generally speaking, in warmer areas of New Zealand plant sometime between June and September (around the time you start longing for hot summer days!). In cooler climates where it’s likely to snow, aim to plant in August/September.
When choosing a spot to plant your strawberries, select a location that has full sun. A minimum of 6 hrs of sunlight is fine, but if you have a spot closer to 9 or 10hrs this is ideal and will ensure bigger, more flavoursome fruit.
Strawberry plants have shallow roots which makes them a great crop to grow in garden beds but also in pots, hanging baskets or any form of container. I’ve seen people grow strawberries in old gutters, a retired wheelbarrow, even an old compost bin makes a great vessel for strawberry plants.
A quick side note here…One year I tried growing strawberry plants in vertical hanging pockets on my deck. Strawberries need to be watered regularly so in the heat of summer, they probably needed watering at least twice a day as they were in full sun. I watered everyday but with so little soil in the pockets, they dried out too quickly and in the end I got one single strawberry out of 9 plants that year!
So just a recommendation, if you’re considering a vertical garden but don’t think you’ll remember to water twice a day, it might be worth investing in a self watering planter like this, otherwise try and find room in a garden bed. This way you can really enjoy an abundant crop over summer!
2) Prepare the Soil & Add Compost
As with all veggie gardening, the better the soil the better your plants will grow. If you refer back to my beginners gardening guide you’ll remember food is a key ingredient that plants need to thrive.
Once you’ve cleared all weeds and roots from your strawberry patch, add compost to the soil and turn it over with a spade to mix it through evenly. In the video above we found a resident rat was living near our home compost bin who didn’t appreciate being disturbed!
If you have some sheep pellets, these also make a great addition to the soil. You can also buy purpose-made strawberry food called Strawberry Mix (such as Tui Strawberry Mix) in bags from your local garden centre which is high in potassium to encourage strawberry plants to fruit.
3) Create Mounds for Your Plants
Strawberry plants don’t like getting their feet wet so creating mounds (about 10cm high and 40cm apart) is a great way to help with drainage and prevent ground fruit from rotting. Run mounds north to south in your garden to optimise the sun hitting your plants.
Allow 30cm between each strawberry plant. Before planting, consider soaking strawberry seedlings in an organic seaweed solution to give them an extra boost. Alternatively, in the video, I added some slow-release fertiliser to each hole before I planted my plants. Again this is all to maximise the nutrients in the soil and encourage a good crop for summer.
Garden Tip! After you plant, pick the first flowers that bud so that the plant focuses its energy on growth instead.
4) Cover with Straw
Seeing as the strawberry plant itself is named after ‘straw’, I would suggest it’s a rather necessary addition to a strawberry patch!
Adding pea straw works four-fold; it locks in moisture, prevents pests, minimises weeds, and help prevent fruit from rotting if it’s touching the ground.
After planting, spread straw evenly across your strawberry patch (or pot) and right up to the base of each plant.
5) Protect from Birds & Bugs
When you notice your plants beginning to flower, it’s time to bird proof your strawberry patch. If you don’t, the word will soon get out on ‘twitter’ and the local bird club will be feasting on all your hard work! A quick Google or Pinterest search will give you some great tools for bird proofing your berry crop.
Slugs and snails are also keen strawberry addicts. Straw is one way to prevent these guys from sneaking around, but if you do notice a lot of them there are a few different pest control solutions. Spread some snail and slug pellets around each plant, or for a more natural solution create a beer trap. To make a beer trap, simply dig a small plastic cup into the ground so it’s sitting at ground level, then fill it with beer. Snails and slugs love the stuff! Just don’t forget to change it regularly or it will start to stink!
The great thing about growing strawberries is that once you’ve planted them you can more or less leave them to it. But to ensure a bumper crop come summer, here are my top strawberry growing tips.
Strawberry Planting Tips
- Plant 5 plants per person to ensure enough strawberries to go around.
- Water, water, water!
- Feed regularly (every 4-6 weeks) with a seaweed solution or potash rich fertiliser to boost plant growth. When flowers appear this is the most important time to fertilise so they focus their energy in producing berries!
- When possible, it’s a good idea to plant different varieties of strawberries to maximise the harvesting window.
- Over summer your plants will start to produce runners (offshoots from the main plant). You can pick these and plant them directly in the soil to grow a new strawberry plant. Whether you replant them or not, it’s a good idea to remove runners while the plant is fruiting so that it directs all its energy into growing fruit.
- Strawberry plants are perennials which means they’ll keep producing year after year. Compared to the first year, the second year and third year will be your best yield, but they should continue to produce after that. Some say to replace your plants every three years but see how you go as there are many different conditions and strawberry varieties out there.
Other than that, all that’s left to do is wait for summer! Happy planting everyone; as always I love seeing your creations and fruit harvest so don’t forget to share 🙂
About the Author
Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.