Strawberries (Fragaria ananassa) will lend themselves readily to container gardening in USDA Zones 3-11. They don’t require tremendous amounts of open space and their roots are relatively shallow.
They can thrive in smaller containers. Pots and planters situated on a balcony or deck will suffice.
Growing in containers is also a good way to protect your crop from being ravaged by critters that like strawberries as much as we do.
Although they will grow in relatively small pots as opposed to other garden crops, bigger is better. Good drainage holes should be in every pot you plant in.
A 16- to 18-inch diameter container is great, particularly for June bearing strawberries. 5 gallon buckets with drainage holes drilled into it work well also.
Strawberries are shallow rooted, so the larger containers don’t have to be filled to the brim with costly potting soil. Try filling the lower third with empty plastic bottles, or other non-metallic, non-organic refuse.
This will not only save on potting soil but make a lighter weight and more easily mobile container. I sometimes use clay pebbles left over from my hydroponics garden, they aren’t all that heavy, and lend themselves well to providing adequate drainage.
If you choose to go with a smaller container, such as hanging basket or an upside down planter, this will also work. For smaller containers the best strawberries are alpine or day neutral varieties. An 8 inch planter can accommodate 3 plants, 12 inch 5 plants.
Grown indoors you can be harvesting strawberries 12 months out of the year, they can also be grown hydroponically. See – Hydroponic Strawberries
In balmy summer weather pots heat up significantly quicker than ground soil, so keeping them well watered and mulched to retain moisture is highly advisable.
Water is especially important while the fruit is forming, from early bloom to the end of harvest.
Everbearing and day-neutral strawberries must be watered during dry periods to maintain good fruit production. Flower buds form on June-bearing strawberries in late summer and fall. The flower buds will bloom the following spring, they should not be abandoned simply because they aren’t producing at the moment – they will produce again next season.
Strawberry Propagation Techniques and Tips
Mulch on the soils surface, such as wood chips or decorative bark is not only aesthetically appealing inside or outside it is beneficial to the health of your strawberry plants.
Trays under the pots are used for house plants to catch excessive water, they aren’t necessary with outdoor plants. The trays will hold too much moisture at the base of the roots, for too long and could not only lead to root rots, but can literally drown the plant. When you give a baby a bath, you don’t hold his head under water – don’t do it to your strawberry plant.
Excessively watered strawberries can develop Iron Chlorosis very easily. It is characterized by pale, yellowed leaves with dark green veins. In severe cases, the edges of the leaves will dry up and turn brown. Yields are typically dismal.
Soil, Fertilizer, and Compost
Soil nutrients in container plants is leeched away via drainage more rapidly than in conventional gardens. A diluted, balanced, soluble fertilizer every 7 – 10 days is advisable. 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. If your strawberry plants produce abundant lush green foliage, but very little fruit, stop fertilizing – they are probably getting too much nitrogen.
Soil pH in the range of 5.5 to 6.5 is considered optimal, but good yields have been produced with a pH as high as the 7.5 range.
Compost added to the containers s a good idea only if you intend to keep the plant outdoors. Indoors – well yes, it will still benefit the plant but compost and other decaying organic matter is not something I normally bring into my home. Some people use worm castings, if you have access to these -go for it. See Worm Composting.
If at all possible try not to use soil from your yard, especially if you are going to bring your plants inside. Potting soil with some vermiculite and or perlite is best. If you are planning to use ground soil – it will work – but potting soil is best. See: DIY Potting Soil
Strawberries do best in full sun, at least 6-8 hours daily. Whether you are growing them indoors or out, choose a well lit area – inside near a southern exposure window – outdoors , in a sunny spot.
Artificial light also works fine – no – not the standard household light bulbs , they lack the requisite light spectrum that natural sunlight provides. Fluorescent or other grow lights are best. Grown indoors you can be harvesting strawberries 12 months out of the year, they can also be grown hydroponically.
Strawberries need pollination to set fruit, they are not wind pollinated, they need pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies. If your plants are growing in containers indoors or in a sheltered porch – this isn’t going to happen so you will either need to hand pollinate them or place them outdoors when they are flowering to let Mother Nature do her job.
Outdoors you will want to attract bees and pollinating insects to the plants. Placing them near blooming flowers will help. One plant prized for attracting bees is Borage. Borage attracts pollinators as well as beneficial insects that prey on many strawberry pests.