How to grow strawberries in containers

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strawberries in cartons

Come spring, garden planning is in full swing.

If you start early enough, strawberries can be planted as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. Otherwise, you can purchase bare roots or pot-sold plants and plant them in containers.

Containers

Typically, strawberries are grown in what are known as strawberry jars. These containers have holes around them, which allow for multiple plants to be grown. Strawberry jars are oftentimes terracotta, but they can also be plastic, wood, clay or ceramic pottery. Strawberries can also be planted in hanging baskets, plastic pots or pallet structures.

strawberries in container
By Zanchetta Fabio (faxstaff) (http://ladriditalee.faxstaff.net/) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
According to information from the University of Illinois Extension, there are pros and cons to each type of pot. Clay pots must be soaked in water for at least an hour before planting strawberries. If you’re using a plastic pot, be aware that the pot may blow over in the wind. Ceramic pots can be very heavy to move.

No matter which type of strawberry pot you use, make sure it has a drainage hole on the bottom, just like other pots used for flowers and plants.

Types of strawberries

There are three basic types of strawberries, according to Ohio State University Extension:

June-bearing: Usually ripen between late May and early July; typically produce the largest crop of strawberries in a year.

Everbearing: These strawberries are the best for container growing. They produce one crop in late spring and a second crop in the early fall. When planted in the spring, the first crop will be produced that fall.

Day-neutral: Day-neutral strawberries produce fruit throughout most of the growing season. During the first year, a crop will be produced. Day-neutral strawberries can be treated like annuals.

If you want your plants to produce strawberries the first summer, your best bet is to purchase everbearing, or to plant all three types.

How to plant strawberries in containers

The University of Illinois Extension offers tips for growing strawberries in containers:

  1. Choose your container. If you’re using a strawberry pot, you can insert a piece of plastic pipe with holes drilled in it every inch or so. Place it vertically in the pot. When you go to water your strawberry plants, water into the pipe and the water will be distributed to all of the plants.
  2. You’ll be able to keep soil in the container while letting water out of the bottom drainage hole by placing a piece of cloth or screen at the bottom of the pot.
  3. Strawberries typically grow well in loose soil that drains well. Fill the container with new, sterile soil up until the lowest holes on the jars. Then, push the strawberry plants’ roots through the holes and lay them on the soil.
  4. Add more soil until you reach the next holes on the container. Continue until the container is full and you can plant strawberries out of the top hole.
  5. You can place sphagnum moss or crumpled up newspapers around holes to help keep soil in the pot.
  6. During the summer, apply slow-release fertilizer.

Planting tips

  1. Place container in full sun for maximum yield and best quality.
  2. Rotate the container every few days so that plants get equal amounts of sun.
  3. OSU Extension says strawberries need between 1 and 1.5 inches of water per week throughout the summer (mid-June to mid-August). The soil should not remain soggy for too long, though. Try to keep water off of leaves so the leaves don’t rot.

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