Growing Strawberries In Containers
There are many reasons that gardeners prefer to be growing strawberries in containers and pots as opposed to planting them in the garden.
First and probably the most obvious is that you don’t need as much space to plant strawberries in containers. For those who are limited in the amount of planting plots they have, containers are an ideal way to grow strawberries.
You’ll also be able to move your strawberry planters during extreme weather conditions. During times of extreme heat you will be able to move them to a shadier area and if it hails, rains or gets too cold you have the benefit of being able to move your plants inside.
Since you’re working with a smaller growing area, you can plant your strawberries a little later in the season when planting in containers as opposed to planting in your garden. This smaller growing area can also lead to better fruit production the first growing season. Some strawberry plants will not fruit the first year when grown in a traditional strawberry garden, however with container gardening you should be able to harvest your fruit the very first year you plant them.
Day Neutrals and everbearing strawberry varieties are the best types to grow in containers. June-bearing strawberries have too many runners and their growth will be stifled in a pot. They need more space than your average strawberry planter will provide.
There really aren’t a lot of restrictions to the type of container you can grow your strawberries in, other than you need to somewhat consider the size of the pot. Remember, strawberries have runners and reproduce, so you’ll want a pot size that will allow your strawberry plants to spread. Yes, that being said, I’ve had success with growing strawberries in everyday run-of-the-mill pots. The trick is to limit the number of plants to 2-3 per pot so as not to overcrowd.
It’s best to stick with a pot or planter that is at least 16″ across the top and 12″ deep. Strawberries do have a shallow root system so 12″ is ample depth when planting strawberries in pots. Of course larger containers will provide you with a larger area to plant-producing more fruit.
Strawberry Hanging Basket
Okay, so I realize these aren’t strawberries in these hanging baskets, but you get the idea.
Hanging baskets are great containers for strawberry plants and also make for easy pickin’.
Just make sure the basket has ample drainage (such as these cocoa lined baskets). If you chose a basket that doesn’t have holes for drainage, just punch a few in the bottom and then cover with a coffee filter or something porous so that the dirt doesn’t drain down to unwanted areas.
Also make sure that the hanging hook is placed in a secure area. These baskets tend to get quite heavy when watered and you don’t want them falling down and losing all your berries.
When you’re planting your berries in a hanging basket with the pre-lined cocoa fiber such as the ones above, make sure to soak the pot before planting. Then cover the moist cocoa fiber with a lining of sphagnum (peat moss) before filling with soil. The sphagnum peat moss will help with water retention in the hanging basket.
Some people call them strawberry pots, some call them strawberry jars, and you’ll even find them under the name of pocket planters.
No matter what they’re called…I call them my absolute favorite way to grow strawberries. You can find strawberry pots with any number of pockets. We’re just showing you a couple of our favorites here.
There’s just something so eye catching and appealing about a planted strawberry pot. Plus, these pots are easier to manage and maintain than a traditional strawberry garden or bed.
Of course you don’t have to plant strawberries in them. Many gardeners use these for herbs and flowers, so you’re not limited to what you can plant in a “strawberry pot”.
I’ve added a couple videos at the bottom of this page on how to care for and plant strawberry pots. Some people think that strawberry jars are hard to plant. They’re really not. The trickier part of using a strawberry jar is watering them. One of the videos at the bottom of the page shows you a fairly simple system of installing PVC piping into the pot for easier watering.
Essentially, when planting strawberry pots you begin planting from the bottom and move up pocket by pocket. First fill the bottom of the strawberry pot with a good organic rich loose soil. Only fill to the bottom of the first pocket on the strawberry jar. Then, depending on the size of your plants, you can either place your strawberry plants into the pockets of this level from the outside opening of the pocket, or pull them through from the inside of the pot through the pocket. Do not cover the crown of the plant with soil. Water the soil at this point.
(If you chose to pull them from the inside through to the pocket, I’d recommend that you first cover your plant with a plastic baggie to prevent damage to the plant while pulling it through.)
Then add more soil up to the bottom of the next pocket, place your plants in the pocket and continue up until all pockets are filled, remembering to water each level of soil as you move up the pot and compacting the soil as you go. Make sure to compact the soil good at each pocket level so that the soil doesn’t spill out of the pockets when you water it. Also, do not overfill the pot with soil. Your soil should end at the beginning of the neck of the pot. This will allow you ample room to water the pot without having the soil draining off when you water.
If you’ve used a good loose soil, and compact planting, you shouldn’t have any problem watering your strawberry pots. Just water from the top, let it drain down, then keep watering until the water has reached the bottom pockets. These pots have a good drainage system on the bottom so if you’re patient and just add a little water at a time, allowing it to flow down, you shouldn’t have any problems.
The very first time I planted strawberries it was in one of these good old whiskey barrels that was given to me by a friend who was moving. Mine was cut horizontally rather than vertically like this one.
My strawberry plants thrived in that old barrel, and the only reason I don’t use it any longer is because I re-landscaped the yard and there just wasn’t a good spot for it any longer. It was also very very heavy and hard to move around, so that made it a little more difficult to work with, so I passed it on to another friend of mine who now has it planted full of flowers.
I don’t have any resources to share with you for finding good old whiskey barrels. There was a great article on Man Made that I once read on where to find whiskey barrels, however I can’t seem to locate that article again on their site. I remember it suggested looking on your local Craigslist and newspaper ads and searching Ebay. You can also search online. If you’re lucky enough to find one at a good price, I think you’ll love planting your strawberries in it because you can plant many more plants than a traditional pot or planter.
I just came across this strawberry tower while doing a search online one day and thought it was kind of neat looking. They also refer to it as a strawberry bag, but it is durable and reusable . Other than that, it’s pretty much like a strawberry pot, although a little lighter in weight and also has handles at the top for easy mobility.
You can plant up to 12 individual strawberry plants in this strawberry tub (tower) and it gives you a full 18″ in height for the plants to meander their way down.
The tower has 8 pockets where you can plant one individual plant each, and you are able to plant an additional 4 in the 14″ diameter top surface.
It’s a very green and ecological planter for those who like myself are eager to help reduce their footprints for future generations.
They are a little pricier than some other strawberry planters so you might want to consider that. I’ve never used one myself, nor could I find any reviews about the product (after a very brief search), but as I said, I thought it was a great organic gardening product that seems to be ideal for those who are looking to grow strawberries in containers and pots.
More Strawberry Planters
As I said, you can plant strawberries in just about any type of pot or planter as long as it has the right dimensions. Most gardeners agree that the planter should be close to 12″ deep. They’ll disagree as to the required diameter. Some will say 12″ in diameter while others will tell you at least 18″ in diameter.
I say 12″ in diameter is just fine for 2, maybe 3 plants. My preference is to go with 14″ and up.
The thing I really like about these two planters pictured is that they’re self-watering. Strawberries definitely need to be watered, and the self-watering aspect of both of these makes it easy to care for and grow strawberries in containers.
The one on the right, the recycled stone planters, are actually made from fiberglass along with recycled resin and leftover stone from road construction so they’re very eco-friendly. I’ve added a picture of the self-watering kit below, which is included with both of these styles of planters.
Planting Strawberries In Containers and Their Care
Make sure that no matter which container you chose to plant your strawberries in, the container is clean. Soak it and give it a good water bath before planting. Scrub off any residual salts from the pot. Some pots can also be soaked in a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach for 10-15 minutes, however this may not be recommended for terra cotta pots and some others.
After you have initially plant your strawberries into the container, I recommend that you pinch off any existing flower blossoms and berries. Your plants will produce and thrive much better if you do this.
The only things you really need to keep in mind when planting strawberries in containers is to harden them off for a week or more before transplanting to your pot, use the right organic potting mix, and dig the holes deep enough to cover the bare roots but not so deep as to cover the crown.
Strawberry plants are able to adapt to many different soil types, but when planting strawberries in containers you should be looking for a good organic loomy potting mix or peat moss that has a slow release fertilizer to help your plants get started. If you watch the video below “Planting Strawberry Pots”, you’ll see where they recommend Black Gold potting mix. If you’re using one of the self-watering containers that I mentioned above, you may want to consider this All-Organic Self Watering Container Mix which also works well in containers that are not self-watering.
Strawberry plants require 1 1/2″-2″ of water per week. The good old finger in the soil test is the best way to determine if your strawberry plants need water. If the soil is moist…don’t water them; if it’s dry…do water them. Just don’t overwater your plants as this will lead to them standing in water which will cause root rot. Just keep the soil moist.
Make sure that your strawberry planters have adequate drainage so that any excess water is able to drain from the container.
With some of the more traditional pots, you can convert them to self-watering with something like this self-watering conversion kit. This kit will convert str16″-20″ awberry containers from into self-watering containers. All you have to do is fill up the reservoir from the tubing at the top and evaporative action will cause the soil to moisten itself from the 4 quart reservoir. Pretty nifty! Great idea for busy gardeners on the go or for those times when you’ll be gone on vacations.
Strawberries themselves are 95% water, so if you don’t tend to their watering needs you will end up with hard stunted berries.
Strawberries should be fertilized once per month with a good 10-10-10 fertilizer. I’ve read others say to fertilize every two weeks. I disagree. Over fertilization of strawberry plants can lead to overproduction of leaves, and this results in loss of flowering and stunting of berries.
Since strawberry plants growing in containers tend to flower and fruit the first year, I don’t recommend fertilizing during the initial fruiting. Too much nitrogen will result in overgrown leaves and inhibited fruit. The same thing applies to late season fertilizing. This can cause new leaf growth which can result in damage to the plants during cold weather frosts.
Most container grown strawberries are day-neutrals and everbearing, both of which can be fertilized after the initial harvest.
If you’re uncertain or unsure whether or not to fertilize, then don’t. This is a case where “less may be better”. If you use the right soil upon the initial planting, or use a good self-fertilizing organic potting mix, you shouldn’t have any problems. Figuring out the right times and right amounts of fertilizer for strawberries that are growing in pots is best left to experience.
I can’t stress enough that strawberry plants are “sun lovers”. Most varieties require 12 hours of sun per day. Although there are a few varieties that can get by with as little as 6 hours, those same varieties would prefer the full 12 hours to perform and produce their best. Make sure you place your strawberry planters in an area where they will be receiving lots of sun throughout the day.
Pests And Critters
Slugs, birds and squirrels are your most likely enemies for strawberries in containers. If the birds or squirrels are causing you problems and eating all your berries, you can keep them away by covering the plants with netting. Gardeners Supply has a great non-tangle, non-toxic mesh bird netting that is humane and eco-friendly.
We have a fountain in our backyard that is a heaven to every single bird in the neighborhood, and although I enjoy watching the birds in the fountain , it also attracts them to our cherry tree and strawberry planters. I bought this netting and never looked back. It kept the critters away and we were able to enjoy our strawberries and cherries before they all got devoured by the animal life. Plus, the birds still flock to the fountain so I still get to enjoy them too.
Washington State Extension also had a good article on keeping birds away from fruits that you may want to read.
Although I’ve never personally had a problem with slugs, I’ve talked to others that have. Apparently the best way to keep them away from your strawberry containers is to place a copper strip or tubing all the way around the outside diameter (rim) at the top of your pot. Something about the copper that the slugs just don’t like.
Winter care of strawberries growing in containers is rather easy. You can either bring your pots and planters indoors or into a warmer area of your home or you can mulch the planters for insulation and protection. Mulching also aids in keeping away weeds (which is not as much of a problem in planters as it is with strawberry beds, however weeds can still be blown into your planters from other parts of your yard or neighborhood).
Planting Strawberry Pots
Planting Strawberry Pots Using PVC Pipe
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