Strawberries are one of the tastiest ways to get lots of vitamins A, C, and folate, and the minerals calcium, selenium, and magnesium. Your homegrown strawberries will taste much better than the store varieties, but will probably not be as large. It is easy to grow strawberries in containers and children will love helping you. Strawberry plants are pretty, with dark green, thick leaves and white and yellow flowers. Some varieties trail over the edge of a pot, making a decorative display.
Strawberries are a perennial plant, meaning they can live for several years. But when they are planted in a container, they will probably only be productive for one year. You can try to overwinter them if you keep them from getting too cold during freezing weather by moving them to a south facing wall in warmer zones. Healthy runners or offshoots can be planted for future crops.
How to Plant Strawberries in a Pot
A soil pH of 4 to 6.5 is but that a range of 5.5 to 7.0 is acceptable. The soil should be well draining with lots of organic matter to hold moisture. Strawberry plants whose roots stand in water susceptible to diseases rotting. When planting strawberries, cover only the top of the roots.
If your plants are ordered through the mail, open them immediately and check for mold. The mail order company should refund you for these, so contact them immediately to find out the procedures. Store plants wrapped in moist paper towels in the refrigerator until planting time. Plants can take fairly dry conditions without becoming damaged.
The best time to plant strawberries is in early spring after the last frost. Although strawberry plants will survive freezes, late frosts will destroy any blossoms and have a detrimental effect on new foliage. If you are expecting a frost, either cover your plants until temperatures are over 35° or bring them inside.
Best Types of Strawberries for Containers
The best types of strawberries for pots are day neutral or everbearing varieties, and some growers do not make a distinction between the two varieties. The other type, June-bearing strawberries, must be planted a year before harvesting in order to produce a good crop, and the flowers and runners should be removed so that the plants will focus on growing a good root system. They are the best for producing one large crop in early summer.
Everbearing varieties have two to three flowering and fruiting periods during spring, late summer and fall. Everbearing strawberries put most of their energy into producing berries and do not produce many runners.
Day neutral strawberries produce fruit throughout the summer and produce a few runners. They produce a good yield of fruit the first year they are planted and will continue to produce as long as the temperature is between 35° and 85°. Their fruit is smaller than June bearing and everbearing fruits and they will begin producing in June and continue until fall frosts.
Common Problems with Growing Strawberries
Strawberries will suffer in conditions which are too moist or crowded. Everything loves strawberries, from slugs to birds, so you must protect them. Birds do not recognize yellow berried varieties as food, so will typically not eat them.
Strawberries will suffer if they do not have enough nitrogen or phosphorus. In order to determine this, you cannot judge either the newest leaves at the top of the plant or the older leaves toward the bottom. If the middle-aged leaves are yellow, this could mean that they are nitrogen deficient. If they are purple, they could be deficient of either phosphorus or nitrogen. Yellow leaves could also be a sign of disease, which would necessitate destroying the plant. If you are unsure as to the cause of discolored leaves, try isolating the plant from all others and providing organic fertilizer in a sunny place.
Poorly formed strawberries may be caused by inadequate pollination or by disease. Bee populations have been on the decline due to many factors, including the use of pesticides. If bees cannot get to your strawberries, you can pollinate them with a small brush.
When harvesting strawberries, do not wash them until you are ready to use them, as this destroy the natural shine and will limit their storage life. Refrigerate in shallow containers in the coldest part of your refrigerator and use within 3 to 4 days.
Strawberries Varieties of for Containers
The best way to choose strawberry varieties is according to how you will use them and your growing conditions. If you would like a constant supply from June (or earlier in warm areas) to frost, choose two or three varieties.
Fort Laramie strawberry is an everbearing day neutral variety with large fruit good for eating fresh, freezing, or making into jam. It works best in the colder areas and is ideal for hanging baskets.
Seascape strawberry is an everbearing variety with sweet, high-quality berries. It produces well from June through October and works well in hot dry climates. It is disease resistant and hardy in zones 7-9.
Eversweet™ strawberry is an everbearing variety which produces well from spring through fall, even in hot weather and high humidity. The large berries are good for eating fresh or freezing. Hardy in zones 6-10.
Ozark Beauty strawberry is one of the most popular everbearing strawberries and produces well from summer through fall. It produces sweet, flavorful fruit ideal for preserves or freezing.
Quinault strawberry is an everbearing variety which produces large, sweet fruit. It is good for eating fresh, for desserts, and for making preserves, but does not freeze well. It is recommended for cool areas.
Fragissimo strawberry is in usual in that it produces pink blossoms rather than the usual white and yellow flowers. It produces large red berries and is perfect for hanging baskets. Hardy zones 4-9.
German Alpine Yellow strawberry has yellow berries which birds do not usually find, so you will not need to protect them. It has firm, sweet, aromatic fruit that is perfect for eating fresh. It is a compact non-trailing variety that does well in containers. Hardy in zones 4-9.
Italian Alpine Red strawberry is from Italy and produces tiny berries on compact plants with few runners. Even though the fruit is small is very flavorful. It is ideal for pots and containers.
With a little planning, your family can enjoy fresh strawberries from containers from June through frost. Strawberries are an excellent project for children because they are easy and rewarding. They are a pretty plant that will be decorative near your door.