How to Grow Strawberries Outdoors

Grow strawberries from seeds, stolons, or seedlings. Learn how to harvest in the first season all summer long and keep the plants for many years. This is the ultimate guide to learn How to Grow Strawberries Outdoors and Care for the Strawberries Crop.

Growing strawberries from their seeds is a complicated task since it takes time to germinate and the success is low. However, it’s simple from previously purchased seedlings or reproducing the plants by stolons (runners).

After harvest the best thing is to enjoy it fresh and in high season, we recommend you take advantage and prepare jams that last all year.

Choose the Correct Variety of Strawberries for Grow Outdoors

There are different types of strawberries. Strawberry varieties (Fragaria ananassa D.) are classified according to their requirement of daylight hours. Learn How to Grow Strawberries Outdoors.

Short-day varieties: are those that respond to photoperiods of less than 14 hours of light. This group generally presents two harvest periods in the year. Some examples: Camarosa, Camino Real, Safari, Mojave, Sabrina, Sahara.

Neutral day varieties: they do not respond to the number of daylight hours (day length) and only need soil temperatures above 53.6 F (12 °C) to produce flowers. Its production is more homogeneous throughout the season. They respond adequately to forced systems under tunnels or greenhouses. For instance: San Andreas, Portola, Monterrey, Amandine, Cristal.

In general terms we can distinguish the following:

Perpetual Harvest – Everbearing strawberries produce two separate crops each year. Their first crop ripens in spring, followed by a heavier second crop of smaller berries in early fall. Because they require a long growing season, everbearing varieties are not always recommended for northern regions. Popular varieties include Ogallala, Dunlap, Geneva, Ozark Beauty, and Superfection.

Alpine strawberries – Fruits are tiny and deliciously sweet and are similar to the strawberries you find growing wild. Alpine strawberries do not send out runners. Instead, they form compact mounds that are perfect for edgings around vegetable, flower, or herb gardens.

Day-neutral variety – This variety will produce fruits all summer long. Regardless of the length of the day, they will produce flowers and fruits. Some recommended day-neutral varieties are Tristar, Tribute, and Brighton.

If you want to make canned strawberries, the early variety produces the largest crop at a time. Early harvest occurs in late spring, early summer.

If you want to enjoy strawberries for a longer period, choose a perpetual harvest. These strawberries are not perpetual, but they are called that; They produce 2 to 3 harvests per season, in spring and fall, and are slightly smaller in yield than would be obtained from Early Harvest. Although strawberries are perennials, some places after freezing winters grow them as annual plants.

Ideally, what you need to do is plant some for early harvest and some for perpetual harvest.

how to grow strawberries outdoors

How to Prepare the Soil for Grow Strawberries Outdoors

Soil for Strawberries: acidic (pH 5.8 -6.5).

The cultivation will thrive best with organic soil.

Fertilizer needed 4-3-6 NPK (meaning 4% of Nitrogen, 3% of Phosphorous, and 6 % of Potassium).

Strawberry plants can be cultivated in different types of soils, from heavy to light (sandy soils) but slightly acidic.

Strawberries will need a substrate with good drainage to avoid disease caused for the excess of humidity.

Prepare the Bed to Grow Strawberries Outdoors

Strawberries require a well-drained and weed-free planting bed.

Choose high land, with good fertility and drainage. It is convenient that it has a certain slope to evacuate excess water in periods of high rainfall.

Planting should be done on raised ridges (10″ or 25 cm high minimum) and separated from center to center with 47″ (1.20 m).  A double staggered row is planted on the back, 12″ (30 cm) between the two rows and equal distance between plants.

Once the weeds are gone and before planting strawberries, spread a 2″ – 3″ (5 – 8 cm) layer of compost, fertilizing the area. Apply a complete fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 NPK (meaning 5% of Nitrogen, 10% of Phosphorous, and 5 % of Potassium). Strawberries have shallow roots and need their nutrients close to the surface.

If you intend to crop organic strawberries, learn more about organic fertilization here.

Rejuvenating an Old Bed

A well-cared-for strawberry patch can last up to five years. To renew a matted- row bed, cut plants back with a rotary mower set at a 4″ (10 cm) cutting height. Feed with a 5-10-5 fertilizer and water. To prevent disease and insect problems, replace plants after five years.

how to grow strawberries outdoors
Potted Strawberries growing is an option for outdoors cultivation

How to Grow Strawberries from Stolons or Runners

Sow from Strawberry seeds can be complicated. For this reason, growing strawberries it’s usually made from previously purchased seedlings, or by reproducing the plants by stolons (runners).

Not all varieties of fruit develop stolons. Likewise, when the variety produces stolons, their formation depends on the hours of light and the temperature. However, when there are stolons, strawberry reproduction using these is another possibility of reproduction much more effective and less laborious than reproduction by seeds, when there is a previous crop.

strawberries reproduction by stolons runners how to grow strawberries outdoors

The key to making stolon reproduction work is to get it rooted. Use small pieces of metal or wood in a U-shape to prevent the stolon from moving and digging up. Do not damage the adventitious roots of the stolon, they are still weak but good and prolonged contact with the substrate will strengthen them. Look for the stolon not to be moved by the wind. Apply regular watering to prevent the substrate from drying out. As the stolon develops it will take out new leaves. Only then can it be separated from the mother and a new seedling will have been generated.

How to Germinate the Strawberry Seeds for Outdoors

The strawberry is the only fruit in nature that contains the seeds on the outer surface. The dots on the surface are the seeds. Each strawberry has between 150 and 200 seeds on its surface.

Here the tips on how to grow strawberries from seeds. Most of the Fragaria varieties sold in the markets are hybrids and these seeds tend not to germinate properly. For this reason, it is advisable to buy seeds of a suitable variety for growing from seed, that is, not to reuse the hybrid seeds that come when we buy strawberries.

The best time to do this sowing is between late summer and early autumn. Firstly, put the seeds with some water in the refrigerator for a few days before planting them. Prepare the container with several holes in the bottom and add organic soil to the seedbed. The container does not need to be deep. Moisten the substrate and spread the seeds by gently dropping them on the substrate. Since these are difficult germination seeds, it is advisable to sow many more seeds than plants you hope to get. Slightly cover the seeds with 0.4″ (1 cm) of substrate and water the seedbed every 3 to 5 days.

The seeds need a humid environment and a temperature between 64 – 77 F (18 – 25 ºC). Cover with transparent nylon to create a greenhouse effect, this can be very useful. It can be cared for indoors to maintain more favorable conditions of temperature and humidity.

Keep covered until you see that the seedlings are 1.5″ – 2″ (4 – 5 cm) tall, you can transplant the seedlings into small individual containers.

Profit – Make Sure You Plant Enough

Each plant should produce 1 to 2 cups of strawberry per season. Keep in mind that early harvests will produce this over 1 month and the other types will extend through the growing season.

When and How to Transplant Strawberries

Seedlings obtained from seeds or obtained in the nurseries or from the stolons (runners) of your previous plant should be ready to be transplanted to their final location outdoors or in a pot, during spring and fall.

The best time to transplant is when there are no extreme temperatures, especially when it is not too cold.

Choose a Location Before Planting

Strawberries grow very well when they get direct sun during the day, although the sun is not necessary. Remember that it is also possible to grow the strawberries in a pot and indoor.

Choose a semi-shaded location. If possible, without direct light at peak times. The topsoil should not be dry, and it will be necessary to keep humid all the time. Strawberries will need high humidity. However, don’t allow your strawberries to sit in damp soil otherwise they will develop root rot and quickly decay.

How Long Does it Take to Grow Strawberries?

Depending on the growing conditions of your plants, strawberries will be ready to harvest from late spring to fall, although usually, the most abundant productions occur at the end of summer.

Bed Planting for Strawberries

For beds, transplant the sprouts, should be about 6″ – 10″ (15 – 25 cm) of separation between plants. The technique for this separation you use for growing strawberries will depend on the size of the berry and the yield you want. Close, dense planting results in heavy yields of smaller berries, and open, well-spaced planting offers a lower yield but larger berries. The chief difference between each system is what you do with the runners (stolons), the baby plants that develop from the main plant. For example, for large berries and a neatly manicured strawberry bed, set plants 12″ (30 cm) apart in rows spaced about 18″ (46 cm) apart. Remove all runners as they develop. This method results in healthy, strong central plants that bear maximum-size berries.

The strawberry plant has a center called the crown from which stems and leaves emerge. Proper planting depth should get top priority when you set out new strawberry seedlings. The crown must be planted slightly above the soil line. Match the new soil line with the depth that the plant grew at the nursery. Make sure roots are completely underground but avoid covering the crown. For each plant, you dig a hole 2″ – 3″ (5 – 8 cm) deep and wide enough to allow the roots to spread out in a circle. Then, pile the soil in the center of the hole so that the crown is just above ground level.

bed strawberries how to grow strawberries outdoors

Fill the hole and then water it well. The soil tends to sink as it settles, so check that the crown is still above the level of the soil surface. If not, adjust and plant the rest of the plants a little higher.

For those who are looking to do a large-scale planting, they can immerse the seedlings for 10 minutes in a mixture of fungicide and biological rooting stimulators such as Inicium and Azospirillum. Continue to plant the seedling on the back up to the height of the crown, avoiding that the roots are twisted. Finally, tighten the surrounding soil to the seedling. After planting, the lot should be properly watered by sprinkling or, failing that, drip irrigation, which should be short and frequent but spaced apart in time to wet the entire back.

Another care in post-planting is the periodic control of ants since in a short time they can damage many plants.

Mulching is a huge advantage when growing strawberries. The mulch could be natural or a plastic polyethylene cover (white or black). Its main advantages being weed control, conservation of soil moisture, keeping the fruit clean since it does not rest on the ground, improving the temperature of the soil, and avoid nutrient leaching. For crops at home, straw is the most obvious choice.

A profuse layer of mulch will help to keep fruit clean, conserving the moisture, and suppressing weeds. It also keeps roots at a low temperature, which strawberries like, and prevents strawberries from touching the ground, where they can have all sorts of insect problems. and pathogens. If you don’t like the look of straw, you can use grass clippings, shredded leaves, or pine needles.

How to Care for the Strawberry Crop Outdoors

Strawberry plants will need time to establish themselves. Remove all the flowers that have been set during the first 4-6 weeks after planting. These flowers consume a lot of energy from plants and removing them puts that energy and all the plant resources into building a strong root system, healthy plants, and lots of stolons.

Mulching to Grow Strawberries Outdoors

Give strawberry plants a winter mulch after the first fall frost. In spring, loosen the mulch as plants turn green, but don’t remove it completely until temperatures are dependably warm.

Keeps the roots fresh and prevent disease and insect infestation while caring for your strawberry crop away from touching the ground. A thick layer of soft straw mulch t’s key to keeping them safe.  

Temperature to Grow Strawberries Outdoors

From mild to cool temperate weathers, strawberries adapt very well to a high content of humid weather and an annual average temperature between 59 – 77 F (15 – 25 °C) during the day and between 46.4 – 55.4 F (8 – 13 ºC)at night. Crops can adapt well with minimums not less than 21 – 23 F (-5 -6 ° C) and absolute maximums greater than 95 F (35 °C). Strawberries are appropriate for cultivation in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10.

The strawberry adapts to different climates, better expressing its potential in warm areas, free of spring frosts and winds, without rainfall during the harvest period or high temperatures from September to March. In coastal areas the crop can be produced in advance, allowing the market to be supplied when there is little supply of fruit.

The varieties respond to the daylight hours and the cold temperature received before planting. These factors will affect the final yield.

A normal supply of cold will produce rapid foliar growth, normal differentiation of flower buds, and low emission of stolons; in other words, a very balanced plant with great production potential.

The plants go into recess or dormancy with temperatures between 32 – 44.6 F (0 ° – 7 ° C). In this period there is an accumulation of reserves in the form of carbohydrates in the crown and main roots. It generally occurs from late autumn and winter, it is characterized by the small size of the leaves, which take on a reddish-purple color.

To break dormancy, in most cases a few hours of cold must be added in cold stores (between 35 – 41 F or 2 – 5 ° C) for a few days before planting, and this should be added to those obtained before in the nursery. The colder, the more vegetative buds.

The number of cold hours necessary to achieve development and good yields is different for each variety. In general, the requirements range from 380 to 700 accumulated hours of temperatures between 32 – 44.6 F (0 and 7 ° C), early in autumn.

Hours of Light or Photo-time Needed to Grow Strawberries Outdoors

It refers to the number of daylight hours a day has, also called the length of the day, an influencing factor in the formation of flower buds, vegetative growth, stolon development, size of leaves, and length of their petiole, quantity, and quality of fruits.

Long days: days with more than 12 hours of light. They favor the growth of asexual or vegetative buds; that is, the development of leaves and stolons. The latter start their emission with 12 to 14 hours of light and decrease with less than 10 hours. The foliar area and petiole extension increase with the length of the day, being greater in late spring and decreasing in early autumn.

Short days: between 8 to 11 hours of light a day favors the growth of sexual or fruitful buds.

Morning mists simulate as short photoperiods that, together with cold temperatures, allow longer harvests.

Autumn: the plant slows down its development and begins the dormancy period.

Winter: with the short photoperiod and lower temperatures, foliar dormancy, and follicular development begins.

 Spring: Longer photoperiod, average temperatures. Vegetative development, growth of flower buds, and fruiting.

Summer: Long photoperiod greater than 12 hours. High temperatures. Decreased flowering, great emission of stolons.

Watering to Grow Strawberries Outdoors

The strawberry is a crop that requires a constant water supply in spring and summer. The quality of the water is essential since the strawberry plant is very sensitive to chemical elements. The water must not have electrical conductivity greater than 0.8 dS/m. The higher the value, the greater the effort required by the plant to extract the water, affecting the final production. For at-home gardening, distillate water is an option. 

At the time of planting, the roots have not yet developed fibrous and lateral roots to absorb water and nutrients. They will easily feel excess water and develop root rot if excessive and uncontrolled moisture and will decay rapidly.

The minimum water requirement is 600 mm per year.  Tentative frequency: Twice a day during summer and 2 to 3 times a week during winter. The cultivation will thrive best with organic moist soil, but not soggy. Full sun is beneficial, however not required for developing.

How to Grow Strawberries Outdoors

Fertilization for Strawberry Crops

Organic soil and acid mix applied in early spring for vegetative growth. Incorporate the fertilizer into the top 3″ (8 cm) of soil around the strawberry plant and then water well. Fertilize again when blooms appear will thrive your strawberry crop. Fall applications can promote root growth and boost resistance to extreme winter weather.

Commercial acid mix fertilizers blended especially for acid lovers such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, evergreens, blueberries, raspberries, potatoes will work great with the strawberries. There are natural commercial fertilizers in the market with no synthetics add to the blend that will allow you to cultivate organics.

Protect from Birds

Birds could be worse than an infestation of snails and slugs. The best way to avoid this is to put some kind of hedge over the entire bed. You can use bird nets or any other covers. However, you should remove it while the plants are in flower or they will not be pollinated. Without pollination, there will be no fruits next season.

Managing Runners (Stolons)

Encourage runners (no more than six per mother plant) to form new plants every 9″ (23 cm). Pin down the runners with U-shaped pins or bury stems with soil. Remove unwanted runners.

Grow Strawberries Outdoors: Regarding Diseases

Strawberries are susceptible to a handful of fungal diseases, including whorl wilt, botrytis (fruit manure), and red streak (root rot). You should ask a good local nursery if it exists in your area and chooses regional strawberry varieties that are resistant. Resistant varieties have a better chance of success as Safari and Sabrina as examples of short-day varieties, San Andreas, Albion, and Cristal as references for neutral-day.

If you know that your region is prone to a particular disease, be sure to rotate where you plant your strawberries when starting a new bed. Avoid replanting in the same spot, or the spores of these diseases will accumulate in the soil.

verticillium strawberries
Verticillium affecting strawberries.

To be preventive, if Verticillium wilt is a current problem or was a problem in the past, do not plant your strawberries where crops have been affected by the same disease. Crop rotation should not be viewed as curative disease management. It is a less effective disease management tool compared to other methods. However, it’s preventative. Below is the list of vegetables, fruits, and flowers that could be affected by Verticillium:

1- Cabbage, celery, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, melons, pepper, potato, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, tomato

2- Barberry, blackberry, black raspberry, grape, Prunus sp., raspberry, Ribes sp., watermelon

3- Aster, Begonia, Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Geranium, Impatiens, Peony, Petunia, Snapdragon, Sunflower

Reference: McCain, A.H., R.D. Raabe, and S. Wilhelm. 1981. Plants Resistant to or Susceptible to Verticillium Wilt. University of California Leaflet 2703.

More tips for Care for Strawberry Crops

Use of Root Hormone. They have a high concentration of auxins that induce the development of roots for a better establishment of the plant, greater efficiency of absorption, and conduction by the greatest amount of root hairs.

Use of water between 86 – 104 F (30°- 40 °C) increases the solubility of fertilizers, increases the microbiological activity of the soil, and the conduction of water and nutrients.

Another form of protection and nutrition for crops, of very low cost, since it can be produced with organic residues or intra-farm wastes are the so-called bio preparations, whether liquid or solid applied to the soil or foliage.

They are products that are obtained from the biological decomposition of aerobic or anaerobic organic materials, highly active with living or latent cells that, having the optimal conditions, are reactivated by acting positively on the culture.

Among its main effects are nutritional, fungistatic, bacteriostatic, acaricidal, insecticidal, and repellent. Thanks to the content of enzymes, phenols, acids, toxins, and other high-risk compounds that, if not handled properly, can cause phytotoxicity. In general, its effects are progressive and cumulative; that is, little by little the fertility and life of the soil improves by incorporating stabilized organic matter. With this, it is possible to achieve greater retention of moisture, facilitate the work of the soil, healthier plants, and greater production.

Among the most used are: compost (decomposition of the mixture of animal and/or vegetable waste in the presence of oxygen); bokashi (aerobic fermentation of both plant and animal organic waste) and humus (the result of the work of the Californian red worm Eisenia foetida). Other preparations used as liquid biofertilizers resulting from aerobic fermentation are compost tea, nettle tea, guano tea, bokashi tea, and humus tea. There are also options for organic foliar fertilizers of the anaerobic process, such as the liquid Biofertilizer that promotes the physiological activities of plants due to its high content of Phyto regulators.

How to Grow Strawberries Outdoors: Harvest

Strawberry plants will set fruit their first season. If you wait until the next year, the plant will be more productive. A piece of advice could be to Exercise your patience. Unless you are growing your strawberry plants as annuals, I would recommend that you should exercise your patience and delay harvesting for up to a year.

The work carried out in the field during the harvest and later in the post-harvest period, should be aimed at achieving a quality fruit and that this is maintained throughout the entire period until the fruit is marketed or the fruit is used at home.

The strawberry is a non-climacteric fruit, which means that the sugar content is not increased, only increases in color and decrease in firmness are recorded given the high respiratory rate of the fruit, which makes it very perishable, affecting the appearance and quality. Therefore, the fruit must be harvested close to the maturity of consumption.

harvest strawberries

The main harvest index used by farmers is color. The criterion varies according to the destination market: for fresh export, the homogeneity and intensity of the orange color stand out; for the fresh domestic market, the color is red in 80% of the fruit; for processing, an intense red is required in 100% of the fruit and without calyx. Acidity and total soluble solids are rarely used to determine harvest time, and they are also variables that do not change once the fruit is harvested.

Fruit Maturity Index

The ripening of the fruit on the plant is not homogeneous, so it is necessary to review the area already harvested to collect those fruits that were immature at that time.

strawberries maturity index harvest

Harvest Recommendations when Growing Strawberries Outdoors

1 – Make sure the fruit is damaged as little as possible, without squeezing or hitting.

2 – Harvest individually fruit by fruit and transfer immediately to the tray, do not accumulate them in the hand.

3 – Organize harvesting by sectors and by variety, avoid mixing the fruit to reduce the heterogeneity of the box.

4 – Hygiene in the handling of the fruit: cleaning in the hands of the harvesters-short nails-, cleaning in the harvest materials, such as the trays.

5 – Harvest early in the morning, avoiding high temperatures.

6 – Do not harvest with dew or rain or moisture on the fruit.

7 – Maintain shading in the fields, avoiding sunning the fruit.

8 – Avoid contamination of fruit, place harvesting materials away from the soil surface.

harvest how to grow

Post-Harvest

Post-harvest refers to the stage in which the fruit is kept and moved in an adequate atmosphere to decrease the respiratory rate. Therefore, the environment must contain low levels of oxygen, since a high respiratory metabolism means that the strawberry has a very short postharvest life, being less than 2 weeks at room temperature.

As it is a kind of export, systems are used to control the concentration of gases (controlled or modified atmosphere) that increase the useful life of the fruit and that allow them to reach the destination market in off-season conditions in acceptable conditions.

Transportation to the agribusiness should be done as quickly as possible, no more than 3 or 4 hours after the strawberry is harvested. It must be carried out carefully, avoiding hitting the load excessively. It is also necessary to avoid contamination of the fruit with dust particles or foreign materials on the way.

Cold or pre-cooled entry allows rapid heat removal using forced air. This action favors the conservation of freshness and quality, reducing the incidence of common postharvest diseases, such as Botrytis cinerea, Rhizopus sp., and Penicillium sp. It also lowers the enzymatic and respiratory activity of the fruit, maintaining the characteristics of the harvest.

Post-Harvest Problems

In general, the problems are caused by mechanical damage, which promotes the presence of fungal diseases, dehydration, watery fruit; and, on the other hand, the inadequate management of gas concentrations, for example, discoloration of the fruit by CO2.

Recipes with Strawberries

Are you ready to prepare delicious recipes? Check this out.

Recipe – Yogurt and Strawberry Cake

Strawberries have water, fiber, and very few calories so it is recommended to lose weight. This fruit contains Vitamin C, Potassium, and Calcium.

Ingredients for the dough:

8.8 Oz  (250 grams) of cookies

3.5 Oz (100 grams) of butter

Base ingredients:

1 can of condensed milk

18.5 Oz (525 grams) of natural yogurt

5.3 Oz (150 grams) of strawberries

Preparation:

Grind the cookies and mix them with the previously melted butter. Mix until integrated.

Put the mixture and spread it until it is completely covered.

In a bowl mix the condensed milk and the yogurt, then pour in the mold over the dough and take to the preheated oven at medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until it sets.

Once become cool continue to remove from the mold.

Decorate with the strawberries and sprinkle with icing sugar when serving.

recipes