Best Time to Start Growing Strawberries: A Comprehensive Guide

Best Time to Start Growing Strawberries
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Strawberries are not only delicious but also relatively easy to grow, making them a perfect choice for both experienced and novice gardeners. However, knowing the best time to start growing strawberries is crucial for a successful harvest. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need to ensure your strawberry plants thrive and produce an abundance of sweet, juicy berries.

When to Plant Strawberries

Springtime, with its warming temperatures and vibrant reawakening of nature, is the ideal season for planting strawberries in most regions. This gives the plants ample time to:

  • Establish a strong root system: Before the summer heat arrives, the roots have a chance to burrow deep into the soil, anchoring the plant and providing efficient access to water and nutrients.
  • Adapt to their new environment: Spring offers mild temperatures and moderate watering needs, creating a gentle transition for the strawberries from nursery pot to garden bed.
  • Produce a bountiful harvest: By establishing themselves well before fruiting season, spring-planted strawberries are primed for a generous crop come summer.

The perfect timing for spring planting varies depending on your climate:

  • In colder regions (zones 4-6): Aim for mid- to late spring, after the last frost date has passed. This typically falls between April and May.
  • In warmer regions (zones 7-9): You can plant earlier, as soon as the soil is workable, usually around March or April.

Here are some additional tips for successful spring strawberry planting:

  • Choose healthy, disease-resistant strawberry plants: Look for vibrant green leaves and a firm crown.
  • Prepare the soil: Ensure the soil is well-drained, fertile, and slightly acidic (pH around 6.0-6.8). Amend the soil with compost or manure if needed.
  • Plant at the right depth: The crown of the plant should sit at soil level, with the roots spread out and covered with soil.
  • Water regularly: Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the first few weeks after planting.
  • Mulch around the plants: A layer of mulch will help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the berries clean.

With proper care and timing, spring planting sets the stage for a delicious and rewarding strawberry harvest in the summer months.

Fall Planting: A Viable Option for Milder Climates

While spring reigns supreme for strawberry planting in most areas, fall can also be a suitable time in certain regions:

  • Milder climates with long growing seasons (zones 7-10): Planting in late summer or early fall (August to September) allows the roots to establish before winter dormancy, giving the plants a head start in the following spring.
  • Areas with cool, wet springs: Fall planting avoids the challenges of wet soil and potential fungal diseases that can plague spring plantings.

However, fall planting does come with some challenges:

  • Shorter days and cooler temperatures: The plants may not produce as many runners or flower buds before winter, potentially impacting the next year’s harvest.
  • Winter protection: In colder areas, fall-planted strawberries may need protection from winter freezes and harsh winds.

If you consider fall planting, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose everbearing strawberry varieties: These varieties produce fruit throughout the season, even in shorter days.
  • Plant earlier than in spring: Aim for at least 6-8 weeks before the first frost date to ensure adequate root development.
  • Provide winter protection: Cover the plants with mulch or row covers before the ground freezes.
  • Water regularly until the ground freezes: Fall-planted strawberries are more susceptible to drought stress due to cooler temperatures.

While spring planting remains the preferred choice for most regions, fall planting can be a viable option in specific climates and with careful planning. Ultimately, the best time to plant strawberries depends on your local climate, chosen variety, and personal preferences.

Choosing the Right Variety

When considering the best time to start growing strawberries, it’s essential to choose the right variety for your climate. Some popular strawberry varieties include:

  • June-bearing strawberries, produce a single large crop in late spring or early summer.
  • Everbearing strawberries, produce two to three harvests throughout the growing season.
  • Day-neutral strawberries, are known for producing a steady supply of berries from spring to fall.

Site Selection and Preparation


  • Select a site that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Adequate sunlight is essential for the plants to produce sweet, flavorful berries.

Soil Preparation

  • Prepare the soil by incorporating organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to improve drainage and fertility. Well-draining soil is crucial for preventing root rot and other diseases.

Planting and Spacing

  • When planting strawberries, ensure that the crown – the point where the leaves emerge from the roots – is level with the soil surface. Planting too deep or too shallow can hinder the plant’s growth.
  • Space the plants 12-18 inches apart in rows that are 2-3 feet apart. This allows for good air circulation, which can help prevent diseases such as powdery mildew.

Watering and Mulching

Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, especially during the flowering and fruiting stages. Mulching with straw or pine needles can help retain soil moisture and prevent the growth of weeds.


Fertilize strawberry plants with a balanced fertilizer when growth begins in the spring. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of fruit production.

Pest and Disease Management

  • Monitor the plants regularly for common pests such as slugs, snails, and aphids. Implementing cultural controls and using organic pest management methods can help minimize damage to the plants.
  • Common strawberry diseases include powdery mildew, botrytis fruit rot, and verticillium wilt. Proper sanitation, good air circulation, and resistant varieties can help prevent these diseases.

Harvesting and Storage

  • Harvest strawberries when they are fully red, as they will not continue to ripen after being picked. Gently lift the berries and snip the stem to avoid damaging the plant.
  • Store freshly picked strawberries in the refrigerator and wash them just before use to extend their shelf life. Alternatively, consider preserving the harvest by freezing or making delicious homemade jams and jellies.

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