If you’ve seen those cute clay strawberry pots with the pouches on the sides in garden centers in the spring and you’ve always wanted to try one but balk at the possibility of failure, fear not. Growing strawberries in containers is not that hard, and there’s nothing quite as wonderful as picking your own sweet strawberries on your own patio or deck. Follow a few simple guidelines and you can have success with strawberry planters year after year.
The first thing to know about strawberries is they need excellent drainage in order to thrive. This means you will want a pot designed especially for them, like the clay planters with side pouches, or a wide clay pot with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom and a saucer that catches the water and keeps the pot up off the ground.
Another good option is the kind of hanging planter that looks like an ordinary plastic bag. With these disposable planters, you simply fill them with soil and tuck the plants into openings in the side.
A hanging plastic bag planter will not be a good choice if it is hanging over a deck or patio however, since you will have run-off underneath each time you water. For hanging from an eave or over and establish bed, or against a wall or a fence, these hanging bags can work quite well.
A good trick for keeping your strawberry plants well-watered in a clay strawberry planter is to stick a white PVC plastic pipe with holes in it down the center of the pot before you fill it with soil. Then, watering is just a matter of pouring water down the pipe; quick and easy.
Strawberries like rich, loamy soil with lots of organic matter that they can consume to produce fruit, so resist the temptation to fill your pots with ordinary soil from your yard and choose a rich potting mixture instead, preferably one with plant food already added. Strawberries like plenty of sun and enough water so that the soil is moist but well-drained (not water logged).
Feed your strawberries throughout the growing season with a high phosphorus fertilizer formulated for fruits and vegetables. Look for a high middle N-P-K number or ask at your local garden center for a formulation best for producing strawberries.
The type of berries you pick will impact how successful you are at getting a good crop. Small wild berries are tasty and lovely but it takes a lot of wild plants to get enough berries to actually eat, so they aren’t the best choice for pots. Other types of seasonal strawberry varieties usually produce a good crop in June, and a smaller one late in the summer.
If you buy ever-bearing strawberry plants, be aware that you won’t get continuous berries your first year. (The name is a bit misleading.) To encourage a good first year fall crop of ever-bearing strawberries, pinch off the blossoms until midsummer the very first season. That should give you a decent fall crop the first year, and then every year after that you will see a good spring and fall crop, with sporadic fruit in intervening months.
Most varieties of strawberry plants will send out suckers (little baby plants) when confined to pots, but it is actually better to cut these off to encourage the plant to produce fruit (instead of more suckers). What you can do though is transplant the cut suckers to some part of your yard and let them fight it out there outside the pot. Sometimes they’ll surprise you, and you’ll end up with a little strawberry patch where before there was just some dirt and weeds.
Strawberry plants are technically perennials but in reality they don’t produce fruit much beyond three years, so keep in mind that you will have to periodically replace them. Happily, a flat of strawberry plants doesn’t cost very much more than a flat of fresh strawberries, so this is not really a hardship financially, but you will have to do the repotting.
Lots of great information is available online about strawberries and how to grow them, and you can even order them in the winter from online suppliers and get them delivered to your door at the right planting time in your part of the country. So take a look, and give strawberry planters a try. They’re fun to grow, easy to care for, and also, coincidentally, delicious to eat.