Strawberries are among the easiest fruits for home gardeners to grow. These berries are perennials that return to the garden year after year, they are perfect for small spaces, and you can grow them for a fraction of their supermarket cost. If you want to start a crop of your own quickly and simply, try growing strawberries in raised beds. This article has all the info you’ll need to get started. It’s a complete guide to raised bed strawberry growing – from planting to harvest.
Why growing strawberries in raised beds is a great idea
Raised garden beds are the perfect fit for strawberries. They offer the good drainage strawberry plants require, and they make it easy to control the quality of the soil your berries are grown in. In addition, raised garden beds make it easy to care for the plants. Protecting the berries from birds is far simpler than when growing strawberries in the ground, and there’s no bending required to harvest the fruits.
More benefits of growing strawberries in raised beds include:
- Making sure the plants receive ample water is a piece of cake
- Weeding is kept at a minimum
- It’s easier to monitor the plants for signs of diseases
- The fast-spreading plants are kept contained
What types of raised beds are best for growing strawberries?
After you’ve decided to plant your berries in a raised garden, the next step is to decide what type of raised bed to use. Truth be told, the most important thing is to locate your strawberry patch in the full sun; what the bed is made of is of secondary importance. The good news is there are lots of choices. Which one to select depends on your budget, your sense of aesthetics, and how much space you have.
Here are some different options for strawberry raised beds:
- Untreated cedar, redwood, or locust is best. Avoid pressure treated lumber.
- Elevated wooden or plastic beds. Raised up on legs, these are great choices for the patio, porch, or deck.
- I like these beds from Birdies Raised Beds, but there are lots of other metal raised bed options, too
- Bricks, rocks, or concrete. These materials create a more permanent growing space than some other options
- Raised bed DIY kits. There’s no shortage of options on the market, but here are some of my favorites.
- Geo-textile fabrics. These low-cost, fabric raised beds are great options, too.
A standard 4’ X 8’ raised bed provides enough berries for my family of 3. We eat some of the berries fresh, use some to make jam, and freeze any that we can’t eat fast enough. Larger beds provide more berries, obviously, while a smaller 4’ X 4’ or 6’ X 2’ bed is perfect if you’d just like a handful of berries for your cereal each morning. There is no required minimum or maximum bed size, really. It’s whatever suits your space and your needs. You can even grow strawberries in pots.
What to fill the raised beds with
Aside from ensuring your strawberry patch is in full sun, another important factor in your success is filling the raised bed with the best soil possible. There are many different choices, and I’ve experimented with several over the years when growing strawberries in raised beds. Here are three options for filling your new strawberry garden:
- Fill the bed with a 50/50 mixture of topsoil and some form of organic matter. I like compost, but aged manure is another option. Ideally, the topsoil comes from someplace else on your property, but if that’s not an option, purchase topsoil from a local landscape supply center.
- You can also fill your strawberry raised bed using hügelkultur (more about this technique here), which is much like creating an in-bed compost pile by adding layers of materials into the bed. The largest branches go into the bottom and then layers of various organic matters alternate to fill it the rest of the way. The top few inches are a blend of topsoil and compost.
- If you don’t have any other option, you can use bagged raised bed mixes to fill the bed. You can also make your own. I like to use a combination of 1/3 bagged garden soil, 1/3 bagged bark-based potting soil, and 1/3 bagged compost. Tara has written about her favorite blend for raised beds in this article, if you’d like an additional option.
Strawberries grow best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.2. Test the soil in your raised bed using a home test kit or a commercial soil test from a lab, every 3 to 5 years. Adjust the pH according to the instructions in the soil test results if necessary.
The best types of strawberries for growing in raised beds
The good news is that all types of strawberries are suited to raised bed growing. You don’t need to seek out a particular variety or shop at a special nursery for the plants. The main things to keep in mind are that different varieties produce at different times, each variety has a slightly different taste, and some varieties are better for colder climates than others. Read the plant tag, catalog description, or packaging to ensure the strawberry variety you are looking at is right for your climate. Be sure it is hardy in your growing zone. Most strawberries are hardy to -30°F, but some are even more cold tolerant while others are a little less hardy. If you live in a very cold climate, choose accordingly. The good news is that strawberries can be grown anywhere from hot and sunny Florida to cool and frosty Canada – and everywhere in between!
Next, decide when you want to harvest. There are three main types of strawberries:
- June-bearing varieties: Produce a large, single crop all at once, typically in mid-June to early July. June-bearing strawberries are the best choice if you plan to preserve your berries as jam
- Day-neutral varieties: Produce smaller amounts of fruits throughout most of the growing season
- Everbearing varieties: Produce two crops annually, one in the early summer and another in the early autumn.
Regardless of which type you choose, when growing strawberries in raised beds, you’ll want to be sure you get your plants off to a good start by watering them both before and after planting. If the plants are bare-root (no soil on them), soak the roots in water for 8 hours before planting.
Planting strawberries in raised beds
New plants can be planted in your strawberry bed anytime from early spring through early summer. If your new plants are growing in small pots, be sure to gently loosen the roots before planting them into the raised bed, especially if they were pot bound (roots circling around inside the pot). If the plants are bare-root, spread the roots out into the planting hole and make sure the plant is positioned so the crown is above the soil line and the roots below.
Space strawberry plants about 8 to 10 inches apart. Stagger the rows to give each plant plenty of room to grow. Get the growing season off to a good start by providing regular irrigation through the first year after planting, especially during times of drought.
When growing strawberries in raised beds, the soil may dry out faster than when growing in the ground. Monitor soil moisture carefully and water deeply whenever necessary. Avoid shallowly watering plants; a good, thorough soaking is always better than a light sprinkle.
Additional care tips for growing strawberries in raised beds
Here’s more to keep in mind when growing strawberries in raised beds.
- Pinch off any flowers that are produced during the first growing season. This diverts energy into plant establishment which is especially important the first year.
- Use a balanced granular organic fertilizer to provide nitrogen and other nutrients throughout the growing season. Apply once annually, in the spring, at the rate recommended on the packaging
- Mother plants produce runners that have daughter plants on their ends. Pinch off all strawberry runners the first two growing seasons, especially for June-bearing varieties. They sap energy from the mother plants and can impact production. If you want to, after year two, you can save the daughter plants to start a new strawberry patch.
- To prevent fruit rot from becoming a problem, water only in the morning so the plants dry off by nightfall, mulch the plants with straw to keep the developing fruits off the ground, and do not let the plants get too crowded. Crowded conditions reduce air circulation which promotes fungal diseases.
Mulching a raised bed with strawberries
When growing strawberries in raised beds, mulching is a particularly important step. Not only to reduce the chances of fruit rot as mentioned above, but also to reduce weed competition and insulate the roots from moisture and temperature fluctuations. I like to use straw, but shredded leaves are another great option. Some growers use black plastic or another type of plastic mulch, but these aren’t good options for growing strawberries in raised beds.
Apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch (no more than that) around the crowns of the plants in the fall. If you’d like, you can add another inch in the spring to freshen it up a bit. Do not pile the mulch against the plant stem or put mulch directly on top of the plant’s crown.
Winter care when growing strawberries in raised beds
While strawberries are hardy and fully perennial, when growing strawberries in raised beds, a bit of extra winter care is required. Soon after the first frost and before a deep freeze, mulch the plants as described above. Do not fertilize late in the season which could generate tender new growth that will be easily damaged by frost.
Protect your raised bed of strawberries from deer and other potential winter visitors with a dome of chicken wire placed over the plants, if necessary. Mice and voles love to burrow under the mulch and feed on the strawberry plant crowns. If they become problematic, set mousetraps baited with peanut butter in your strawberry patch.
Protecting your raised bed strawberries from birds and other pests
In addition to plant-eating mammals in the winter, when growing strawberries in raised beds there are plenty of other critters who may find your berries tempting, particularly as they ripen. Birds are especially fond of strawberries. To protect your yield from these pests, cover the entire raised bed with bird netting. Erect a frame or hoops made from PVC pipe and then secure bird netting to it using clips or clamps. Weigh down the edges with rocks or bricks, or use landscape staples to hold the netting in place.
As you can see, growing strawberries in raised beds is not a complicated affair. Choose the right site, the right bed, and the right variety, and ample harvests of ripe, delicious berries are soon to follow!
For more on growing in raised beds, please visit the following articles:
- Preparing raised beds for winter
- How deep to make a raised bed
- The best veggies for raised beds
- Galvanized raised bed options
- 4 x 8 raised bed layout ideas