How to Plant Bare Root Strawberries: A Comprehensive Guide for Ground and Container Growth

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Few things evoke the essence of a bountiful garden or homestead quite like the sight of plump, ruby-red strawberries glistening in the sun. Beyond their visual allure, strawberries bring an irresistible blend of beauty and deliciousness to any landscape. Whether sprawling across garden beds, cascading from hanging baskets, or peeking out from containers on a sunny porch, strawberries add a touch of charm and flavor that epitomizes the joys of homegrown produce. One of the ways to begin creating a lush strawberry patch in your garden is to plant bare root strawberries.

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Starting your strawberry patch with bare root strawberries is not just a cost-effective option but also a rewarding one. Bare root strawberries are essentially dormant plants with their roots exposed, making them easy to transport and plant. This method offers gardeners an affordable way to kickstart their strawberry growing journey, whether in the ground or in containers.

planting strawberries from bare root

Saving Money with Bare Root Strawberries:

When it comes to starting your strawberry patch, opting for bare root plants can significantly stretch your gardening budget while still yielding abundant harvests. Let’s break down the cost-saving benefits and differences between bare root and potted strawberry plants.

Cost Comparison

Purchasing potted strawberry plants from nurseries or garden centers can range anywhere from $3 to $6 per plant, with prices potentially rising due to factors like variety and plant size. On the other hand, bare root strawberries typically cost between $0.50 to $2 per plant, making them a considerably more economical choice.

The Difference

The primary distinction between potted and bare root strawberries lies in their root systems and presentation. Potted plants are sold with their roots encased in soil within containers, while bare root plants are shipped or sold with their roots exposed, devoid of soil.

The affordability of bare root strawberries stems from their simplified packaging and transportation. Without the need for bulky pots or soil, bare root plants are lighter and easier to ship, resulting in reduced packaging and shipping costs. Additionally, bare root plants are typically younger and less established than potted ones, contributing to their lower price point. This also means that a bare root strawberry will have a longer lifespan in your garden!

Potential Cost Savings Example

Consider this scenario: You’re planning to start a strawberry patch with 20 plants. If you were to purchase potted plants at $5 each, your total expenditure would amount to $100. However, opting for bare root strawberries at $1 each would only cost you $20 for the same quantity of plants. That’s a significant saving of $80, which can be allocated towards other gardening essentials or saved for future projects.

In essence, by choosing bare root strawberries, you’re not only saving money upfront but also investing in the potential for a thriving strawberry patch that yields delicious fruits season after season.

planting bare root strawberry plants

Choosing the Right Variety

When selecting bare root strawberries, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure a successful yield. Taste preferences, type, and productivity are crucial aspects to keep in mind.

  1. Taste: Opt for varieties renowned for their flavor profile. Some popular choices include ‘Albion’ for its sweet taste, ‘Seascape’ for its balanced sweetness and acidity, and ‘Earliglow’ for its exceptional flavor.
  2. Type: Decide between everbearing and June-bearing varieties based on your harvesting preferences. Everbearing varieties produce strawberries throughout the growing season, while June-bearing varieties yield a single large crop in late spring to early summer.
  3. Runner Production: Evaluate the variety’s propensity to produce runners if you desire to expand your strawberry patch. Varieties like ‘Tristar’ and ‘Ozark Beauty’ are prolific in producing runners, aiding in the propagation process.

Find out how to expand your strawberry patch with the power of Strawberry Runners!

propagating strawberry runners
Honeoye Strawberry Plant

A hardy, consistent producer. This vigorous plant bears crops reliably, with good runner production. The strawberries are delicious fresh, frozen, or in jams and wines. Cold hardy. Ripens in June. Self-pollinating. 

strawberry runners tips
Ozark Beauty Strawberry Plant

Enjoy fruit and a protective ground cover. In addition to keeping weeds at bay, this everbearer produces wave after wave of sweet, delicious, scarlet-red strawberries. Cold hardy. Ripens in early summer and continues to fruit until first frost. Self-pollinating.

how to plant strawberry runners
Sequoia Strawberry Plant

Early-maturing variety! Grow your own excellent dessert-quality fruit without the wait. Medium-height plants develop vigorous runners for increased berry production. Large, glossy berries are plump and juicy with a long conic shape. Flavor is outstandingly sweet and subacid with highly pleasing aromatic qualities. Disease-resistant to leaf spot. Cold hardy. Ripens in June and may bear into fall. Self-pollinating.

what to do with strawberry runners
Sparkle Strawberry Plant

Shining taste and appearance. Medium-sized fruit has outstanding flavor whether they’re enjoyed fresh, frozen, or in preserves. Plants are productive and easy to grow, bearing reliable crops of deep red berries even in northern gardens. Escapes frost injury. Cold-hardy. Ripens in late June. Self-pollinating.

cultivating strawberry runners
Tribute Strawberry Plant

Large crops that just keep going! Enjoy flavorful and plump, medium-large berries from vigorous day-neutral plants. Ripens in spring and continues to fruit into fall. Tolerates leaf scorch and blight. Disease-resistant to red stele and verticillium wilt. Self-pollinating.

In-Ground vs. Container Planting

When it comes to planting bare root strawberries, you have the option to either plant them directly in the ground or in containers. Each method has its advantages and considerations, from soil temperature to space requirements.

In-Ground Planting

In-ground planting is the traditional method and is ideal for those with ample garden space. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Optimal Planting Time: The best time to plant bare root strawberries in the ground is when the soil temperature reaches around 50°F (10°C). This typically occurs in early spring, allowing the plants to establish themselves before the growing season begins in earnest.
  • Soil Preparation: Before planting, prepare the soil by loosening it and incorporating organic matter such as compost or aged manure. Well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH (around 5.5 to 6.5) is ideal for strawberries.
  • Spacing Requirements: Space the bare root plants approximately 12 to 18 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. This spacing allows the plants ample room to spread and ensures good air circulation, reducing the risk of disease.

Container Planting

Container planting is an excellent option for those with limited space, poor soil conditions or if you receive your roots before your in-ground space is ready. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Optimal Planting Time: Bare root strawberries can be planted in containers earlier than in-ground planting, as you have more control over the soil temperature. Aim to plant them indoors in late winter or early spring when temperatures are still too cold outside for outdoor planting.
  • Soil Preparation: Use a high-quality potting mix specifically formulated for containers, ensuring it provides adequate drainage. Incorporate some organic matter like compost to enrich the soil and promote healthy growth.
  • Space Requirements: Select containers that are at least 12 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate multiple plants. Aim to space the plants about 8 to 10 inches apart within the container to allow for proper root development.

Check out our complete guide on How To Grow Strawberries in Containers!

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Tip for Using 4″ Pots

If you plan to plant your strawberries outdoors in-ground, consider using 4-inch pots indoors in order to help bare root strawberries emerge from dormancy and jump-start their growth. Place the bare roots in these pots filled with moist potting soil and keep them in a warm, well-lit area until they begin to show signs of new growth. This method allows you to provide optimal conditions for the plants to awaken from dormancy before transplanting them outdoors when the weather is more favorable. Once they are more established and the risk of frost has passed, transplant them into the ground or larger containers where they can continue to thrive and spread, ultimately creating a lush and fruitful strawberry patch.

planting bare root strawberries in pots

Preparation Tips For Bare Root Strawberries

Before delving into the task of planting your bare root strawberries, it’s essential to set the stage for their success. These preparation steps are like laying the groundwork for a sturdy foundation, ensuring your strawberries have the best possible start to thrive.

Firstly, soaking the bare roots is crucial. Imagine your plants as thirsty travelers, longing for a refreshing drink after their journey. By soaking their roots in water for about an hour before planting, you’re giving them the hydration they need to kickstart their growth and establish themselves in their new home.

Next, it’s time for a little pruning. Take a moment to inspect the roots and trim any damaged or excessively long ones. This simple act helps the plant conserve energy and directs its focus towards developing healthy, robust roots.

Now, onto soil preparation – the cornerstone of a successful garden. Loosen the soil and enrich it with organic matter such as compost or aged manure. This not only improves soil structure but also provides essential nutrients for your plants to thrive. Remember, strawberries prefer well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH, so adjust accordingly to create an optimal growing environment.

Lastly, proper spacing is key to allowing your plants room to grow and spread their roots. Whether planting in the ground or in containers, ensure there’s enough space between plants to promote healthy airflow and minimize the risk of disease.

plant bare root strawberries

Step-by-Step Planting Guide

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s dive into the exciting part – planting your bare root strawberries.

First things first, prepare the soil. Loosen the soil and mix in some compost or aged manure to provide essential nutrients. This not only improves soil structure but also ensures your strawberries have everything they need to thrive. I’m repeating this so many times because soil health is the absolute most important aspect of success in your gardening endeavors. You can’t healthy, abundant strawberries without first having healthy, microbe abundant soil.

Next, it’s time to dig. Dig holes deep enough to accommodate the roots without bending or crowding. Aim for a depth that allows the crown, where the roots meet the leaves, to sit at soil level. Leaving the crown of the strawberry plant above the soil is an important aspect to the success of your strawberries. If the crown gets buried, you risk the entire plant rooting. A good saying to remember is “the crown above ground” when it comes to strawberries.

Now, let’s talk about spacing. Give your plants room to stretch their roots and spread their leaves. Whether you’re planting in rows or clusters, aim for about 12 to 18 inches of space between each plant. This ensures they have enough breathing room to grow and flourish. Most plants begin to put off strawberry runners within their first year of planting. If your plants are too close to begin with, you will definitely have an overcrowded patch come fall.

As you place each bare root strawberry into its designated spot, gently spread out the roots like fingers reaching for the soil. This encourages them to establish strong connections with their new home, anchoring them securely in place. Hold the crown at the soil level and begin to back fill the soil around the roots, ensuring they have enough around them to grab hold.

Remember to water your newly planted strawberries generously. Think of it as quenching their thirst after their journey into the soil. Give them a good soak to settle the soil around the roots and provide much-needed hydration for their growth.

Now, here’s a unique tip for success – mulch. Imagine it as a cozy blanket, protecting your plants and conserving moisture in the soil. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of each plant to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperature.

Lastly, don’t forget about maintenance. In the first season, pinch off any flowers that appear in order to redirect the plant’s energy towards root development. I know it may seem counterproductive, however, what you can’t see above ground is the most important aspect of a healthy strawberry patch. Allowing the plant to put all it’s energy into setting a extensive root system will ensure they establish strong roots for future growth and abundant fruit production.

planting bare root strawberries in containers

By following these steps and tips, you’re setting the stage for a thriving strawberry patch that will reward you with delicious fruits season after season. So embrace the rhythm of planting, listen to the whispers of nature, and watch as your bare root strawberries transform into a vibrant tapestry of green foliage and ruby-red berries. Happy planting!

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