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How To Grow Strawberries In A Raised Bed

Strawberries are some of the most popular and versatile fruits out there. Whether you’re looking to eat fresh strawberries or want to bake with them, turn them into preserves or jams, and even make cordials and wines, strawberries are delicious. 

Growing your own strawberries is one of the best ways to ensure you have a consistent supply of these delicious red berries and especially to make sure they’re ripe when you eat them.

Raised beds are one of the better ways to protect your plants and help get a better harvest, so why not plant your strawberry plants in a raised bed? 

Of course, all raised bed planting differs from just planting directly in the ground. We’ll cover everything you need to know about planting strawberries in a raised bed, from how to prepare the bed for planting to how you can care for your strawberries and get a better harvest. 

How To Plant Strawberries In A Raised Bed – A Complete Guide

Raised bed planting is becoming more popular as gardeners learn how much more produce they can get from raised bed planting. Strawberries often benefit from having a more isolated grow bed, making raised beds a great way to get the most from your strawberry plants. 

Let’s take a look at some of the things you should consider before you build your raised beds and how to tend the strawberries once they’re planted. 

Where To Place Your Raised Beds To Grow Strawberries

Placement is key when it comes to raised beds for strawberries. Put the beds in an area with too much shade or where water will stagnate under the bed, and yous strawberry plants probably won’t do very well. 

Ideally, you should put your raised beds somewhere with full sun exposure. That means your strawberries should get sunlight for 8-10 hours a day if possible. There are some low-sun varieties that you can get if you don’t have a sunny garden area, but for most strawberry varieties, it’s easier to correct for too much sunlight than too little. 

You should also look for a relatively flat surface with good drainage. Whether your raised bed is connected to the ground or not, having a flat, well-drained surface under the bed will help prevent water from pooling at one end or the other or not draining out of the raised bed quickly enough. 

Lastly, you also want to think about wind and shelter. Strawberries don’t tend to grow very well when they’re very exposed and may lose water too fast in strong winds. Since strawberry plants benefit from a straw mulch, too much wind can make it harder to keep your strawberries healthy. 

How To Prepare Your Raised Bed For Planting Strawberries

Your raised beds need to have good soil in them if you want your strawberries to thrive. If you’re using the straw composting method of making raised beds, you probably want to wait until the beds have had some time to mature and for the straw to begin composting before you plant. 

Ideally, you should set this kind of raised bed up in the autumn before you want to plant, so it has time to set up. 

Strawberries like well-drained soil that has a lot of humus in it. That means that the soil should look dark brown or black and have a lot of organic content. 

If your soil is clay-rich or doesn’t have enough organic content, you can mix in straw, bark, or even vegetable scraps from your kitchen to help boost it. Adding bark mulch to the soil can also help provide aeration and improve drainage. 

The raised bed should also be fully watered before you plant your strawberries and may need to be watered again after they are planted. You don’t want to oversaturate the soil, but try to replace the water that may have evaporated while you were planting. 

This is important because strawberry plants don’t do well with dry roots or in drought conditions. As long as you let your raised bed dry out before watering again, it’s better to risk slight overwatering now than to leave your strawberries starved for moisture. 

When To Begin Planting Strawberries

Strawberry plants should be planted in the late spring or early summer, depending on your location and what varieties of strawberries you’re planting. 

Most strawberries are fairly cold-hardy, but you don’t want a sudden cold shock to make them go dormant when they should be growing. Wait until the frost risk is gone in your area before planting. 

Ideally, daytime temperatures should average at least 60-degree highs when you plant. That’s because your plants need a certain amount of warmth to be able to grow and photosynthesize as efficiently as possible. 

That might mean you can plant as early as the first couple of weeks in May; in other places, you might need to wait until the first couple of weeks in June for your planting. 

Strawberry Spacing

Regardless of the type of strawberry, you should plan on planting them about 8-10 inches apart to make sure there is plenty of room for their roots and for their leaves to spread out as they grow. 

Strawberries are also great at self-propagating when they are thriving. That means you might need to thin the plants later on, or you might want to give the plants a little more space so that the first generation of runners can fill in the gaps. 

What Type Of Fertilizer For Strawberry Plants?

Strawberry plants usually do best with a balanced fertilizer or a fertilizer with slightly more nitrogen. They should be fertilized every couple of weeks through the growing season to help support healthy growth. 

You can also tweak the fertilizer slightly to tell your strawberry plants what kind of growth they should be going. More nitrogen in your fertilizer will help encourage leaf and stem growth, while more potassium and phosphorous will help encourage fruiting. 

Remember, though, even if you’re trying to tweak your strawberry’s growth, you should try to keep the fertilizer fairly balanced. 

Crushed egg shells and used coffee grounds can also be used to help boost some of the other nutrients your strawberries need. The coffee grounds should be used with care, though, because you don’t want to make the soil PH too acidic, strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil but lower the PH too much, and you’ll burn the roots. 

Test your soil’s PH and nutrient levels at least once per growing season to know the soil’s needs. For strawberries, you may need to adjust the PH, add calcium or magnesium, or boost the organic content in your soil by adding compost or quickly-decomposing kitchen scraps. 

How To Water Strawberries In A Raised Bed

Like most plants, strawberries do best with occasional deep watering instead of frequent shallow watering. The exact amount of water you need depends on the size of the raised bed and how many plants you have, but you should aim to soak at least the top several inches during watering, providing enough water that it continues to soak all the way through the raised bed while the topsoil dries. 

That usually means watering for at least 20 minutes with a hose or sprinkler system and for as long as an hour if you’re using a drip line system. 

You’ll probably need to water 1-2 times a week but may need to water as many as 3x a week during the height of summer heat or while your strawberry plants have a lot of fruit. Check the soil moisture a couple of inches down with your hand to know when you need to water, and try not to water too often. 

When Will Your Strawberries Start To Produce Fruit? 

Strawberries will usually try to set fruit even the first year they are planted, but that doesn’t mean you should let them. 

Instead of letting your strawberries set fruit in late spring, you should pinch off the buds the first year. Your strawberry plants will switch their energy from growing fruit to establishing the plants themselves, growing more leaves and deeper roots. 

If you let your strawberries establish themselves the first year you plant them, they’re much more likely to produce a better harvest the next year. You’re also less likely to lose plants in the first year of overwintering, and they’ll be more able to set fruit and put offshoots in the following years. 

So, while you could theoretically have strawberry fruit the same year you plant strawberries, you should try to hold off. If you want strawberries the first year, thin the fruit buds more lightly and let one or two of the plants set fruit. 

Should You Mulch Strawberries In Raised Beds? 

You don’t need to mulch strawberries to get a good harvest, but it can help your plants establish faster and better and can help protect the moisture in your raised beds, so you don’t need to water quite as often. 

If you choose to mulch, look for mulching options that will decompose slightly over time to help provide more organic content to your soil. Straw is a good option, but some people also use a bark mulch. 

The most important thing about mulching your strawberries is that you want the mulch layer to be relatively water-permeable so that fertilizer and other soil amendments don’t get trapped above the mulch. 

Protecting Your Raised Bed Strawberries In Winter

Strawberries are one of the most cold-hardy fruits and vegetables, so they may not need any special protection over the winter. 

Using some wire and a clear plastic greenhouse cover can help make sure the plants aren’t buried and will retain some moisture and heat to help the plants survive their winter dormancy a little better. 

Even a well-protected bed will likely see a couple of plant deaths every year. Don’t worry too much; as long as the remaining plants look healthy, you should have a few runners you can use to fill in the empty spaces in your raised bed. 

How To Keep Pests Off Your Strawberries

Strawberries don’t attract too many pests, but you should still watch for a few common problems. 

Aphids are one of the bigger issues for strawberry plants, but releasing a few ladybugs from your local garden center will usually bring the aphids under control. 

Birds and squirrels will also readily steal your strawberries while they are growing and ripening. Bird netting is a good option for keeping the birds out, but squirrels may lift the netting or tear through it, so keep your eyes open in case you need to make repairs. 

Common Diseases Of Strawberry Plants

There are a few more diseases you should watch for with strawberry plants, but most of these are avoidable with good soil quality and making sure the soil is well-suited to strawberry plants. 

If you notice that your strawberry plants are starting to get diseases, that is a sign that they’re already stressed, and it’s probably time to test the soil and start making changes. 

Powdery mildew is one of the most common problems and can be controlled with sulfur treatments or baking soda mixed into water. Some fungicides are also an option, but make sure they’re rated for powdery mildew since they differ from root rot or other diseases. 

You can also prevent powdery mildew by being careful with which strawberries you bring home. Strawberries grown in a too-damp greenhouse will often have powdery mildew or some powdery mildew spores. 

Verticillium Wilt is less of a problem in raised beds, but it can still be a severe problem for strawberry plants. This is why you shouldn’t use soil that has had tomatoes or any other plants affected by verticillium wilt for your strawberry plants. 

Once verticillium wilt is in the soil, it can’t be treated. You will either need to get a wilt-resistant cultivar or build a new raised bed from scratch. 

Fusarium wilt is another serious wilt, and this one can quickly kill an entire strawberry crop and make it hard to recover the bed. This form of wilt is most common in hot and dry conditions, and once it’s in the soil, you’ll need to treat the bed to get rid of it. 

Treating your raised bed by wrapping it in black plastic and leaving it for a few sunny days is one effective method. You can plant strawberries again when the raised bed has cooled to normal soil temperatures. 

Making sure your compost is fully decomposed before using it, providing plenty of water, and watching for spider mites can help protect your strawberries from fusarium wilt. 

Final Thoughts

Raised beds can be a great way to grow strawberries, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some complications. Make sure you do your research, know what each cultivar you’ve planted needs, and keep up on soil amendments to prevent the strawberries from pulling all the nutrients out of their grow bed. 

As long as you keep the needs of your strawberries in mind and keep an eye out for problems so you can spot them quickly, you’ll have good strawberry harvests within two years of planting.