Monday, September 07, 2009

Quick and Easy Gardening Tip:
How To Grow Bigger Strawberries Next Year

A Berry Sweet Breakfast Harvested Back on May 19th

Realization of the Day:
It's somehow September!

If you're a seasonal eater in the northern hemisphere, apples and pears are probably the fruits in the forefront of your mind right now, but if you're also a gardener, it's time for you to be thinking about strawberries. Next year's harvest may be many months away, but berry size is actually determined now.

Strawberry Blossoms full of Juicy Promise on April 21st (and a cute little inchworm)

When I moved to Missouri and started gardening on a much larger scale than I had been in my itty bitty Northern California backyard, one of the books I turned to time and time again (this was back in the archaic pre-google days) was
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Chemical-Free Gardening and Landscaping Techniques. Since I was pretty much clueless, this book was a tremendous help.

While The Vegetable Gardener's Bible has long been the first book I now grab when I have veggie growing questions (I highly recommend this wonderful publication for gardeners of all levels—you can read my review of it here), I still often find myself flipping through the pages of Rodale's Encyclopedia because it's full of the kinds of helpful tips I just don't find anywhere else. I mean, discovering this simple secret to growing bigger strawberries was in itself worth the price of the book (which, as of right now,
is as low as $1.50 at amazon.)

Growing Green on May 13th

Here's what a little sidebar I found in Rodale's Encyclopedia called 'Strawberry Futures' says:
If the growing conditions are favorable in August and September, you should have large berries the next season. But if conditions are less than favorable, your fruit will probably turn out to be small.

Now they don't actually explain what those 'favorable' growing conditions are, and it isn't as if could change the weather even if we knew what we wanted it to do, but the next paragraph says:

Researchers have also discovered that a few days of rain in the fall can mean the difference between a bountiful crop and a mediocre harvest several months later. So if it looks like a dry fall, make time to water your strawberry bed thoroughly at least twice before the end of September.

My Bed of Cavendish Strawberries on August 23rd (read more about them here)

Between the couple of good waterings I miraculously remembered to give my 4'x8' raised strawberry bed back in August and the 2½ unexpected—and much appreciated—inches of rain we got last Friday, I should be set, even if I space out the strawberries for the rest of the month (which is quite likely to happen).

So if you haven't had a good rain lately and you're anywhere near as scatterbrained as I am, stop reading this and go give your strawberry plants a nice long soak right now. You can thank me for those big beautiful berries come spring—if you remember, that is.

Here are links to my previous posts about growing strawberries, including one that explains how to prepare your strawberry bed for winter (because after watering now, we're not yet done for the year):
6/5/05: Strawberries from Garden to Kitchen
5/21/06: A Beautiful Breakfast!
5/27/06: Me, Cary, & Bear vs. The Turtles
10/28/07: Growing Strawberries & Preparing Your Bed for Winter
5/28/08: Successfully Growing Strawberries
7/20/08: Strawberries in the Garden & an Orange Yogurt Cake Recipe in the Kitchen

© Copyright 2009, the fruity foodie farm blog where those gigantic commercial strawberries may be bred for size with no regard whatsoever to taste, but that doesn't mean we home gardeners can't strive for slightly larger yet still incredibly flavorful berries. With a little timely watering, our strawberry harvests can have it all.


  1. Given the downpours we've had here in Columbus Ohio, I think my strawberries are good for next year too.

    What is your opinion on runners? Some say clip, others not. I lean toward laziness but could use your insight.

  2. Thank you for this post! I will have to give the strawberries a good soak for sure, as the weather (while rainy through much of August) has been dry recently. Like bayinghound, your thoughts on runners would also be appreciated on this end. Mine are still spreading their runners as if there is no tomorrow!

  3. Hi bayinghound and livinginalocalzone,
    Have you noticed that there seem to be about a zillion opinions on growing everything - it can get so confusing! The more growing seasons I live through (and the more stuff I screw up out there, LOL) the more I realize that a lot of what works in the kitchen garden depends so much on personal factors - location, weather, time available to garden, etc.

    After all these years I'm still figuring out strawberries and how they'll do best for me. I've been meaning to put up a post for a while explaining all the things I've done wrong with them (I find those articles to be the most helpful, don't you? :)

    Until then, I'll attempt to give you some help here regarding runners. Bottom line - if your strawberry bed is already full of plants right now, I'd start snipping those runners. As you can see in the 8/23 photo of my 4'x8' bed in this post (which is a dumb size for strawberries I'm finding out - at least in my humid growing region), mine is pretty bare (which has partly to do with hungry deer and sheep and partly to do with trying to make it happier in my growing region), so I've been letting the runners (haven't been a whole bunch of them this year) take root.

    I just found this article from Mother Earth News that says if your runners haven't rooted by September 1st, yank them out.

    One thing you can do with runners in general is use them to make a new strawberry bed (and I don't know if it's too late for that - since we're past September 1st already - or not). After they're about 6 weeks old, snip the stems that connect the daughters (runners) to the mothers (main plant) and carefully dig them up, then transplant them where you want your new strawberry bed.

    If you're really on top of things, you can bury little pots of soil in the ground and set the runners in them so that they'll root inside the pots, allowing you to easily transplant them.

    If you're growing June-bearing cultivars (that's what I always grow) and you didn't refresh your bed right after harvesting the last berries, you probably don't want to leave a whole bunch of runner plants in your bed or it'll be overcrowded. But not to worry, next year you can refresh your bed (I have to write a post about this, too, but at least I have nearly a year to get to it!), thereby extending its life by several years.

    Something I read recently said it's a good idea to always have two strawberry beds going - that way you'll get berries even if one is in its first year where you have to snip off all the blossoms and/or one is on its last legs and isn't producing much.

    Hope this helps. I have lots of photos I've taken of so many different things growing (and not growing!) in the garden this year and have big plans to catch up sharing tips and info this fall and winter, but of course I say that every year. Maybe this will be the year I actually do it!

    In the meantime, keep your comments and questions coming, and we'll hopefully all be able to help each other grow the best gardens we can. And now I'd better go out and weed something - or better yet, scatter the lettuce and other greens seeds I've been meaning to plant for weeks! : )

  4. Hi Susan! Beautiful berries! I have a question I hope you can answer for me. I live in B.C. Canada where we have an abundance of blackberry bushes. After making blackberry jelly this yr. I put the pulp and seeds into my compost. I am now praying I won't end up with a million blackberry bushes. Do you think they will grow? I hadn't thought of this until after the fact - hoping I won't regret it come next spring. Thanks so much! Ina from the Westcoast

  5. Gr8T stuff Susan! My daughter is a HUGE strawberry fan. Her first attempt at gardening this year was a bit overwhelming.

    I'm going to pass this link on to her for the much needed inspiration she needs.

    Thanks so much for sharing...

  6. Can I ask a question?

    I wanted to get strawberry beds in earlier this year and didn't manage it. Is it too late in the year to do it now? I know I won't get berries, but will they "make it" or would it be better to wait 'till next year?

  7. Hi Ina,
    Oh, blackberry jelly sounds wonderful! I could be wrong, but I don't think you'll have to worry about your compost pile turning into a blackberry jungle. Brambles spread by sending up runners out of the ground, so I think you should be safe with those seeds in there. All sorts of seeds end up in my compost piles and nothing ever sprouts out of them. :)

    Hi Kathleen,
    It probably depends on where you're located and what the winters are like. It also may be difficult locating any strawberry plants for sale this time of year. If you already have some young plants or have a friend whose strawberry bed is full of runners, I'd say go for it. Like I said above, that one article I found said to yank starters that hadn't rooted by September 1st (which wasn't that long ago) which means those plants would all be young and facing the winter. Because I tend to always be behind in the garden, I often push the limit and grow/do things at the wrong time. Worst comes to worst, you have to start over and replant in the spring. But you might just end up with a nice healthy strawberry bed instead! :)

  8. Hi Susan! Thanks for the info on the blackberry seeds. I decided not to take a chance on it - last yr. I put in some dead rudebeckia plants into the compost - this yr. I got a gazillion - and tomato seedlings that didn't get big enough! Do you have any suggestons for slugs? I fight with them every year!
    thanks, Ina

  9. Great strawberry post and comments, I would LOVE for you to do another post on the subject. This was my first year growing them so I am also clueless and would be very willing to learn from your mistakes! ;)

  10. Boy oh Boy oh Boy, I am sooooooo glad you did this post! man! I have a raised bed with TONS of runners coming out of it & I've just been ignoring them because I don't know what to do & I've been too busy to figure it out! I just happened to read your title today on my Google Reader & it was just the info that I needed! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! It actually helps me feel better to know that some people just trim them off & throw them out. It also helps to know that i can still try to replant them into another bed because who knows... It's worth a try, I think I will just try. Thanks a lot for this post!

  11. That was a great post on growing strawberries. They are just the best. We have two kinds growing here-- bentons for jamming and tri-stars for nibbling. We just picked three quarts of tri-stars the other day. surprised the heck out of me. They are just the best berry. So delicious and productive! It is great to know about that end of the season watering trick. It is supposed to rain tonight and it rained a few weeks ago so we ought to be all set for next year. Who would of thought that is what makes the difference.

  12. its great tips and will tried it in my garden

  13. You are awesome and oh so inspiring. As a California gal, who aspires to country life, I read your blog with baited breath, and savor each tidbit knowing that someday I, too, will live a life of greenery, country, and self sustenance.
    My dogs hope it will be sooner, rather than later.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!