Strawberries are the very essence of summer with their vibrant plants springing to life as the flowers bloom and the days warm. They are easy to grow and well-established plants return year after year. While perfectly contoured rows of strawberries offer hoards of produce, it’s just as nice to pluck your berries from compact hanging gardens. Growing strawberries as a hanging plant is simple and rewarding. Here’s what you need to know.
Benefits of Hanging
Strawberries are a generally forgiving plant that thrive in most spaces, but they are susceptible to rot, ground bacteria, and insects. By hanging plants instead of having them close to the ground, you can reduce all of these concerns.
Another benefit of hanging gardens is the use of space. Even if you have limited garden space or if you only have a patio, you can grow copious amounts of berries.
When you put your berries in hanging baskets you can accommodate their needs by moving them in or out of the sun as needed. Plus, it keeps your plants out of reach from hungry deer and other night feeders.
Select the Right Plants
Like most plants, there are a variety of characteristics in the different plants. For the success of your hanging garden it’s important to choose the right plants to start with.
In general, avoid plants that toss out runners in order to spread. These variatels don’t do well in containers. Instead, look for day-neutral strawberries. The berries are smaller than the ubiquitous June-bearing varieties, but day-neutral plants are everbearing, meaning that they continue to produce fruit throughout the season rather than a single harvest in June (as June-bearing varieties are known for).
Tristar, Tribute, Mara des Bois, Evie and Albion, Quinault, and Ogallala are all great options for your hanging plants.
You might also find success with the somewhat rare alpine varieties. Generally grown from seed, you can find plants online. Alpine strawberries are related to wild strawberries and grow from spring through fall and do well in shady areas.
Location, Location, Location
Although strawberries are a low-maintenance crop, certain factors will increase your success. For example, make sure your plants receive full sun. Six hours per day is a minimum for most varieties and even shadows have an effect, so select a location where they can really drink in the sunlight. However, you don’t want to put your plants through a drought, so make sure they are easy to access for watering and that your container has adequate drainage.
This is where the fun begins. There are endless ways you can support your strawberry hanging plants as they grow. The most important thing is to make sure there is enough space for soil and proper drainage. For hanging containers, consider metal baskets lined with peat moss that retain moisture and hold the soil in. There are hanging baskets on the market or you can create your own out of items around the house, such as a metal colander.
Another popular style of hanging support is a bag with holes cut out of the side. The idea is to put the plants in the soil inside the bag and allow them to grow out the side holes with the fruit dangling down. Again, you can buy this style of planter or make one yourself with any thick bag.
Many other materials can support your berries so use what you have around the house. For example, a reinforced wood pallet makes a great planter for hanging strawberries. You can also fill a window box. A fun way to reuse old PVC pipe is to drill holes up the side, fill with soil, and allow plants to grow out the sides. You can even use old coffee cans, pails, or plastic planter pots.
Your plants will reward you for giving them the proper nutrients. Start with a soil specific for container gardening. These blends are less dense than traditional garden soil that can become too heavy in a hanging garden. Container mix also has additives that hold in water while increasing air circulation. If your blend isn’t already enriched, create a fertile mix by working in compost, rotted manure, and some peat moss at planting time.
When layering your plants in your hanging garden, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Add soil and then shake it down. Make sure that each layer is settled before adding more plants or soil. Add water at several times as you build up your planter to ensure all the soil absorbs the moisture.
- Loosen the soil around your plants as you put them in. Simply give them a shake and gently massage the roots.
- Plant plants closer together than in a traditional bed. Let them snuggle right up next to each other in the hanging garden.
- Make sure your plants face the right direction. If you have a hanging device with holes direct them outwards. For baskets or boxes encourage them towards the edge so they can hang down.
Depending on the type of hanging garden you have, you may need to water daily or even more often. Consider hooking up a drip system with a timer. Otherwise, give your plants long, slow watering to keep the soil moist. Allow the water to drain out as needed.
Also give your plants a slow release fertilizer, especially while they get established. Every few weeks, water with a compost tea, rich in nutrients. Then hold off on the fertilizer once berries form and continue to water as they plump up and ripen.