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Helpful tips on growing strawberries in containers

There are lot of apprehensions when it comes to growing strawberries in containers. The foremost doubt is can they be grown in pots. The answer to that is yes. I share here techniques that I adopted for growing strawberries.

My successful foray at growing strawberries in containers made me want to attempt the same again. And I did just that, on the first chance I got when we moved to Lonavala, a small hill station, for yet another short stint. Having read up material on growing strawberries I was more experienced this time round. Needless to say, my pretty little garden, with strawberries growing in containers was a crowning achievement. I soon had people asking me for advice, because everyone (well almost everyone) who came over wanted to begin growing strawberries as well. I became an expert on growing strawberries and I silently revelled in all the admiration I received.

I shared whatever knowledge I had gathered, with anyone who approached me. And here is all of that advice for anyone wanting to try their hands at growing strawberries.

Let me begin by saying that strawberries do grow in containers, just as well as they do on the ground. They need just that wee bit extra care, and if you can provide that you can be sure of a good yield.

Plant at a healthy distance

Strawberry plants are small and you might be tempted to plant them in small sized pots, but don't. If you imagine that number of strawberry plants in a small container will give you many more strawberries, then your assumption is incorrect. Overcrowding will most certainly not yield desired results. Strawberry plants do not like congested environment, they prefer space around them. So, avoid rooting too many plants in a confined area.

A thumb rule that I followed was to maintain a distance of 8"- 10" between the plants. This helped avoid overcrowding.

Choose containers with care

The root system of strawberries does not go down to deep. So, it's fine to use shallow containers. But, they shouldn't taper suddenly, because the roots do need space to spread out. The plant also needs space to spread on the surface. Get containers that provide ample room.

Runners need to go

You will notice the plant producing runners, and these need to be snipped off, as they are only needed for propagation. If runners are allowed to remain they will continue to draw nutrients from the mother plant. This will result in the plant not producing fruit.

You need runners only if you want to grow new plants. Even then, detach them from the mother plant within a week to ten days, for it takes that long for the roots to settle in. Any longer and you'll be burdening the mother plant, depriving it of vital nutrients.

Geographical location matters

Strawberries are native to temperate zones and do not do well in hot tropical conditions. You can only grow them in tropical conditions only under regulated conditions. I have seen strawberries being grown inside a South Mumbai home. I was told they took the plants out in the morning hours for pollination to happen. The house was centrally air-conditioned and the temperatures were constantly checked. So, yes they can be grown anywhere, but you have to create an atmosphere conducive to the growth.

The plant may grow leaves in tropical conditions but will fail to flower and fruit. The plants cannot adjust to the high temperatures and become prone to fungal infections and pests.

Not too much heat

Strawberries planted in the ground are shielded from the heat because the soil is well insulated, doesn't get warmed up and this allows the root to remain cool. In a container, the soil gets warm as the ambient temperature increases. This is because the containers absorb heat and transfer it to the soil. This is especially true if you use dark coloured containers made of metal or plastic or other material that can absorb heat.

Keep the plants away from direct sunlight that could affect the soil temperature, or use methods such as providing shade to the plants, to dissipate the heat. It is also a good idea to spray water on the containers, each time the plants are watered.

Watering schedule

A strict watering schedule needs to be maintained for watering strawberries. The plants do not need too much water but need to be watered frequently. This statement might seem contradictory, but it is not. Overwatering can make the soil sodden, which is not good for the plants. Watering just once a day can lead to the drying up of soil, which can raise the temperature around the root system and act adversely against the plant. You need to avoid both conditions.

This can be accomplished by setting a watering routine where the plants are watered several times through the day. Just a little water, that ensures that the soil remains moist. The container should have adequate drainage because you do not want the watering collecting in the container, this could lead to root rot and fungal infection, killing the plant.

Protect strawberry plants during winter

Strawberry plants that are grown in containers need protection both during the summer and during the winter months. Just like the heat from the sun can damage them, so can the extra cold conditions. Chilly winds and frosty conditions can destroy your plants.

As long as winter temperatures are mild, there is really no cause to worry. However, once the temperatures begin to dip the likelihood of the plants suffering increases. Too many straight days of chilly temperatures can kill the plants. Use insulation material to protect the plants during the cold months. I used cardboard cartons as a cover over the containers, especially after sunset, when the temperatures tend to drop. If you can move the containers to a location where they remain protected from the cold winter winds then that can be a good option too. You may also use a green shade net to build a safe environment for your plants, during harsh winters.

After harvest care

If the plants are cared for well they will produce an abundance of strawberries during spring. As the weather begins to heat up the plants begin to grow runners. This is the time when the plants spread and multiply. You can plant these runners in separate pots and transfer them into larger containers once they establish themselves.

By late September, early October the plants begin to form tiny perennating buds, which form into flowers by early January. These flowers subsequently develop into fruits (strawberries).

The plants should not be neglected during this phase. They continue to need care all year round. The plants will need to be fed, once the perennating buds appear. This will ensure that they bloom and grow healthy fruits. Apply an organic fertiliser to the plant. The best-suited fertiliser for strawberries is the conventional 10-10-10. Here the 10-10-10 stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium or NPK. Apply approximately 10grs of fertiliser per sqr/ft. You use the same formula whether you are using organic or chemical fertiliser. It is better to underfeed the plants, rather than over-feeding them. The latter can burn the roots and kill the plants.

Strawberries can perform as well as in containers as they do in the ground. They just need to be handled with a little more care. Learn to take care of them right, whether you begin growing strawberries as a hobby or decide to experiment with them in your vegetable garden, and you'll have plentiful fruits on your table.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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