Starwberries In 12 Inch Pots

oatmealcremes(z5 NY)April 27, 2008

I have a few questions about planting strawberries in 12 inch hanging pots. I'm reading so many different opinions on the internet. Some say you should treat them as annuals, and throw them out every year. But then I read that they take a year to produce well. Which is it? I have 50 plants coming from Gurney's this week. If I plant them now, will I have strawberries this year? Or do I prune them back this year and wait for next year? I'd really rather not have to haul all those pots in the garage for Winter. :O I have both June and Everbearing varieties. I'm in upstate NY - zone 5.

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justaguy2(5)

Haven't done strawberries in containers, but have done them in the ground. From plants they will probably produce in the first year.

Whether you want to let them do so or not depends on whether you want them to use their energy to multiply and grow larger or produce fruit. If your intent is to toss them every year then clearly you want to let them fruit, but if your intent is to keep them a few years then you are probably better served pinching the fruit off the first year.

I have also heard that strawberries shouldn't be kept for more than a couple years before replacing them, but I honestly do not understand why. I can understand thinning them out so the ones remaining have more room to grow and less competition for light, water etc., but beyond that I can't think of any reason.

I have a small patch of strawberries growing in the lawn along my fence. They are the remains of a patch I destroyed at least 5 years ago. They won't die and I already see them growing again this year (in zone 5). They also fruit.

I guess I would say keep them as long as they are productive. I am not certain, but I suspect that if their productivity starts to decline it can be 'fixed' by digging a bunch out and thinning them. Or, just repot them in the spring and put 1/2 in the same container and the other half in a new one.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 3:27PM
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wormgirl(z8 WA)

Strawberries simply become less productive after several years, whether in the ground or in containers. Why, I couldn't tell you. But I have an old strawberry plant in a pot that just won't die (heh) - and I don't have the heart to kill it, but it barely produces compared to newer plants. (I'm going to experiment repotting it in Al's Mix - I will let you know if I revive it!)

There are complicated ways to handle this when you are planting in the ground -- by using alternating beds, letting them runner certain years, etc. None of this applies to you when growing in pots.

I would say your greatest challenge would be to overwinter them in those hanging planters in zone 5. If you would prefer to treat them as annuals (and it sounds like you would) I would cut off any runners and just let them fruit. Be sure to cut the runners because this affects fruiting greatly.

FWIW, mine overwinter fine in z8, in pots, I just leave them out all winter.

The part that I don't have any experience with is that I assume you are getting bareroot plants. All the berries I've grown were in pots when I bought them, so I don't know if they behave differently growing from bareroot. Perhaps this is what people are referring to when they say they take a year to become productive. Hopefully someone else here can enlighten us on that point, because I have been wondering that myself!

Jenn

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 12:29PM
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justaguy2(5)

The one time I grew strawberries I used bare root and they produced the first year. These were ground grown and I spaced them 12" apart. Not only did they fruit the first year, but there was no empty ground by mid season and they started trying to escape their assigned area. In other words I didn't clip the runners to have the plants put more energy into fruit.

These were June bearing, not sure if there are less vigorous types out there that would behave differently.

Jenn, I would be interested in what happens with your older plants once you repot them. If I were a betting man I would say they become more vigorous, but that's just a guess. I can't wrap my brain around what would cause loss of vigor that a repot wouldn't fix, but maybe I am wrong. I just did a few minutes of googling and see a bunch of sources claiming they lose vigor after 3-4 years, but none of those sources say why. My brain has to understand the 'why' and when I can't find the 'why' I get skeptical. To the extent that some ideas were offered it was due to salt build up in the soil as well as the accumulated stress of disease/insects. Dunno, I still think they should be able to be rejuvenated.

If you do repot and they bear like crazy then you get to become famous for disproving yet another gardening myth! ;-)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 12:58PM
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wormgirl(z8 WA)

Okay JaG, I'll go repot that thing right now!! LOL. I realized it is my oldest surviving outdoor container plant. I think I planted it in 2000. I am curious to see if I can revive it. If I could at least get it to sucker, I could make "babies" from it.

I also have no idea WHY strawberries are said to do the things they do, but I know it supposedly pertains to them whether they're grown in ground or in container.

I have only grown everbearing since that seemed sensible in pots. I assume different varieties would behave differently - thus our various experiences with whether suckering plants will bear well. I would say that *good* plants should be prepared by the grower to fruit well the first year, whatever form they come.

I did observe that the two varieties I bought last year behaved very differntly, and continue to do so. Last year's "happier" plants ('Quinalt') are not looking so happy now. And the ones that suckered like crazy and hardly fruited last year ('Sequoia') are now happy as a clam and flowering already, with not a sucker on them.

I will definitely report back on what happens after repotting. Thanks again for all your great thoughts.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 2:25PM
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wormgirl(z8 WA)

Oh, I forgot to mention, I picked up a 12" wide hanging pot with strawberries at the Farmer's Market. The variety is 'Fern,' and it is said to be trailing. There are six plants in the pot, and that seems a bit crowded but it should be fine for a season and will probably look gorgeous. I have also seen pix of strawberries growing from slits cut in coir liners in wire baskets.

Just some thoughts on hanging strawberry baskets. Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 2:33PM
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