Growing Strawberries in Raised Beds
Growing strawberries in raised beds have few disadvantages and many benefits when compared with growing strawberries in the garden strawberry patch.
Raised beds allow the gardeners to tune the growing conditions to the plant or plants they intended to grow, in this case, strawberries, including position, soil mix and its pH, fertilizers, position, etc.
Updated: December 18, 2021.
Raised Garden Beds for Strawberries - Quick Intro
Strawberries are perennial plants and one must take great care about their soil. One of the drawbacks of growing strawberries in raised beds are higher initial costs, but these costs can be kept under moderation with little DIY skills.
If you like shortcuts, there are many ready-made raised garden bed kits on the market offering everything a gardener can wish.
For more general information about raised garden beds, their material, and construction, feel free to check How to Build a Raised Garden Bed - Elevated and Raised Garden Beds article.
Generally, raised garden beds allow the gardeners to grow strawberries on the dedicated patch, with conditions optimized for strawberries, for years to come.
With proper soil selection, strawberries may yield a surprisingly rich harvest of tasty fruits and with proper strawberry plant selection, the harvest can last for months.
Raised garden strawberry beds are also visually very attractive, and can be used even for landscaping.
Thanks to many companies offering elevated garden beds with wheels and vertical strawberry planters, the gardeners may grow their strawberries in raised beds outside during warm days and indoors during cold winter days - with proper strawberry plant selection, strawberries can be grown successfully indoors even during winter!
Soil Preparation and Watering
Regardless of the soil type in the garden, raised garden beds enables a gardener to tailor the soil to suit the strawberries - strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil with pH between 5.5 and 6.5, preferably around 6.0 - 6.2, rich in organic matter and nutrients, moist, but it must drain well.
If the raised bed is a foot or less high, before positioning its frame, remove topsoil, especially if the raised bed is positioned on the lawn/grass. Fill the raised bed with good potting soil, aged manure, compost/humus, and add some balanced NPK fertilizer with gradual release of nutrients.
If the raised bed is tall, for example, two feet (60 cm), fill it first with branches and straw, followed by a layer of aged manure. The last foot of the mix should be potting soil with added aged manure, compost/humus, and NPK fertilizer.
Note: even taller raised beds can be filled with only the soil, of course, just be sure that such soil drains well - if not, add some sand to it. The last layer in the garden bed must be growing soil optimized for strawberries.
The soil in taller raised beds will set over time, so be sure to water the soil several times before planting strawberries, adding new soil after each watering.
As branches and straw decompose, they feed the raised bed and generate heat that warms the root system - very important in early spring and late autumn, when such heat can extent growing season, especially when the raised bed is protected by transparent plastic effectively creating a small greenhouse.
The best watering system for strawberries is in the form of a dripping system, keeping in mind that strawberry fruit must be kept dry in order to prevent fruit rot.
If the dripping system is not an option, water strawberries regularly to keep the soil constantly moist - large fluctuations in moisture level can lead to irregular and damaged fruits. During spring and autumn, water the strawberries twice per week, however, during the summer heat in warmer areas, watering on a daily basis is required.
The amount of water depends on the number of plants, type of soil, sun/wind conditions, etc. The best indicator is strawberries - if they grow strong and healthy, there is enough moisture and nutrients in the soil. If they are shriveled before watering, add more water and/or water more often.
Note: the soil should be moist, but not soggy. Good drainage is very important, hence some gardeners add the layer of sand and/or gravel below the growing soil layer. Such sand/gravel layer ensures excellent drainage, but the soil can dry quickly during summer days.
Strawberries have a relatively shallow root system, with even the larger strawberry varieties growing happily in 6-8 inches of soil.
Strawberry Raised Garden Bed Position
Strawberries like sunny positions, so it is vital to set up the raised bed in the full sun. Strawberries can grow in partial shade, especially during long and hot summer days, but the quality of the fruits in spring and autumn will decrease.
Strong wind can damage plants, flowers, and fruit and decrease the crop. During summer, wind can increase moisture evaporation and force a gardener to water more often.
Long story short, position raised beds in a sunny area of the garden that is sheltered from the strong winds.
Planting and Caring for Strawberry Plants in Raised Beds
The best time for planting young strawberries is in spring when the danger of late frosts is over. In small gardens, day-neutral and ever-bearing strawberries are almost exclusively planted, while June-bearing varieties are not so common.
Day-neutral and ever-bearing strawberries are relatively small plants, they don't produce many runners and they bear fruits in the first season.
When planting strawberry plants, get the planting depth just right - strawberry crown should be above the soil, and roots below.
Depending on the size of the plants, space them 6-10 inches (15 - 25 cm) apart. Some alpine strawberries are so small (both plants and fruit) that can be grown 4 inches (10 cm) apart - such plants and fruit require plenty of labor, but those strawberries have fantastic taste and fragrance.
Rooting daughter plants growing on the runners is vital for keeping the raised bed in good shape - strawberry plants after several years lose vigor and bear fewer fruits.
Rooting of such plants is very easy - bend a nail in the form of the letter 'U' and using it, fix the daughter plant in a permanent position. After just a few weeks, it will grow enough roots to continue to grow as an individual plant and to bear fruits rather quickly.
Photo: runners and daughter plants, fixed using ordinary bent nails
Strawberry varieties that don't produce runners (in larger numbers), often propagate by dividing small strawberry plants from the crown - be very gentle with plants when doing this, since any sudden movement can break roots, crowns, and leaves, in essence, killing the plants.
Photo: thick strawberry crown, time for separating the small strawberries from the mother plant
When planting is done, add a layer of mulch to the raised garden bed. This mulch will prevent strawberries from touching the soil and will decrease evaporation. The most common mulch is a straw (hence the name 'strawberries'), but other similar materials can be used.
Instead of adding mulch, some gardeners prefer strawberry supports, which are placed under and around each strawberry plant. Strawberry supports keep the strawberries above the soil, increasing the health of fruits and allow the gardener to periodically work with the soil by removing the supports before and placing them back after the work is done - it is much easier to remove the supports than the mulch, for example.
One of the benefits of raised beds, especially multi-tier raised beds is the long edge when compared with the growing area, enabling the gardener to 'force' strawberry fruit to grow hanging in the air, without touching the soil.
Regular pruning should help reduce the thickness of strawberry plants and keep the strawberries away from the rest of the garden.
Also, prune anything that is sick, ill, or old.
Protect strawberry plants and fruits from pests like mice or birds using protective nets with mesh large enough to let the bees in, but keeping the pest away from the strawberries.
Also, rodents can dig their way through the soil, so if you have issues with rodents in general, when setting the raised garden bed, put a metal wire net into the soil.
Growing Strawberries in Raised Garden Beds Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some of the most common Frequently Asked Questions about growing strawberries in raised beds:
How deep should raised beds be for strawberries?
Raised beds don't have to be very deep - strawberries will grow well in just 6-8 inches (~15-20 cm) of soil, with smaller varieties requiring even less soil. However, having 6-8 inches of soil will keep the moisture for longer than, for example, 4-6 inches of soil.
How many strawberries can I grow in a 4x8 raised bed? How many strawberries can you plant in a raised bed?
It depends on the strawberry variety and the use of mulch or strawberry supports - if You plan on using 12" (30.5 cm) supports, plant one strawberry plant every 12 inches. In that case, one can grow 32 strawberries in the 4'x8' raised bed.
How do you take care of strawberries in a raised bed?
Water them regularly, keep the soil fertile by adding organic compost and perhaps some slow-release NPK strawberry fertilizer, protect them from pests, and check for diseases.
Will strawberries survive winter in raised beds?
Yes, strawberries will survive the winter in raised beds when protected by a layer of straw or similar material - this depends on the local climate since in warmer areas some strawberry varieties grow even during the "winter" and in colder areas, even hardy varieties must be well protected.
What do you do with strawberry plants in the winter? Do you water strawberry plants in the winter?
Generally, before the first frost, remove any dry or sick leaves and/or plants, add a layer of straw and be sure to keep the soil somewhat moist even during the winter - strawberries need moisture even during the winter, but too much moisture is not good.
Very often, there is no need to water them during the winter at all, but just in case, check the plants and periodically.
Do strawberries do well in raised beds?
Raised beds allow the gardeners to tune the growing conditions to suit the strawberries as much as possible - strawberries may grow very well in raised beds.
What depth of soil do strawberries need?
6-8 inches (15-20 cm) of soil is enough. A thicker growing layer holds more moisture than thinner layers.
What kind of mulch do you use for strawberries?
Obviously, strawberries grow very well when the straw is used as mulch, but other similar materials can be used as well. Also, some people prefer strawberry supports during the growing season and use straw only to protect the plants during winter.
What is the best soil mix for strawberries in raised beds?
The best soil mix for strawberries should have a pH of 6.0-6.2, it should keep the moisture well, but also it should drain well and be rich in organic matter.
What is the best fertilizer for strawberries in raised beds?
Organic compost/humus and slow-release NPK strawberry fertilizer ensure a constant flow of nutrients without spikes that could cause issues.
How long can you grow strawberries in the same bed? Do strawberries come back every year?
Strawberries can grow up to 6-8 years, with the best yields in the second and third years. By constantly replacing older plants with the daughter plants (from runners, for example), the gardener can grow strawberries in the same garden bed practically indefinitely.
However, in order to avoid issues with pests and diseases, it is a good practice to relocate strawberries to another location every few years (3-5 years, for example) with completely new soil.
If You do plan to grow strawberries permanently in the same bed, be sure to replace the growing soil every few years - it can be a lot of work, but ...
Do strawberries grow in the shade?
There are varieties that grow well even in shade, but most of the strawberries require full sun positions, especially in the spring and the autumn.
Do strawberries like coffee grounds?
Yes, they do, just be sure not to overdo it. Spread some coffee grounds over the soil and water it. Or add some coffee grounds when adding the compost and NPK fertilizer and mix it with the soil.
Long Story Short: When strawberries in spring start to grow and flower vigorously, gardeners will have plenty of work caring just for them.
But, when strawberries are fully ripe and ready to be picked up, no work is too hard for such delicious fruits.