Strawberries are one of the few fruits that if you take care of them, they will give back 100 times more. Not only are strawberries prolific producers, but most varieties readily grow out runners which can multiply into new strawberry plants. You can quickly fill out an entire bed in a few years starting with just a few bare root strawberries.
Because of this, bare root strawberries are as much of an investment as they are a fruit producer, because you can keep multiplying your strawberry crop without having to buy more plants every year.
But unlike planting a seed, planting bare root strawberry plants is a little tricky for new strawberry growers. Not planting them at the right time or in the right way can cause you to lose all your bare root strawberries.
You should plant bare root strawberries in early spring after all threat of frost has passed, and when planting them they should have the roots under the soil and the crown above the soil. If the crown gets buried, it could rot before the plant breaks dormancy and starts growing.
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What Are Bare Root Strawberry Plants?
A bare root strawberry is a dormant strawberry plant with just the bare roots and crown with few or no leaves. The crown is where the new stem and leaf growth will occur.
Bare root strawberries allow people to buy large amounts of strawberry plants in only a small package, which allows easier and cheaper shipping. Bare root strawberries will often come wrapped to keep the roots from drying out.
Will Bare Root Strawberries Produce the First Year?
Whether you get strawberries from your bare root plants in the first year depends on the type of strawberry. Strawberries come in two types: June-bearing and everbearing. June-bearing strawberries produce one main harvest of strawberries in the early summer, based on the length of the day. Everbearing strawberries are day-neutral, so they can produce multiple harvests until the frost.
Because June-bearing strawberries are sensitive to the time of year in order to produce fruit, it’s unlikely you will get bare root strawberries to produce in their first year. However, everbearing strawberries may be able to give you a harvest by the fall of the first year.
How Long Can You Keep Bare Root Strawberries Before Planting?
The ideal time to plant bare root strawberries is after all risk of frost is gone and the soil is workable, i.e. early spring for most people. But if it’s still too cold outside, you risk having your strawberry roots die from frost before they can get established, so you have to take care of your bare root strawberries before you can plant them. Success is not guaranteed, but you can keep bare root strawberry plants alive for at least a month under cool conditions or refrigeration.
In order to keep your bare root strawberries alive long enough until planting, you have to store them a cool, moist environment. The reason you shouldn’t store them in a warm environment is because they could get out of dormancy, which will make them much more vulnerable to dying.
Ensure your bare roots are wrapped in moist paper towels and keep them in a cool basement, cellar, or garage. Some people keep them in the fridge, but make sure the roots don’t freeze.
When to Plant Bare Root Strawberries
Plant bare root strawberries in the early spring after all risk of frost is gone and the ground has started getting warm. Although strawberries can overwinter outside, once they break dormancy, a frost can kill them.
How Do You Plant Bare Root Strawberries?
Planting strawberries is a bit trickier than other plants. If you plant them too deep or too shallow, it can cause your strawberry plants to die prematurely.
The key to planting bare root strawberries is to keep the roots under the soil and the crown above the soil.
The crown is where all new stem and leaf growth occurs, so if it’s buried under the soil, it’s much more vulnerable to crown rot, which will kill the whole plant. Even if the crown is large, it should be above the surface of the soil.
When planting bare root strawberries, dig a hole and spread out the bare roots, then carefully backfill with soil until reaching the crown. You can premix some fertilizer with the soil to give your strawberries an extra boost in the spring.
3 Reasons Why Your Bare Root Strawberries Didn’t Grow
1. The crown was buried and ended up rotting in the soil.
This can happen unintentionally, like when you plant strawberries with the crown above the soil, but they are in kind of a trench that fills up with soil after heavy rain. I like to plant them on almost a hill, so even after a storm the crowns are still above the soil.
2. Your strawberries broke dormancy and then were killed by a sudden, unexpected frost.
This is the worst part, because you did everything right and mother nature still decided to take a giant crap on your strawberry bed. If you’ve already planted your bare root strawberries and you see a possible frost coming, cover your plants with some garden fleece or plastic to give them extra protection from the cold. You can also temporarily cover them with mulch like leaves and other dead plants as well.
3. Your bare root strawberry plants were already dead before planting.
It happens sometimes. When you get bare root strawberries in the mail, or if you store them for some time before planting, it’s very possible that some didn’t make it. Always check your bare root strawberries when you get them and discard any that have mold, which is a sign that it’s dead. When storing them, store them in a cool, moist environment so they remain dormant and the roots don’t dry out, either.
Where to Get Bare Root Strawberries
You can often find bare root strawberries sold at your local garden center or plant nursery in early spring. Online, there are lots of reputable companies where you can get bare root strawberries. You can sometimes find them on the big e-commerce sites, but I prefer getting them from established seed companies rather than third party vendors on Amazon.
Here is a short list of places you can get bare root strawberries:
Harris Seeds (US)
Brookside Nursery (UK)
Gardening Express (UK)
Vesey’s Seeds (Canada)