Strawberry Runners 🍓
Harvesting strawberry “shoots” or runners from a mother plant is one of the easiest ways to grow your strawberry crop. Did I mention that it is free!? The horizontal stems, also known as stolons, come from stock that is already suited to your garden resulting in healthy plants that will provide you with home grown strawberries for several years. MUCH faster than starting from seed, growing strawberries from runners is a no-brainer. Follow this easy guide to multiply your strawberry plants with a few easy steps.
Check out this Strawberry Companion Planting Guide to increase your strawberry harvest and encourage healthy plants.
When to Harvest Strawberry Runners
As long as the strawberries have adequate root growth, you can harvest runners from the parent plant from early spring to fall. It is important to give your runners time to root and develop new leaves before snipping them off and relocating into a new strawberry bed. In cooler growing zones where frost comes in early September, the best time to propagate the strawberry runners around 4 weeks before the last frost date. This will give your new strawberry plants a chance to form a good root systems that is cold hardy and can withstand cold winters.
Benefits of Removing Runners from New Strawberry Plants
It is a good idea to remove new runners from young plants in the first year to allow the plant to focus its energy on strong roots and fruit production. Strawberry runners take a lot of energy from the parent plant; causing slower growth and fruiting. Creating a clone plant allows you to be selective on which plants you choose to duplicate. It is a good idea to choose strong, healthy plants with good sized fruit to duplicate. Follow this guide to save your runners to grow new plants, allowing the established strawberry plant to flourish.
Strawberry Runners vs Starting From Seed
Starting strawberries from runners is a great way to get plants to produce new roots that mature without all of the work of germinating and growing from a delicate stage. Producing clone plants of proven producers with great fruit size will help to boost your homegrown strawberries for years to come.
Starting strawberries from seed is not for the faint of heart! They should be lightly scattered over moist peat or fine seed starting medium. I love to use soil blocks to grow strawberries and other small starts. Check out this beginner’s guide to get started soil blocking today! Dust the tops of the strawberry seeds with a small amount of soil and place under grow lights. The strawberry seeds can take up to six weeks to germinate. Cold stratification will definitely speed up the process- check out Boreal Bloom Homestead’s simple cold stratification guide.
Pegging Down Runners
It is important to peg down your strawberry runners to make sure that they root properly in a small pot or desired spot in your garden. I love to use landscaping staples to gently but firmly fix the runner to the soil. Alternatives include fence staples, hair pins, rocks, or branches… the possibilities are endless. Be sure not to damage the shoot when pinning it down or the new plants at the end of the runners will die.
Exactly How-To Grow New Strawberry Plants From Runners- Step By Step 🍓🍓🍓
1. Identify Runners
Identify the runner on your strawberry plant. It is a long shoot coming out from the plant that has started to create its own leaves. The long stems are light green or red colour. Choose runners that are closest to the plant to harvest, they will be the healthiest! You can propagate several baby plants from the main plant; keep in mind that they won’t start to produce in the first season.
2. Grow Daughter Plants
You have two options for growing your new strawberry plants from runners.
Option 1. Fill a small container (3-4 inches in diameter) with a rich, well draining growing medium-a mixture of sand and peat is ideal. You can recycle old pots or containers or choose to buy new pots at your local nursery or garden center. Be sure that pots have drainage holes- you want moist soil for juicy fruit and healthy foliage. Place the crown of the daughter plant at ground level next to the strawberry “mother” plant, and gently pin the runner stem down so that the new roots can adhere to the soil. It is very important not to bury the crown of your strawberry plants or they may die. Growing a new running in a container is a great option if you want to relocate the new strawberry plants! Baby strawberry plants also make adorable gifts.
Option 2. Simply pin the runner down to the ground gently with a landscape staple or other device directly into the soil surface. This is the easiest way to propagate strawberries to thicken your patch with small plants for the following year!
3. Care + Over-Wintering
Care for your new strawberry plant much the same as you would a mature plant. Plenty of water and sunlight will help your strawberries to thrive. Be sure that you don’t accidentally bury the “crown” of the plant. Expect strawberries in the second year of life. Strawberries love nitrogen rich soil. Compost and manure are great options. Strawberry plants can be fertilized in early spring and late fall. Check out this hen manure fertilizer– it is all natural and can be sprinkled on top of the soil for easy fertilizing.
If you live in colder climates with harsh winters, it is a good idea to spread about 3-4 inches of mulch overtop of your plants before the snow comes. Strawberries survive the winter months best in cold zones (down to USDA zone 3) when planted at ground level. In warmer zones you can get away with over wintering them in pots and raised beds without any mulch or protective cover!
How to Keep Your Strawberry Plants Healthy
During fruiting season, strawberries need 1-2 inches of water weekly. It is best to water your strawberries directly at the base of the plant, avoiding getting the foliage wet. Ensure that the strawberries are in well-draining soil. Strawberries that get too much water will sustain root damage, whereas strawberries that are too dry will wither and not produce as much food.
Mulch can do wonders for your strawberry plants!! It helps to maintain moisture levels and keeps new fruit dry and away from soil (avoiding rot and fungal diseases). Mulch helps to suppress weeds and can even keep soil levels more constant. Home for the harvest has an awesome video all about mulching strawberries including mulch options, benefits of mulch, and how to apply mulch.
Strawberries thrive in soil that is rich in organic material. Different types of strawberries have different needs when it comes to fertilizing.
Ever-bearing strawberries require extra nitrogen in the spring and late fall. It is a good idea to add compost or aged manure before your apply fresh mulch in the spring and then again around the last harvest. Organic fertilizer is always the best option
June-bearing varieties strawberries benefit from being fertilized in late summer, at the end of your growing season. Fertilizing June bearing strawberries in the spring may result in soft berries.
If you are using traditional store bought fertilizer, choose 10-10-10.
If your strawberry plants are in a container or hanging basket, consider bringing them inside somewhere like an unheated garage or protect them with insulation. They are more likely to winter kill if they are left without any protection in containers or raised beds than if sown directly at ground level.
If your strawberries are in ground level, consider mulching with 2-3 inches of straw mulch, wood chips, or other material to help protect the buds from harsh winter temperature dips. This will help to protect your strawberry patch for a healthy harvest next year.