By Kelly Shetsky
Growing strawberries in elevated garden boxes provides tasty fruit in the early summer. In fact, strawberries can be planted a little bit later if they were growing in the ground. Using containers is a good idea for limited outdoor planting spaces. For best results, use a day-neutral or everbearing strawberry variety. They have fewer runners than the types that bear fruit in June. It will take two years for the first good harvest, as leaving the fruit in place the first year will promote runner growth, which makes subsequent harvests more productive.
Plant strawberries in elevated containers in a location that gets full sun at least eight hours daily. Strawberries are the tastiest if they have hot, sunny days and cool nights. Temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and 60 to 65 degrees at night are best, and may cause the berries to ripen over a period of 30 days.
Plant in an elevated garden box that measures about 6 to 8 inches deep by 5 to 7 inches wide by 18 to 4 inches long.
Fill the garden box with a combination of soil and fertilizer, per label instructions, and mix well. Fill the box until the soil is about 2 inches from the top.
Push your fingers or a spade into the soil to create holes for the plants. Make them wide enough for the roots to have adequate space to spread.
Set a strawberry plant in each hole. Cover the roots, but leave the bud free of soil. Water until the soil is moist 4 inches deep (use a finger to determine saturation). During the growing season, strawberries need at least 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water weekly between rainfall and supplemental watering.
Check the garden boxes daily for moisture content. The biggest issue with elevated containers is their tendency to dry out quickly. Keep the soil moist.
Prune the runners that grow in the first season. This will encourage the plant to put its energy into producing strawberries.