By Jenny Harrington
Strawberries produce an abundant fruit crop in a small space, making them a suitable choice for many home gardens. Strawberries propagate by sending out runners or vines. These runners set down roots and grow into new plants. Spacing properly ensures they don’t become overcrowded as they send out runners, but proper spacing must also provide the best use of the gardening space you have available.
Row planting, sometimes called the matted row system, works well for any strawberry variety that produces runners. The plants are spaced 18 inches apart in rows spaced 3 to 4 feet apart. The additional space between the rows provides room for the originally planted mother plants to send out runners. The runners root between the rows, producing new daughter plants. The strawberry runners aren’t removed and are allowed to form new daughter plants naturally.
Similar to the row system, plants are spaced 18 inches apart in rows. Rows are planted 24 inches apart. Instead of allowing daughter plants to fill in the space between wide rows, the runners are carefully managed so the daughters root down 12 inches away from the mother plant. A spaced row creates a more orderly bed and supplies an equal amount of space to each plant, which helps ensure that all plants produce the highest yields possible. Excess runners require removal once enough daughters set down to fill in the space between the narrow rows.
Hill planting works well for day-neutral and everbearing strawberry varieties. Planting in hills allows the planting of the maximum amount of mother plants in a small bed. The mother plants are spaced 12 inches apart in the row, with rows also spaced 12 inches apart. Staggering the rows provides each plant with approximately 1 square foot of garden space. Runners require removal in this planting system as there is no room for daughter plants to form. Plants require replacement every three years as production wanes since they aren’t replaced naturally with new daughter plants.
Strawberries work well in ornamental beds as a fruit-producing ground cover, though plants grown in this manner may not produce fruit as well as those grown using traditional strawberry spacing methods. A single plant occupies each 1- to 2-square-foot section of bed. The plants produce and set down runners and daughters freely until they cover the entire planting area. Closer planting also works well in containers, especially if you replace the plants with new ones each year. Since containers provide only a small growing area, place the mothers approximately 8 inches apart in all directions. Containers don’t provide room for daughter plants, so all runners must be removed.