Wondering how far apart to plant strawberries? I was too! Over the last few years I’ve tested different recommended strawberry spacing distances. Here’s what I’ve found.
How Far Apart to Plant Strawberries
Strawberry plants can be spaced as close as 8 inches or as far apart as several feet. Strawberries are relatively forgiving in terms of spacing.
For a quick harvest, it’s better to go with an 8-12 inch spacing to maximize the number of plants. If you’d rather spend less on plants and don’t mind a bit of a wait, it’s fine to space the plants a few feet apart.
Planting Strawberries Close Together
Planting strawberries close together is the best way to get delicious strawberries quickly! For a new strawberry patch, space strawberries a minimum of 8″ apart. Square foot gardeners can plant one strawberry plant per square, so that the strawberry plants are 12″ apart.
A close spacing of 8-12″ between plants will keep weeds down while maximizing berry harvest. The plants will, however, be competing for sunlight and nutrients, meaning that the berries might be smaller than if the plants were far apart. The close spacing can also make it easier for disease to spread, especially if strawberries are prone to disease in your area.
Planting Strawberries Far Apart
Planting strawberries far apart is the most economical way to grow a big strawberry patch. Most strawberries propagate themselves without any help from gardeners. That means you don’t have to buy as many plants as you’ll need, because each plant will multiply!
Rather than planting the strawberries all in one group, space them out over the whole future strawberry patch. It’s ok if there is a lot of bare ground. It’ll be full of strawberry runners before you know it.
A year after planting, many of my strawberry plants have 4 or 5 strawberry baby plants on their runners. You can either leave them to choose their own growing spots (they’ll root themselves), or you can transplant them to a desired location. The runners between plants are no longer required once the baby plants are established.
How Far Apart To Plant Strawberries to Grow the Biggest, Juiciest Berries
As discussed above, strawberries grown close together will compete with each other for nutrients and sunlight. Therefore, to grow the biggest, juiciest berries, competition from other strawberry plants (and from weeds, et cetera), should be minimized. You won’t get as many berries, but the ones you get will be awesome. It takes a lot more work, but it may be worth it to you.
To maximize sunlight and reduce competition, grow each strawberry plant far apart from the others on a little mounded hill of soil. The hill can be 1-2′ across in diameter, and 6-12″ higher than the surrounding ground. You can also do one long mound instead of separate little hills.
The key to reducing competition is removing weeds and runners. Pruning the runners off the mother plants keeps the plants from expending energy on growing new plants. We want all the energy going into big yummy berries!
What are Strawberry Runners Anyways?
Most strawberries multiply by sending out “runners”. Runners are shoots that come off a “mother” strawberry plant. The runner shoot roots down into the soil and grows a baby plant about a foot away from the mother plant.
Some everbearing and day neutral strawberry types are a lot less likely to send out runners. My beloved alpine strawberries fall into this category. These strawberries tend to grow more crowns right at their base. Crowns can be dug up, separated, and planted further apart to propagate additional plants.
Tips for Planting Strawberries at Different Spacings
For closely-spaced strawberries, it’s often easiest to dig a long trench with a proper shovel. Then, lay out the strawberry plants beside the trench and measure the spacing out. Backfill once the strawberries are placed the correct distance apart.
For far-apart strawberry plants, it’s easier to dig an individual hole for each plant. Make sure that each hole is deep enough so that the roots can be placed vertically.
What About Rows? Do Strawberries Need Rows?
Unless you’re setting up some kind of commercial strawberry operation, there isn’t much need for formal rows. The limiting factor on whether you need rows or not is whether or not you can reach the strawberries to harvest them! Strawberries naturally form a patch, and can almost be thought of as a ground cover….not really something that loves to be confined to rows.
I generally plant strawberries in a wide row. Two or three feet is a nice width for a strawberry patch, as even little arms can usually reach most of the strawberries. A strawberry row might be 5 or 6 plants wide – and that’s ok – as long as you can reach the strawberries without trampling the row.
For large gardens with multiple wide rows of strawberries, be sure to leave enough space between rows to comfortably walk between them (and maybe even fit your wheelbarrow through.
The “Matted Row” System for Serious Strawberry Growers
A common pattern for growing lots of strawberries is to have 2-foot wide rows separated by 2-foot wide paths. Allow the runners to root in the planting row and remove any runners that make their way onto the path. Easy peasy!
To set up a piece of land for growing strawberries in matted rows, mark out where your 2-foot wide rows and paths will be before you start planting. Plant the strawberry plants in the middle of the future “matted row”, about 2 feet apart from each other. The planted rows will be 4 feet apart (to allow for the 2-foot paths.
Can Strawberries Be Too Closely Spaced?
Yes, strawberries can be planted too close together, especially if you’d like big juicy berries. A dense mat of strawberry plants isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not optimal for harvesting big, yummy berries.
A little bit of competition for sunlight and nutrients is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be an all-out battle. While spacing strawberries close together does help strawberry plants out-compete the weeds, some air movement between plants helps keep them healthy. Stuffy air can lead to disease. Strawberry beds that have become overly dense will require thinning (pulling out some of the plants).
The closest planting spacing I’ve had success with was 6″ apart – and that was with a single row of alpine strawberry plants. I planted them very close together because I was more concerned about having a dense, pretty line of strawberry plants than I was about harvesting large berries. Alpine strawberries make a lovely groundcover, and since they were only going in a very skinny row, 6″ turned out to be fine. Usually 8″ is my minimum spacing.
Other Tips for Planting Strawberries in the Garden
Fortunately, strawberries are pretty forgiving. They’re relatively easy to get established, and once they’re happily growing…they’re harder to kill than many other garden plants.
Start with high-quality plants. It’s no good to start with plants that already have a virus or are otherwise unhealthy. Get healthy plants from a reputable local garden centre or a well-reviewed online strawberry supplier.
Strawberries like lots of sun and soil that drains well (AKA not clay). Try not to choose an area that’s always in the shade or that often has a puddle of water on it after a rainfall. Look for sunny areas that aren’t prone to being wet and mucky.
Water your strawberries now and then and make sure you’re harvesting all the delicious berries! Now that you’ve learned how far apart to plant strawberries, it’s time to get gardening :)