by L.J. Hodek-Creapeau, Managine Editor
People often ask us if they can grow strawberries in a greenhouse. The answer is yes, they love it. There are just a few things to consider when growing strawberries in a greenhouse.
- Making room to accommodate their vining habit.
- Making sure they get adequate moisture but do not rot in the high humidity of a greenhouse environment
- Being mindful they do not get too hot in a greenhouse.
Almost all of the strawberries in the super markets are now greenhouse grown, and if you design your growing space efficiently, you can grow a lot of plants in the space in your greenhouse that isn’t being utilized by other plants, such as the ceiling area. This makes strawberries perfect for greenhouse growing, because they will utilize space in a small area that most other plants will not tolerate.
If you allow strawberries to grow in the raised beds of your greenhouse, or in planters on the floor, you will quickly be tripping over vines and have no room for any other plants. Therefore, the best place to grow strawberries is from the ceiling of a greenhouse; either in hanging planters or one very economical alternative is to use rain gutters as planters.
Strawberries have very small roots, so they don’t require deep pots or much growing space. Buy the deepest, widest rain gutters you can find at any home building supply store, seal the seams with a waterproof caulking or sealant, and fill them with dirt. Make sure to build a support for the gutters that will accommodate the weight and awkwardness of the gutter once they are full of dirt.
Next, the most convenient way to water your hanging strawberry beds is to hook up a soaker hose or drip system in the gutters. If you have a small greenhouse, you may not have to get very elaborate, you can just water them with a watering wand or hose. You may find this a bit messy, as the water runs down your arm, unless you use a watering wand or something of that nature on the end of your garden hose. Strawberries in a shallow planter such as a gutter will probably have to be watered at lease every other day, maybe every day depending on how dry your greenhouse environment is.
Hanging pots make excellent planters for greenhouse growing strawberries if you only want a few plants, but if you are like me, and love strawberries, you are going to want a lot more plants than can be planted in just a few hanging pots. You can, however, plant 2-3 strawberry plants in a large hanging planter to maximize the space, but if you like strawberries enough to be growing them, you will probably still find this is not enough strawberries for you; especially if you want to freeze them or preserve them for later use like desserts, smoothies, jams etc.
Having your strawberries in planters in the top of your greenhouse means you will have to make sure you have some ventilation in the ceiling so you don’t cook your strawberries and plants. Roof vents are, of course, the obvious choice. Also make sure when mounting your strawberry planters that you allow plenty of room above the strawberry plants for adequate air circulation.
You’ll also have to be a bit more particular about the type of soil you use in your strawberry planters. Depending on how humid your greenhouse environment is, you may need a lighter soil that does not stay wet too long and mold, or, you may need a soil with more organic compost in it so you don’t have to continually water. Be careful of using a soil mixture that is too rich, or too high in compost, or you will have big beautiful plants but very few berries. Strawberries, like most berries, require a small amount of stress to produce fruit.
Only you know how humid your greenhouse usually is and what type of soil will be best. Strawberries are fairly tolerant of dry conditions, but will produce better with adequate moisture – meaning the roots are not allowed to dry out.
One big factor to consider when planning what type of planters to use is that strawberry plants will only produce berries for about 2-3 years and then they stop when they get too old, so you will have to save the runners from mature plants and use them to start new plants that will produce berries. Keep in mind, whatever type of planters and supports you use, that you will have to allow yourself easy access to it, and be able to remove it, every couple of years to replenish your plants.