Strawberry plants are low-growing plants that can be grown in containers, in raised garden beds, or directly planted in the ground. A problem with all methods is keeping the strawberries off the ground soil because being exposed to wet and moist soil for too long, risks fungal diseases like gray mold (Botrytis rot), and anthracnose fruit rot.
The simplest solution to prevent disease in strawberry plants is to keep them off the ground. An added advantage of keeping your fruits raised is that it keeps them away from ground dwelling bugs such worms that would eat through the fruits laying on the soil.
Discussed below are six extremely practical and cheap fixes to keep your strawberry plants raised.
How to Keep Strawberries Off the Ground
1 – Make Your Own Strawberry Cages
Author at apieceofrainbow.com, Ananda, created a design tutorial on making a wreath with a dollar store laundry basket. Really. The dollar store.
Given these baskets are so small that they’re literally useless for laundry other than for keeping undies separate. On the plus side, they’re cheap and they’re plastic. Plastic can be cut super easily. That’s why it’s great for creative garden projects. Or in our case, support structures.
You can trim the base off of a cheap 15” diameter round plastic laundry basket, keep the sides for support, then drop the DIY cage over your strawberry plant with the lips positioned at the top.
Once the cage surrounds the plant, the strawberries rest on the side of the basket, or what would be the top lips. Placing the other way around is likely to result in the fruits still draping down to the ground level. They need the support of the top rim.
Just make sure the basket you use has the holes in it so as not to restrict air flow. The only purpose of the cut-up basket is to keep the fruits elevated.
2 – Grow Strawberries in Planters
Planters don’t have to be raised garden beds. You can attach narrow planters to south facing fences or the side of a garden shed to grow strawberries successfully.
This is particularly handy for vegetable gardeners with limited space. When you run low on growable ground soil, the only option you have is to grow upwards.
Growing on trellises is an option for climbing varieties of strawberries. For the traditional low growing varieties, the crown sits just above the soil surface and it should stay off the surface. Not resting on it.
For that, use planters, secure them to a fence panel or something else in your garden to secure it onto, then let your strawberries hang over the edge.
The good thing with using planters for vertical gardening is you can grow a lot more fruits and veggies.
3 – Use a Strawberry Support Frame
The simplest and often popular choice for home growers is to use a strawberry support frame. The cheapest are plastic, but you can find metal support frames too.
These are essentially racks with an approximate diameter of 12″ with ground stakes to keep your strawberry plants elevated around 3″ – 4″ above the ground, protecting the fruits from exposure to prolonged excess moisture.
4 – Use a Strawberry Planter
Strawberries can be grown in different containers, from grow bags, to pop up veggie trugs, hanging baskets, and window boxes.
The traditional decorative pot is the terracotta strawberry planter. It’s like an ordinary terracotta plant pot but with the addition of side openings. A cheaper alternative is to buy a strawberry jar, which is typically the same design as a strawberry terracotta planter, but made with plastic instead.
Any planter with side openings, or a stacked plant pot system is ideal for growing strawberries in small spaces while also keeping them off the ground, too.
5 – Cover the Soil with a Plastic Mulch or a Landscaping Fabric
Another super simple method to keep strawberries off of soil is to cover the ground up with a thick fabric. Opaque, transparent or white plastic sheets can be used for this, as can a landscape fabric that’s typically used for weed control. Weeding should always be done before laying ground sheets over the soil.
It will be easier to apply this before you need it by covering the soil when you transplant your strawberry plants. It is once the fruits develop that the weight causes them to drop and fall onto the soil.
When transplanting, cut an x shape into the material and plant your strawberry plant through it. Weigh the edges down with heavy enough rocks or stones to prevent the edges blowing up when the wind catches it.
For strawberries already producing fruits, the same method still works. Just make a bigger x shape cut into the fabric, bunch together all of the stems, foliage, and fruit, then drape the cloth over the plant like you’re putting a jacket over it.
Once the cloth is at the base, open it out, weigh the edges down and rest the strawberries on the ground cover.
Although technically the strawberries are not raised off the ground, they are separated from the soil with a barrier, protecting the fruits from soil-dwelling bugs and potential fungal diseases from water irrigation problems.
6 – Pack Straw Under the Fruit
A straw mulch is better than plastic as it is acts as a weed suppressant, keeps your fruits elevated off the ground, and slugs and snails hate the stuff because it scratches their delicate bodies. Anything that scratches a slug, risks puncturing its skin so they stay away in case they die.
Being low ground growing fruits, strawberries grow better with straw. Slugs and snails are the fiercest eaters of the leaves and fruits at ground level. You only need a couple of inches of straw mulch to protect them.
Any straw will do including those sold at pet stores for pet bedding. The most beneficial for strawberries is barley straw as it is more water proof, and prevents algae growth. Wheat straw works, too, though, so whatever you can get a better price on, use it.
Use Netting to Protect Your Strawberries from Wildlife
In the garden, lots of insects, critters, birds and mammals will be delighted to stumble upon your fresh batch of strawberries. Without a netting, they’re likely to be eaten. When you use a straw mulch, that too can be taken by birds to use as nesting material.
The safest way to prevent your strawberries from being eaten and your straw from being pinched is to cover your edible plants with a netting.
Adequate netting will have holes around a quarter inch wide. These can either be draped over your plants using stakes to hold them above it, or you could use a floating row cover.
The type of netting system you use will largely be determined by what you use to grow strawberries.
For example, growing strawberries in a planter would be better suited to a floating row cover. Growing strawberries in a pot or a strawberry jar, a cloche style netting system would work better.
These can be purchased as a strawberry cage for a pot, or made yourself with stakes and bird netting to keep your strawberries protected from laying on the ground below, and from wildlife from eating your fruit.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.