Strawberry Harvest: How and When to Pick Strawberries
Strawberries are one of the nation’s favorite fruits and it’s no surprise as to why. These plump, delicate fruits are sweet and juicy and can be enjoyed straight from the harvest.
It’s no wonder then that so many people choose to grow strawberries at home. They are easy to grow and can be grown almost anywhere from containers to raised beds.
If you have planted strawberries in your garden, you may now be wondering when your strawberries are ready to be harvested.
Once strawberries are ripe, they are only good for a couple of days before they start to turn. So to maximize the number of strawberries you gain from your plants, it is best to harvest them at the right time.
Top Tips for a Successful Strawberry Harvest
Here are a couple of top tips to help ensure you have a successful strawberry harvest:
Different varieties often have a slightly shorter or longer growing season. For example, Fragaria x ananassa vibrant produces strawberries early in the summer. But they can also have a second growing season within September. Whereas Fragaria x ananassa pegasus produces fruit throughout the summer.
When your strawberries start turning red, they can attract birds and squirrels who won’t say no to an easy snack.
To protect your strawberries before you harvest them, make sure to cover your strawberry plants with netting. This helps prevent pests from poaching before you are ready to pick them yourself.
Once picked, strawberries do not last long at all. They are best consumed on the same day as being picked. However, if you are growing a large amount and have lots of strawberries, this probably isn’t possible.
For any leftover strawberries, make sure to keep them cool and ideally in your refrigerator. If you find your strawberries starting to turn, i.e. become softer and mushy in texture, you can freeze them before they become completely unusable.
How and When to Harvest Strawberries
Once your strawberries begin to turn red, it is time to start planning your strawberry harvest. Strawberries are at their prime when they are bright red. Leave them too long, they will turn deep red and become mushy.
Different varieties of strawberries will have different growing seasons. Most strawberries tend to provide fruit for around 3-4 weeks. So it is important to keep a note of when you planted your strawberries and the period that variety will ripen.
Each strawberry also doesn’t ripen at the same time, so after you have found one red strawberry, it is best to continue checking your plants every 2-3 days to harvest more strawberries.
It is important when cutting your strawberries, to leave part of the stem on. As strawberries bruise easily, this just helps you to handle such a delicate fruit without squishing them in the process.
Only pick strawberries that are completely red. Unlike many fruits such as bananas, strawberries do not continue to ripen once they have been picked. It is best to leave the slightly green strawberries another couple of days until they turn completely red before harvesting.
Once your strawberries are harvested, you can soak them in a vinegar and water solution with one part vinegar to four parts water.
After 20 minutes, rinse your strawberries under water and pat dry with a paper towel. You can then store any strawberries you are not going to use immediately in the fridge for up to 7 days, or choose to freeze them.
First Year of a Strawberry Harvest
If you are growing your own strawberries, it’s most likely that you want the most fruits possible from your plants.
In your first year of growing strawberry plants, you want to encourage as many runners to grow as possible. Runners on a strawberry plant are those long, green shoots that stem from the main strawberry plant.
Once replanted, they can grow their own roots and you have a second strawberry plant generated from your original plant. And by cutting off the runners within the first year:
- You will be able to plant and grow even more strawberry plants
- Your strawberry plant’s energy will go towards generating fruit rather than growing the runners.
Then, during your second year of harvest, you will have even more strawberries to enjoy. Just remember to repeat the process and remove excess runners so your plants can focus on bearing more fruit.
Strawberry Harvest FAQs
When Should Strawberries Be Harvested?
Strawberries should be harvested when they are fully red. If you pick strawberries whilst they are still green, they will not ripen. Leave them too long when they become dark red, they are soft and mushy and usually no good for consumption.
Where Do You Cut Strawberries Off The Plant?
To prevent damaging your ripe strawberries, carefully cut them with a couple of cm of the stem attached. This helps you when handling your strawberries so they don’t become bruised.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Strawberries In A Year?
There are several varieties of strawberries each with a slightly different growing season. Most strawberry plants tend to have a 3-4 week window where they produce fruit for you to harvest.
However, some varieties can then produce fruit again later in the year, around September, if the weather is still mild.
Do Strawberries Come Back Every Year?
Yes, strawberries are a perennial plant. This means that if maintained and well-looked after, your plant will produce fresh strawberries each year.
By cutting and planting runners, you can also generate even more strawberry plants and encourage additional growth the following season.
It is advised however to resow your strawberry patch from seeds after 5-6 years. Strawberry plants are susceptible to several diseases and are loved by pests. Removing old plants and starting again from seeds helps to limit pests and diseases.
Do Strawberries Continue To Ripen After Being Picked?
Unlike bananas, strawberries will not continue to ripen after being picked. If you have picked an unripe, green strawberry – it will remain green.
It is best to look for bright red strawberries when harvesting your plants. Leave any that are still green for a few more days and continue to check for ripe strawberries every 2-3 days.
Strawberry Harvest Summary
If you are getting ready to harvest your strawberries, make sure to follow this guide to help you get the most from your strawberry plants.
Remember the following 5 steps for a successful strawberry harvest:
- Ensure your plants are covered with netting to avoid your strawberries being eaten by pests.
- Pick your strawberries by carefully cutting a few cms of the stem to avoid bruising your ripe fruits.
- Only pick the bright red fruits. Leave the green strawberries to ripen and remove any over-ripe strawberries.
- Wash your strawberries thoroughly to remove any bacteria and store them in the fridge for up to 7 days.
- Any leftover ripe strawberries can then be frozen to be used at a later date.
For more information on growing tasty fruits in your garden, check out these guides next: