Strawberries are a thirsty fruit! A ripe strawberry is about 92% water. Strawberry plants, like most edible garden plants, don’t do well with irregular watering. Also like most garden plants, strawberries need less water during early growth and more as they start to flower and produce fruit.
How Often To Water Strawberries
When a strawberry plant is sprouting they need about .5 to 1 inch of water weekly. Once established and during the flowering stage, they will need about 1 inch of water a week. After the flowering stage and during the fruiting stage they will need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
The numbers above are including rainfall. We use wunderground to get a good idea of the expected rainfall and then use a wide mouthed rain gauge to get a good idea of how much actual rainfall there’s been.
Water strawberry plants with 0.5″-1″ of water at a time. Less frequent deeper waterings promote good root growth and avoid having the topsoil constantly soaked which can lead to root rot.
To know if it’s time to water or not feel the soil 3″ down and gauge the moisture level. Run the soil between your fingers to get a feel for the texture.
In hot weather with temperatures above 85 degrees strawberry plants will need more water. Keeping strawberry plants cool can lead to summer harvests of ever-bearing and day-neutral strawberry plants that don’t happen when the plants get too hot.
Hot temperatures can also cause leaves to wilt. If temperatures are above 85 degrees and leaves are wilting during the day but the soil is moist check on them in the evening or early morning to see if they’ve bounced back. Wilting could also be caused from overwatering but that’s less likely.
Besides extra waterings, mulching around the plants and using shade cloths can keep plants cool during high temperature swings.
Tips for Watering Strawberries
- Water in the Morning – By watering strawberry plants in the morning the most amount of water can be absorbed by the plant and the plants foliage will dry completely before nighttime. Watering during midday leads to water evaporating from the topsoil before the plant can get to it. Watering during the early evening is the second best time to water.
- Check the Soil – If the soil is dry 3″ down it could use a watering.
- Water Deeply – Watering less frequent with deeper watering promotes healthy plants by forcing roots to dig deep for water and keeping the plentiful shallow roots from sitting in constantly wet top soil. It’s good gardening practice to water after shallow rains. Aim to water with 0.5″ to 1″ of water at a time.
- Don’t Stop Watering – Strawberry plants develop flower buds in the fall that then go dormant during winter and bloom the following spring. The formation of the flower buds in the fall is necessary to have a good amount of flower blooms that turn into strawberries the next spring so it’s important to tend to the strawberry plants even when they’re not producing fruit.
- Do Stop Watering – Stop watering June-bearing strawberry plants about 7 days before you harvest the plant majorly or completely. This will allow the berries to concentrate their flavor and sugar levels.
Do Strawberry Plants Need a Lot of Water?
Like other plants in the garden strawberry plants need more water during the flowering and fruit production phase of their growth than they do when they first start to grow. Strawberry plants producing fruit can use up to 2″ of water in a week and possibly more with high temperatures.
These numbers are similar to the requirements of most of the edible plants we have in our gardens but we can get more exact. To water a 4’x8′ bed, that’s 32 square feet, with 2″ of water will take about 40 gallons of water. IMO, that’s a lot of water!
How Deep Do Strawberry Plants Roots Grow?
Most strawberry plants have shallow root systems. You can count on something like 90% of the plants roots to be within the first 12″ of soil and a large amount of that within the top 6″ of soil.
Can Strawberry Plants Get Too Much Water?
Yes, like most other garden plants, strawberry plants can get too much water. Flooding a strawberry plant or leaving it in standing water consistently will cause the roots to begin rotting. Once root rot sets in the plant may begin to show signs of yellowing or shriveling leaves and stunted growth.
It is sometimes possible to save the plant by trimming the roots and moving the plant to drier soil.
If you have dense or clay-heavy soil that doesn’t drain well you’ll need to be on the lookout for this. Also identify any area of your garden where water pools after heavy rains.
Another problem caused by overwatering is the development of pests, like fungus gnats, slugs, and snails which can eventually kill a strawberry plant.
Once the plant begins to bear fruit avoid watering the plant so much that the ground becomes muddy. The mud can spread bacterial growth and cause the fruit to develop gray mold (Botrytis Rot).
Check out “Strawberry Plants FAQ’s” for more growing tips on strawberries.
Please comment below with your thoughts on watering strawberries correctly or any tips that work for you!