When Should You Plant Strawberries in Hardiness Zone 7?
Are you planting strawberries in your garden that happens to fall in USDA hardiness zone 7? If so, understanding the timing around when to plant is critical. In this article, gardening expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey examines all you need to know about planting strawberries in this hardiness zone.
You’re wanting to grow strawberries in your zone 7 garden, but you have no idea when to plant them. These herbaceous perennial fruits are delightfully easy to grow as long as they have been established in the proper part of the year.
Strawberries are native to North America and can handle frigid temperatures during their dormant phase. Proper timing ensures that the plants are firmly established and healthy before cold sets in. When combined with proper varietal selection, correct timing also allows you to enjoy their fruits during the first year!
Let’s dig into everything you need to know about when to plant strawberries in USDA hardiness zone 7.
The Short Answer
Gardeners in USDA hardiness zone 7 can plant strawberries from late fall through early spring. Planting in November gives you a head start because they have plenty of time to establish their roots over the winter. If the strawberry plants are mature before winter dormancy, they will be more prepared to flower and fruit when warm weather arrives in the spring. Fall and winter planting are best for everbearing and June-bearing varieties.
The Long Answer
In USDA hardiness zone 7, strawberries can technically be planted from November through April. Some gardeners even plant in mid-December. The timing mostly depends on the variety you want to grow—- everbearing and June-bearing types are best suited for fall planting, while day-neutral types flourish when planted in the spring.
These perennial berries absolutely thrive in zone 7 because they receive an abundance of warm, sunny days and a nice period of winter dormancy. Many eastern regions in zone 7 also get a nice dose of summer rainfall that helps boost strawberry growth.
USDA growing zone 7 has average low temperatures of 0° to 10°F. It covers 28 states, including parts of the Northeastern coast, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and some parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Zone 7 gardeners have many more options than their colder or warmer neighbors. You can plant in the fall or the spring, depending on the varieties you want to grow and the amount of maintenance you want to give your patch.
The differences between the two methods are best summarized in this chart:
|June-bearing and everbearing strawberries||Day-neutral strawberries|
|Take 1 year to yield||Yield in the same year as planting|
|Grown as perennials||Grown as annuals|
|Same plants yield for years to come||Require re-planting every year|
|Require overwintering mulch and protection||No winterizing necessary (usually pulled out in the fall after the frost)|
|Typically a “matted row” system with minimal pruning||Typically grown as individual bushes with lots of pruning for maximum yields|
|“Old fashioned” growing method||Modern growing method|
Everbearing & June-bearing Varieties
Zone 7 has mild winters that are perfect for perennial strawberry patches. If you want to grow heirloom everbearing or June-bearing varieties, you should plant them in late November. These varieties require 1 year to fully mature, so you can expect fruit in the following summer. You can expect a growth cycle like this:
- Purchase bare root crowns or strawberry seedlings in the fall.
- Plant in November or December.
- Heavily mulch to protect from winter weather.
- The plants will drop their leaves and go dormant (don’t worry, they aren’t dying!)
- They will re-sprout leaves in the spring and begin to flower in May.
- For bigger harvests in year two, remove the flowers and prevent fruiting in year one.
- Enjoy a larger harvest the following summer when plants are fully established.
The favorable fall weather makes it easy for everbearers and June-bearers to focus on getting firmly rooted. However, you must be careful that you don’t plant too early in the fall, otherwise they may become confused by the warm weather and try to flower. This is why late November and December are the most common planting times.
Unless you have an unexpected heat weave in the autumn, the cooler weather prevents premature “stress flowering” at the time of planting. Instead, they can funnel energy toward their roots and then go dormant for a few months through the winter.
Some gardeners also wait until mid-December to get bare root strawberries in the ground. The cold ensures that they won’t send up shoots and leaves too early.
Fall planted strawberries need to be deeply mulched to protect from frigid temperatures. Weed-free, un-sprayed straw is best, but you can also use landscape fabric, chipped deciduous leaves, pine needles, or row fabric to insulate the plants.
Be aware that growing strawberries as perennials requires more maintenance of the patch: namely, weeding and mulching. However, these types don’t typically require the heavy pruning of day-neutral types and will continue fruiting for at least 3 years after planting.
Fall Planting Pros
- Plants have more time to get established before flowering.
- Plants build robust root systems for years of production.
- Perennial systems require less immediate maintenance.
- Plants can yield for 3+ years into the future.
Fall Planting Cons
- Requires a longer wait-time until the first berries.
- May need to remove initial flowers.
- Don’t fruit in the same year as planting.
- More disease risks.
- Requires mulching and overwintering.
While the above method can yield perennial patches of strawberries for years to come, this planting timing and growth method yields more fruit in the same year.
Day-neutral varieties are modern varieties that have been bred to fruit regardless of the day length (hence the name). This means they can be harvested the same year as they are planted!
You can get day-neutral strawberries in the ground around early April and they will rapidly mature their roots and leaves so they’re ready to flower in late May and start fruiting by June.
Many varieties have as little as 90 days to mature between planting and harvesting. You can start with strawberry seedlings to get a head start, but bare root crowns can also be planted in the spring.
Many farmers grow day-neutrals as annual crops because it is easier to prune and tend the plants, harvest the fruits, then re-plant the following year. This reduces the risk of disease and helps control weeds.
These vigorous varieties consistently fruit all summer and fall until the first frost, usually June through October in zone 7. Their berries also tend to be larger than June-bearing types. If you want to maximize your strawberry harvest from the same-year planting, follow these steps:
Same Year Harvesting Steps
|Step 1:||Purchase bare-root strawberry plants like ‘Albion’, ‘Seascape’, or ‘Chandler’.|
|Step 2:||Get the plants in the ground by late April. Optionally, plant in a landscape fabric or a nice layer of mulch.|
|Step 3:||Cover with a layer of row fabric for a month to help them establish in warmth.|
|Step 4:||Provide plenty of moisture and remove the first few sets of flowers to channel the energy into the roots.|
|Step 5:||Uncover the plants in May so pollinators can do their work. Stop removing flowers at this time.|
|Step 6:||Regularly prune away any runners. If you prune off runners every week in peak season, the plants will grow like vigorous mini-bushes with tons of fruit.|
|Step 7:||Start harvesting fruit by early June.|
Spring Planting Pros
- Fruit in the same year as planting.
- Higher yields and more plant vigor.
- Less preparation required.
- No winterizing required.
- Less disease risk.
Spring Planting Cons
- May need to remove initial flowers.
- More pruning required.
- Typically removed and re-planted.
- Plants aren’t as deeply rooted.
So, to summarize, you have a couple of different options when planting strawberries in hardiness zone 7. Spring and fall planting are both options, depending on the variety of strawberry you choose to grow.
Whichever method you choose, don’t forget to properly prepare your soil for productive plants! These juicy berries prefer rich, well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH between 5.5 and 7.0. With any luck, you’ll be fruiting in year one, or in year two depending on the variety you’ve chosen to grow.