Strawberries are a delicious summer treat. Naturally sweet and bursting with good stuff. They are versatile and, as long as you choose the right varieties, they are easy to grow, and you’ll have beautiful fruit from early summer to early fall. But you really don’t need to spend a small fortune on expensive hybrid plants from the nursery. Instead, simply learn how to grow strawberries from scraps. When you cut fresh strawberries and discard the scraps, you’re usually throwing away viable seed, too. If you prepare them properly, you can grow new strawberry plants from these scraps, but you can’t just bury a whole strawberry and expect it to grow a bunch of new plants – it’ll just rot in the ground.
Step 1. Choose the Right Strawberries to Grow From Scraps
This is the most important step. Get this wrong, and you’ll never grow fruit-bearing plants. You want local and organic. Why? Because locally grown strawberries are proven to grow well in your area. They are varieties that are guaranteed to do well in your soil and climate. Just using generic fruits that are force-grown or imported that you buy from the nearest supermarket or grocery store won’t give you the results you want. Even if you got them in the organic section, there’s a significant chance that these fruits won’t be well-suited to your climate. Organic is a must. It’s as important as the locally grown element. Unless you buy organic fruits, you don’t know what they’ve had sprayed on them, and commercially-grown inorganic fruit like strawberries often have chemicals sprayed on them to prevent regrowth, so however much care you take, you’ll never grow new plants from this type of seed. Therefore, get a punnet of organic, locally grown fruit for the best chance of growing strawberries from scraps.
Step 2: Leave to Ripen
You can either eat all the fruit and keep the tops with some flesh and seeds on, or you can just set aside three of four berries. Leave them in a sunny spot until they are approaching extreme ripeness, heading to over-ripe (but not mouldy).
Step 3: Separate Seeds From Flesh
Now, you could get a pair of fine-tipped tweezers and gently pick each seed of the flesh of the strawberry – but that’s insane. And labor-intensive. Our way of separating seed from flesh is much easier. And saner. Put your strawberries in a blender (this is the one I recommend) and add roughly a liter of water. Turn the blender on its highest setting for 15 to 20 seconds. Leave the mixture to settle for 10 minutes. Scoop out and discard the seeds that float to the top – these won’t germinate – they’re the duds. Pour the remainder of the liquid into a sieve and run cold water through it until you get rid of as much of the pulp as possible. If you plant the seeds with too much flesh still attached, they’ll rot.
Step 4: Plant the Strawberry Seeds
The next stage of growing strawberries from scraps involves planting the viable seeds you gleaned in step three. Get a large tray and some of the highest-quality seed starting medium you can – like an organic, peat-free blend. Fill the seed tray with the rich seed-starting compost (I like this one from Purple Cow Organics), dampen it, then sprinkle your seeds over, spacing them equally. Then cover with a fine layer of compost, but don’t firm it down or the seeds will struggle to push up. Water very finely – preferably with a mister. Keep the tray warm and in a sunny position, like a kitchen windowsill or, if it’s reasonably warm outside, then pop them in the greenhouse. You can also cover with a propagator lid to keep them warmer and evenly moist. Don’t let them dry out too much, but avoid over-watering or you’ll rot the seeds.
Step 5: Transplant to Pots
Strawberry seeds take between two and eight weeks to germinate, so don’t panic if you don’t see results quickly – be patient. Once they shoot and develop their first pairs of true leaves, they should be big enough to handle, at which point you need to transplant them into roomier pots. Be gentle as strawberry seedlings are still quite delicate at this stage.
Step 6: Plant in Their Final Position
If you bought local, organic strawberries, you purchased them in season. That means your seedlings won’t produce fruit until the following year. It’s advisable to keep the strawberry seedlings in pots until early the following spring when the risk of frost has passed. Then, plant them out in their final location. Strawberries like warm, sheltered areas with partial shade and lots of sun. Make sure the soil is rich and has reasonable drainage. Use homemade fertilizer, like coffee grounds or nettle stew, throughout the growing season to promote vigorous growth and optimal fruit yield.
Step 7: Pot the Strawberry Runners
If you grow healthy strawberries from scraps, unless you’ve chosen an alpine variety, you should get multiple runners, with several new plants on each, from every plant year after year, so you’ll never run out of strawberry plants. On average, a strawberry plant fruits at its peak for four years. After this, you’ll want to think about replacing them. So, taking the time to pot up your runners each year makes total sense. Plus, you can give away or even sell the young plants that you don’t want. Strawberry runners are clever. They’ll root wherever they find suitable conditions, so just place a pot full of rich compost beneath each little nodule (you’ll see little leaves start to shoot from each nodule) on every runner. Each new strawberry plant will quickly root and the runner will continue on and put out a few more plants. Once the runner stops growing, dries out, or you find you have enough plants already, gently tug the maiden plants and make sure they’ve rooted, then take a sharp knife and cut the runner stems away.
Growing strawberries from scraps is pretty easy, and you’ll get a never-ending supply of new plants year after year. If you want to know how to regrow other things, take a look at our 8 Foods to Regrow From Kitchen Scraps. And if you want to know just what to do with all those strawberry plants, check out our 6 Genius Ways to Grow Strawberries post. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter for tips, posts, and news, right to your inbox – and your free copy of One Week to a Greener You.