Growing strawberry in California / Southwest


I have questions about strawberry and would like to hear opinions from people in California and similar climates.

Where do you buy strawberry plants? Local suppliers or online sellers who ship early? I plan to start on a small scale, probably less than a dozen plants.

What is the right time to plant them? (I’m in zone 9B and some years we can get down to 28 F for a few hours in February. I usually plant tomatoes in the ground in late February / early March.)

Which varieties do you prefer? I know that everybody loves Mara des Bois so that would probably be my first choice but maybe you have some additional suggestions for high eating quality varieties.

Any growing tips? I know that strawberry likes sandy soil, do you buy sand and mix it with something? (I plan to grow in containers, so can make the right growing medium.) How much water strawberry needs? Sources for organic straw? Protection from slugs, birds, or any other pests?

Thank you very much!


I bought my strawberry plants from a local nursery. I’ve had them in various containers and in the ground. I did like the hanging containers, but they deteriorated after awhile and I eventually gave up as they became a pain to keep up (and I had to replace the fence they were hanging on and never bothered to put up replacement basket hangers.) The ones on the ground are still flourishing underneath a couple of rose bushes despite complete neglect. I often see ripe strawberries, but the snails tend to get them before I can pick them. Snails and slugs love to hide under the leaves. The ones in the ground did not have any special prep done while I believe I used MG potting soil for containers. If I were to do it over again, I’d prepare rows/mounds and then keep the runners from getting out of control.
Best of luck.


I’m not in your area, although I have grown strawberries for some time. I mostly grow heirlooms which are not the easiest to grow. Snails can be handled with Sluggo, it’s organic with all the seals and other nonsense. It’s iron phosphate, which is a chemical considered organic. I have no clue why some chemicals are considered organic and others are not?
I never heard they like sand. I would avoid it myself as it dries too quickly. I grow mine in garden soil, or if in containers my custom potting soil mix. is the place for everything strawberry.
Strawberries are very hardy our low so far this year has been -4f. I have had no problems down to -16F myself. I do cover them with straw (hence the name).
In general June bearing are bigger and have more flavor than everbearing. Some exceptions, not many Mara des Bois and Albion are excellent everbearing types. I know of no others that are good. In California you can
purchase a large selection of cultivars at Peaceful Valley brick and mortar or order from them online at


I grew a tray of Reine des vallees from the strawberry store after reading rave reviews for it. I was disappointed. The plants were great, easy to grow all of them survived and thrived and produced tons of fruit but the size was terrible. They were tiny 1/2 cm each. Taste was not bad at all. The ones that dried up on the trees were delish though!

It could have been my fault I may have crowded them too much.

The best tasting strawberries I’ve had are from my Campbell farmers market - Albion Ever bearing. Its very sweet and consistently great flavor every week. size is perfect (1/2 to 1 inch) not like the big plumped up tasteless store bought ones…

If I grow strawberries again, I’ll try an early June bearing type though so my harvest window is shorter.


Iron phosphate bait (e.g. Sluggo) can’t be beat for snail/slug control. It doesn’t take much, is beneficial to the plants, and doesn’t harm anything other than terrestrial mollusks. It’s available in fifty pound bags from Crop Production Services.

Large ground-level row crop plantations often employ people in the fields from sunrise to dusk to keep fruit eating birds (e.g. doves) away. The pest birds usually don’t come at night due to the large population of raptors – which also help control rodents.

As mentioned in other threads – having a number of water sources for insect-eating birds (e.g. mockingbirds, orioles) is an excellent strategy. Keep them elevated 2-3 foot so that night-drinking rodents become easy targets for raptors.

Medium size strawberries farms in my region are increasingly utilizing low tunnel coverings. They do this for heat retention and weed control in early plantings.

There is also a trend in small farms to use high tunnels and elevated planters – typically rain gutters. It keeps the plants out of reach from gophers and cottontail rabbits and the birds from landing.


Stan, if you’re going to try for organic fertilizer then of course there are plenty of sources for nitrogen and phosphate. Strawberries are generally bred to bloom so you can go easy on the phosphate. A water-soluble fish emulsion with moderate N (e.g. 5-1-1) will get the N:P ratios in the correct ballpark. The challenge is potassium. As usual, I’ll recommend Sul-Po-Mag for both economy and NOP certification. If you do the stoichiometry you’ll see it only takes a few grains per strawberry plant per season.

This is typically due to foliar application of zinc phosphite which increases fruit size and weight.


Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll probably just use pine needles from under my own pine tree instead of straw, I don’t need much for a few containers.


Thank you everybody for helpful comments, tips and ideas. We decided to go with Albion, Mara Des Bois, and Seascape (all everbearing, 10 plants each) along with one plant of Fraise Alpine. Seascape is supposed to be heat resistant, which might be useful during our summer.


Yeah alpine strawberries are small. (you didn’t do anything wrong) I use them to graze while gardening. The plants produce all season so they have their place. You sure have a lot of them in that photo! Good job!

Pine needles are the best if you ask me!

Yes, it is grown a lot in the west for sure. I was going to suggest it.
I was surprised to see so many cultivars at Grow Organic, and what great prices! I may have to pick some up at those prices!


Hi Richard - Is this a good berry fertilizer? Winchester Gardens Select Organics Berry Granular Fertilizer. I had great results last year using it on cane berries and strawberries.


I’m sure it’s better than using no fertilizer but it’s not something I would choose for organic Rubus or strawberries.


Oh thx Richard!