Although I’ve touched upon this earlier, I think this topic is important enough to warrant it’s own specific article.
Maybe you’ve seen seeds for sale of alpine strawberry varieties, maybe you’ve come across warnings on the seed packets that “germination may be sporadic or take a long time”. I’ve grown various varieties of alpine strawberry from seed, and I’ve not had any problems. Certainly I don’t expect 100% germination (I wouldn’t with any other type of seed either). But it’s definitely not been unreliable for me, or slow.
Requirements to help your chances of good germination:
- fine seed compost, whether or not you want to use peat based compost is your own choice
- misting bottle
- something to use as a propagator; this can be as simple as a plastic bag or some see through foil tied over the top of the pot, or one of those cheap windowsill propagator set ups they seem to be selling all over the place.
- Indoor growing space (you have to be able to keep the seeds around room temperature)
- Strawberry seeds (best is prepared ones – this means they have been “stratified” by keeping them in cold temperatures such as a fridge for a couple of months to simulate winter temperatures outdoors)
I have not tried this outdoors, because all the information I’ve found for growing strawberry seeds successfully says you need about 18 degrees Celsius for germination to take place. Ideally you’ll want to sow strawberries in autumn or early spring and so it will be much colder than 18 degrees outdoors. If you have a heated greenhouse to your disposal, perhaps you’d be able to try growing strawberry seedlings in there, but unfortunately I do not. So far I’ve also just planted strawberry seeds in Autumn or early spring, I might just do an outdoor growing experiment in the summer…
Strawberry seedling success – step by step:
- Put the fine compost in your propagator tray / pot. Make sure to get rid of solid lumps of compost, the texture of the soil should be loose and thin. If required, water the pot so the compost is moist.
- Sprinkle the seeds lightly over the top. Make sure they’re not clustered together or you will have a lot of trouble transplanting germinated seedlings out into separate containers.
- Mist with water and cover your growing container with a clear lid or clear plastic foil. There is no need for airing holes.
- Keep the container on a bright windowsill (not direct sunlight though, that will most certainly dry out the compost too quickly).
- Until germination takes place it is vital that you do not let the soil dry out. Your clear lid should have condensation on it and you might need to mist the soil with your spray bottle once a day or whenever you remember.
- Once seedlings appear, you can take the lid off but keep misting every so often to ensure they don’t dry out. Ideally at this point you’ll want the roots to get moisture and the green tops not to be too moist or they might rot, but strawberry seedlings are so delicate that watering them might crush them so misting is OK as long as you keep them uncovered and in a relatively airy room.
Note: if the strawberry seed you have has not been stratified already, you will have to keep it in the fridge for a while prior to planting or the seeds may not germinate. But that being said, every batch of seeds I’ve tried came up just fine without any special treatment, so I’m assuming most sources sell the seeds already pre-stratified.