In the Hershey Gardens, you will find a bizarre sight. In the Hoop House, a massive greenhouse-like structure, there’s a strange take on gardening. The staff got creative with the idea of growing food in sustainable but unusual ways. Enter strawberry planters inside ordinary laundry baskets.
“A rising trend lately is sustainability,” said Alyssa Hagarman, a horticulture specialist at Hershey Gardens. “And people want to grow their own food and go natural, without chemicals. So we’re doing a spin on that. We’re teaching where food comes from but in a way that shows you don’t need a lot of space to do it.”
Laundry basket turned strawberry planters are a big hit. Now it’s easier to grow juicy, red strawberries in a container everyone has lying around the house. These unique planters allow ripe berries to hang down around the basket. All you have to do is line the basket with a burlap sack and cut holes through some of the openings. Then you fill it with soil and inset baby strawberry plants into some of the holes. 
Here’s the best part: The laundry basket is supposed to keep bugs away. That’s a blessing as berries tend to attract many pests no one wants to find in their food.
How to Make Strawberry Planters Out of Laundry Baskets
- Cut a small hole in the bottom of the laundry basket for proper drainage.
- Place a burlap sack into the basket with the flaps hanging over the top.
- Pour soil into the container.
- Cut off the burlap flaps so that the sack is even with the top of the basket.
- Cut through the burlap through some of the basket’s holes. (Not all the holes allow the plants to grow and expand.)
- Place the strawberries plants into the cut-out holes of the baskets and on top.
- Place the laundry basket into direct sunlight for the strawberries to grow.
- Keep the plants neatly trimmed, and enjoy the berries!
Check out this video for a more visual guide:
Tips on Growing Strawberries
The laundry basket approach helps skip the step of setting up official strawberry planters that may not be conducive to your garden space. Like the baskets, these planters provide proper drainage and prevent the berries from growing across the yard.
To care for your strawberries, ensure they get at least eight hours of sunlight a day. Add plenty of compost to the soil. Fertilize them with a water-soluble fertilizer right after planting the seeds and after the blooms appear. Keep the soil moist by watering the plants multiple times a week. Additionally, water the plants in the morning to allow the berries to dry before evening. This could help prevent them from rotting on the vine.  Also, be on top of the weeding, especially in the first few months.
Here’s another tip: Place straw around the plants before the fruits appear, which could help deter snails and slugs. For birds and small mammals, place netting around the berries to keep them away. But take care as you do this since netting could trap small animals like birds and hedgehogs until they die. Ideally, pick a netting cage with holes that can’t stretch or trap creatures while allowing pollinators easy access.
Keep in mind that the fruit will usually be ready to harvest about 4–6 weeks after blossoming, so keep an eye on those strawberry planters.
Harvesting the Strawberries
Finally, when it’s time to harvest, only pick the strawberries after they turn fully red. They will not ripen further after being picked. Pick the berries by pinching the stalks to avoid mushing the strawberries with your fingers. 
At last, you’ve done it! You have strawberries to enjoy as you please, free of pesticides. Eat them alone, with cream, cakes, pies, you decide.
However, just ensure they are dry when you store them in the fridge. Damp berries go moldy very easily, so after you wash them, blot them with paper towels for easy preservation. Unwashed strawberries will last in the fridge for about 3–5 days. (It’s more likely they will be eaten right away anyway!) But if you get a windfall of berries, it might be the perfect time to make smoothies or jam. Or freeze them whole; they will keep for about two months.
So why not give laundry basket-strawberry planters a try?
- “Strawberries in a laundry basket? Hershey Gardens’ newest space shows how.” Penn Live. July 13, 2017.
- “How to Build a Strawberry Planter: Tips and Plans.” Gardening Channel.
- “How to grow strawberries.” BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine. April 18, 2020.
- “PLANTING, GROWING, AND HARVESTING STRAWBERRIES.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Catherine Boeckman.