When to pick strawberries – and how to know when they’re ripe

Find out when to pick strawberries for the ripest and juiciest fruit

A pile of red strawberries - when to pick strawberries
(Image credit: Future)

Wondering when the best time to pick strawberries is for the best fruit? It comes as no surprise that they're amongst the most popular crops to grow at home, as there is nothing quite as a delicious as a freshly picked strawberry on a summer morning. 

It's easy to learn how to grow strawberries – and they are difficult to resist. Knowing when to pick strawberries, however, can have a huge impact on whether you get the sweet, juicy treat you looking for, or a more lacklustre strawberry. 

Here we will explain when to pick strawberries and how to know they are ripe. 

When to pick strawberries

The best time to pick strawberries can depend on when to plant strawberries and what variety you have. 

'Strawberries only have a relatively small season for harvesting, usually over three or four weeks,' says Drew Swainston, a former professional gardener and content editor for Homes & Gardens. 'The exact time for picking strawberries in a home garden will depend on several factors, including the weather, sun exposure, watering regime, and the amount of fertilizer given to strawberries plants. It can be a waiting game for the right moment to pick the fruits and get them at the point they have their best flavor.' 

'Strawberries will ripen from early summer into fall, depending on the types of strawberry plants that you have,' continues Drew. 'It normally takes 4-6 weeks from the first blooms showing on the plants to the first berries being ready for harvest. In milder climates, that can mean the first flowers in April and the first strawberries ready in May.

author pic drew swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew is a former professional gardener who has grown edibles for the last 10 years. He has specialized as a kitchen gardener, growing a wide range of vegetables in productive walled gardens specifically for chefs. He has grown many varieties of potatoes over the years.

Lucy Chamberlain, fruit and vegetable expert for Homes & Gardens, describes the summer strawberry cycle as: ‘In May you eagerly devour the first ripening fruits, during June the yield crescendos deliciously, and by the end of the month fruit quality begins to taper off.’

The best method for knowing when to pick strawberries is to keep a regular eye on them. 'Strawberry plants produce their fruit in cycles and not all the berries on the plant will ripen at the same time,' explains Drew. 'The same plant can have multiple fruits at different stages of ripening. By checking plants regularly, such as every few days, you can then get each berry when it is fully ripe and at its best.'

If you want to eat your strawberries that day, try to pick them at the warmest part of the day as this is when they are their most juicy. Make sure you know how to wash your strawberries, however, to remove any dirt or bugs that may be in or on the fruit. 

A hand feeling a strawberry that is almost ready for picking

Strawberries are ready for picking when they are fully red

(Image credit: Future)

When to pick summer-fruiting strawberries

Summer fruiting strawberries are the most common strawberry variety and produce the largest fruit. These berries will be ready to pick when at least three-quarters of the fruit has turned red and they feel slightly soft when squeezed. If they are too soft, they have gone bad. Contrarily, too hard and they are not ripe yet. 

These plants have a short but heavy harvesting period over around two or three weeks in the early to mid-summer months around June to mid-August.

This is a similar harvest period to green beans, although the advice on when to pick green beans is different, so you can add to your gardening knowhow by learning the dos and don'ts of collecting your crop.

close-up of ripe strawberry in the vegetable garden

(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When to pick perpetual strawberries

Also referred to as ever bearers, these plants produce croppings of fruit over longer periods – often from early summer to early fall, often ripening between June through to September

These strawberries are not as large as the summer-fruting variety and the yields are not as big but are more frequent.

Small strawberries hanging over the edge of a plant pot

(Image credit: Getty Images / luvemakphoto)

When to pick alpine strawberries

These smaller plants grow best in shadier areas and produce the smallest but still sweetly flavored fruits year after year. Unlike summer-fruiting strawberries, this variety produces croppings continuously throughout its growing season between June to October.  

Small Strawberries hanging from plant stem

(Image credit: Getty Images / Michele D'Amico)


Do strawberries come back every year?

Strawberries are perennial plants, so will grow back each year if the plants are healthy. 

It is important to note that the first year's harvest may be sporadic however should even out and become more predictable as the years go on. After three to four years, strawberry plants begin to produce fewer berries and may need to be replaced. 

What time of day is best to pick strawberries?

The best time to pick strawberries is during a warm afternoon as that is when the fruits are at their most flavorsome. The hotter and sunnier it is when the berries are picked will mean the fruits are softer and at an increased risk of bruising. 

It is also recommended to pick the fruits on a dry day and to keep them in a cool spot after harvesting. If you are planning to store the fruits, then you can pick them at a cooler time to further reduce the risk of them getting damaged.

Being able to spot the signs of when it's time to pick your strawberries is the best way to get the most from this popular crop. After all, there's few greater delights than tucking into a fully ripe, juicy strawberry straight from the vegetable garden is there! 

Just remember, if you do want to store your strawberries, give them a light wipe-over before storing them in the refrigerator. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.

With contributions from