It’s strawberry time! Sweet strawberry ice cream. No bake strawberry pies. Towering strawberry shortcakes. And a fridge full of strawberries that I can reach in and snack on whenever I desire.
Hopefully, you can feel my excitement already.
Strawberries are some of my favorite fruit. And although you can get them at the supermarket year round these days, nothing beats picking them yourself locally.
Strawberry picking is always one of those summer activities that lands at the top of our summer bucket list. Even when we lived in the city, we would travel about 45 minutes to go strawberry picking. Snacking on the lush warm berries during the ride home was always my favorite part.
These days, living in a more rural location, strawberry picking is actually easy. Our favorite farm is just around the corner. This means that we can pick strawberries multiple times during the strawberry season. And I can go grab a quart whenever the dessert calls for it. Yeah, we’re pretty lucky.
Over my many strawberry picking seasons, I’ve learned a few dos and don’ts about making our trips a success. Although it’s really about having fun, there are some things that I keep in mind every year before heading out to the fields.
What’s the Best Season to Go Strawberry Picking?
Coming from someone who has been strawberry picking up and down the eastern seaboard, it really depends on your location. In Florida, strawberry season starts at the end of November with the peak months being December and January. As you move north, the season gets pushed forward from there.
When we lived in Washington, DC, strawberry picking season started in late April and went through late May. Here in Pennsylvania, it doesn’t start until early June. And when we visit relatives in upstate New York around Fourth of July, we can still usually go strawberry picking. Which is helpful for our picnic’s strawberry pies.
Before planning a strawberry picking trip, check the local season in your area. Make sure you get up to date information too. One late freeze or temperatures that are stubbornly cooler can delay the season by weeks.
How Do I Find Strawberry Picking Farms by Me?
No matter where you live, there should be a strawberry picking farm not too far away. Check the local newspaper for a list of strawberry picking farms.
Or run a web search. Google will query information based on your location and should come up with some suggestions.
I’ve also discovered farms from my local parenting Facebook groups. They post information about farms in our area.
One other idea is to check out pickyourown.org This website let’s you find farms to pick your own everything throughout the United States.
Check When They’re Open
Since strawberry picking is dependent on weather, check the hours of your local farm. Many times they will vary based on day and availability of strawberries.
A lot of places have Facebook pages or websites that they update this information daily.
Or you can simply call the farm. Sometimes the farm will have an automated message about the latest strawberry picking information including hours.
Research How to Pay
Many pick your own farms are small local farms. Small is what I love, but many times that means there is no way to pay by credit card. Before heading to the farm, check with what payment methods they accept. You would hate to get all the way there only to find out that you don’t have the correct method of payment.
Bring your Own Container
I learned this tip a few years ago when we went blueberry picking. We showed up with no containers and excited children only to discover you needed to bring your own container. Luckily, a family stopped us on their way home and gave us one of theirs. It was so sweet and truly saved the day.
But, lesson learned. We always bring our own containers to berry picking farms now. Even if we don’t actually need it. At our current location, you can purchase a container if you forget. Which can be really helpful. But it also saves us a little to reuse the same one year after year.
What kind of container should I bring? For strawberry picking, you can grab any small box or plastic bowl you have on hand. If you prefer something a little fancier, this galvanized berry pail is a fun idea (affiliate). Or these traditional harvest baskets can be worn around your waist which can help with the weight of the berries (affiliate). You can also keep it simple and use these quart sized berry boxes on hand to use when picking. (affiliate)
Don’t Let Cloudy Skies Deter You
The other day, we headed out to pick strawberries under tumultuous cloudy skies. It looked like it might rain, but the radar told a different story. So, we went anyway.
Turned out it was one of the best strawberry picking days we’ve had. The clouds provided some wonderful shade. And with the cool breeze, no one complained about being too hot.
So if the day you want to go is cloudy, don’t let it deter you. A cloudy sky can be much better than a sunny one. Considering that you will be picking in an open field, I am starting to think that sunny days might not always be the best.
Head Out in the Morning
The thing about strawberry picking is that the fields are not shaded. If they were, the strawberries couldn’t grow.
So, it’s best to pick a time during the morning hours before it gets really hot. If you have to go later in the day, choose a time in the late afternoon or closer to dusk. Our strawberry farm is open from 4:30 to 8 p.m. just for this purpose. It’s a lot cooler to pick when the sun is going down.
If Muddy, Wear Boots
In addition to the clouds, we also chose a day to pick right after it rained the night before. I wasn’t so sure it would work out.
Turned out that the berries weren’t affected – just the fields were muddier than usual. So, we all wore gum boots and didn’t have to worry about getting some dirt on us.
If you aren’t sure about the condition of the fields, pack the boots anyway. Then, you can slip them on if you arrive and it’s muddy.
Don’t Forget Your Hat
If you are picking berries on a sunny day, be sure to bring a hat to help provide shade and sun protection. A baseball hat is a favorite with kids, but I also like broad brimmed sun hats (affiliate). They add to the berry picking “look” and are a great way to keep cool in the fields.
And the Sunscreen
Hate to sound like a mom, but sunscreen is key for a great strawberry picking experience. There is no shade out in the field. So, be sure to make sure everyone has plenty on before heading out for picking.
Choose the Ones You’d Eat
For kids, picking strawberries can be stressful. They tend to hem and haw about whether a strawberry is good enough to pick. This can lead to a lot more looking and a lot less picking.
Strawberry picking is not meant to cause anxiety. It’s supposed to be fun. My rule of thumb is to tell kids to pick the strawberries that they’d want to eat. If it isn’t one they would enjoy – don’t pick it.
I also advise to avoid green ones because they’re still growing.
Sometimes kids can get really picky about strawberry blemishes too. I like to remind them that nothing is perfect, even strawberries. So, you can ignore them unless they truly bother you.
Search Under the Greens
Some beautiful strawberries are found at the edge of the strawberry plant. This can make picking really easy.
But most strawberries actually lie in the center of the plant under the bushy green leaves. When picking, be sure to move these leaves around to find the strawberries underneath. The best ones are usually hiding.
Let Everybody Pick
I will admit that after strawberry picking for almost a decade with my kids, they haven’t always been the best pickers. Sometimes they choose berries that are too small, not ripe or slightly moldy.
Although I always open our berry picking season with a few guidelines (see above), I make sure everyone gets a chance to pick. No matter how little they are.
Picking berries is good for your soul. And eventually they’ll figure it out. They just need a few seasons of practice.
Know Your Goals
Do you plan to bake a pie? Snack on them all afternoon? Make ice cream? Strawberry jam?
Before we leave on a strawberry picking adventure, we always discuss the things we plan to make with them. This helps us estimate how many berries we should pick.
And remember, it’s better to pick too many berries than too few. You’d hate to be stuck wanting to bake another pie without any berries left to use.
Strawberry picking is one of my favorite summer memories. I love seeing how much the kids grow and change each year.
As you pick, be sure to snap a few photos. We take pictures of us picking, the end results (before we start eating them) and any other fun moments we have.
Some farms have a special photo op sign. Be sure to snap one there too. At one farm that we went to for years, it was amazing to watch the kids grow compared to the size of the sign. It gave incredible perspective.
Pack a Picnic
If you plan to go around lunch time and there are picnic tables to eat at, pack a picnic. It’s always fun to enjoy an outside lunch. But don’t worry about dessert. There will be plenty of strawberries to enjoy.
How to Host a Strawberry Picking Birthday Party
Strawberry picking is a great activity for a summer birthday party. You can gather your friends together, pick some berries and enjoy cake.
Before planning your strawberry picking birthday party, check with the farm to see if they can accommodate a larger group. They might have suggestions about the hours to host it to avoid other large crowds. Some might even require a reservation in advance.
Also, see if there are picnic tables to gather at for cake afterwards. A place to gather together will be key to making your party a success.
Some farms also have a play area for kids and farm animals to meet. These are great activities to add to your party agenda.
Once you decide on a strawberry picking farm for your party, send out strawberry themed invitations to guests. Let them know where you are going to meet, when and what to bring with them. Hats, boots and sunscreen are always good for this adventure.
When planning your celebration, keep your decorating plans simple. Since you are at a farm, there might not be a lot of space to hang traditional decorations. Instead, focus on the tablescape.
Start with a tablecloth. This vintage blue gingham one gives a rustic look (affiliate). Then, set the place setting with these adorable strawberry shaped plates, sweet napkins and paper cups. (affiliates) You can also add these strawberry honeycomb decorations in the center for a berry special touch (affiliate).
After guests arrive, begin the party with strawberry picking. Since it can get hot quickly in the fields, it’s best to do this activity first.
If the strawberry picking farm gives you containers, then let guests use those to pick. Or you can supply your own. These quart sized strawberry baskets work great and our easy to use for all strawberry pickers. (affiliate) They also make it easy for guests to transport the strawberries home.
While guests pick strawberries, set up lunch or snacks. Choose strawberry themed food such as strawberry jam sandwiches cut into strawberry shapes, no bake berry tarts and strawberry shortcakes in a jar.
Once guests return from berry picking, they can enjoy snacks and play together. Send them home with their strawberries as a favor. Or fill these cute mini strawberry piñatas with some special treats for guests to enjoy. (affiliate)
A strawberry picking birthday party is a wonderful summer celebration idea that guests will love. Who doesn’t love some strawberries?
Planning a strawberry picking trip this summer? Be sure to pin this post for later.
Looking for other summertime activities to enjoy with your kids? Check out our ultimate list of 112 Summer Activities for Kids. It’s full of lots of different ideas to have fun all summer long. From making your own ice cream to jumping on the trampoline and cooking dinner outdoors, there are lots of ways to enjoy the summer months together.
And if you need some ideas to cool off this summer, check out these water play activities for kids. There’s lots of ways to stay cool during the summer heat.