Grow your own: Strawberries

Strawberries are among the easiest and most adaptable fruits we can grow since they are just as happy in a strawberry pot on the patio or a hanging basket as they are in the soil on the veg plot.

Yet they are expensive in the shops and once you have tasted a homegrown strawberry you will never want to buy supermarket punnets again – the difference is truly amazing.

Choose the right varieties and you can be picking from June to mid- October and because they can be grown in pots as well as in the soil, everyone has room for a few plants.

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Strawberry Varieties

There are lots of summer and perpetual strawberries available and it is a good idea to check the catalogues supplied by fruit specialists before buying. They fall into three main types:

  • Summer fruiting
    Early fruiting varieties crop from mid- June to early July, mid-season varieties a week later. Late fruiting types begin to crop in July.
  • Perpetual varieties
    These produce a small amount of fruit in summer with the bulk from mid-August to mid-October.
  • Alpine strawberries
    Grown from seed alpines are sold by most seed companies. The plants are decorative and ideal for pots or as a Planting time productive edging for the flower border.
A hand grasping a ripe Strawberry on it's stem.

Sowing & Growing Strawberries

Strawberries can be grown easily and cheaply from seeds and these will produce plants very quickly when sown in the spring to give a small crop in their first year. However, it is more usual to buy strawberries as ready-grown plants called runners.

When buying strawberry plants it is important to get them from a reliable source since a good grower will only obtain plants from virus-free stock, and it is well worth paying a little extra for these as they will fruit better and for longer.

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Although you can buy plants in pots it is quite common for mail order runners to arrive as bare rooted plants.

On receipt, place the roots in a small bucket of water for a few hours before planting. You will notice a chunky crown just below the canopy of leaves. Plant the crown about half way so as not to bury the very tip of the crown.

Growing on strawberries

If planting in the garden, make sure that your strawberries are in an area that does not become waterlogged in winter.

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Simply plant into previously dug soil which has had some well-rotted organic matter such as manure or garden compost incorporated, preferably the previous year.

In the garden, strawberry plants will be growing in the same spot for three to four years before they need replacing, so it is wise to make sure that any weeds are removed prior to planting. As a safeguard, plant your strawberries through a mulch of polythene or ground-cover fabric to prevent weeds from building up.

Feed your plants in spring with sulphate of potash at the rate of 15g per sq m (1⁄2oz per sq yd) to give them a boost in preparation for fruiting. Avoid nitrogen feeds as these encourage lots of leafy growth at the expense of berries.

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During the winter remove all the old growth before plants begin to send up new leaves and remove runners, which tend to sap the plants’ energy.

If your plants are young and healthy with no signs of virus, some of the best rooted runners can be planted in pots or in rows on the plot to make new plants for fruiting next year.

Scrumptious recipes for your homegrown strawberries:

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