Growing Strawberries

Of all the fruits that conjure up images of dreamy summer days,
strawberries must be near the top of the list!
One of the easiest fruits to grow, they’re a particular favourite with children
who simply love eating the strawberries that they’ve grown themselves.

Why Bother

Difficulty         Very easy
Grow in            Borders, pots, grow-bags or hanging baskets
Why bother?  Delicious fruit and lots of extra free plants!

Start with good-quality small plants which are already well-rooted in their pots – these will become available to buy from Mrch onwards. As always, we recommend you buy your plants from a reputable supplier to make sure that you’re starting with quality plants in varieties that you can rely on – not to mention the free help and advice that they can provide!

Grow in containers

Strawberries are easy to grow in pots, hanging baskets or even a grow-bag. If this is your first attempt, we’d suggest a container as that will keep the fruit off the ground, making them more difficult for slugs and snails to steal your gorgeous strawberries.
Always use a good quality compost – either a fruit and veg compost or a multipurpose compost designed for containers and baskets. If you mix some water-retaining granules through the compost that will help retain moisture in the soil which can be very helpful if we get high winds or particularly sunny spells.
For a 12″ diameter pot or basket, we’d suggest you plant about 3 plants so they have enough room to develop. Always make sure that the crown of the plant is level with the top of the soil.

Grow in the border

Choose a sunny, sheltered spot where there is fertile, well-drained soil. Give your plants plenty space – up to 18″ between plants. Make a good-sized planting hole and incorporate fresh compost around the roots to help give your plants a good start. The crown of the plant should be level with the top of the soil – too deep and it will rot, too high and it could dry out. If you’re unsure, simply look at the level the plant is sitting at in the pot when you buy it, and make sure you keep it the same when you plant it out.
As the strawberries grow, the fruit is likely to come into contact with the ground. As this can cause rot, its a good idea to tuck some straw or a fibre mat between the fruit and the soil to avoid damage to your strawberries.

Caring for your strawberries

SOS – Save our strawberries!
Whether you grow your strawberries in a container or the border, it’s a good idea to protect them from the birds – it’s so infuriating when you’re looking forward to enjoying your sweet, fresh strawberries only to find your feathered friends have beaten you to it! A garden net is inexpensive and you’ll be able to use it year after year.

Feed and water us!
You’ll need to water frequently, especially if it is a dry summer.  Strawberries in containers and baskets will generally need watering daily, and those planted directly into the ground less frequently.
Incorporating some slow-release fertiliser when you plant the strawberries will provide good underlying nutrition during the growing season. Once the strawberries begin to grow well, a little liquid fertiliser (tomato food is ideal) every 1 – 2 weeks during the growing season should help increase your yield (jargon for the amount of strawberries you get!).

You should get fruit in your first summer, but you’ll get even more in the second and third years. The rule of thumb is that you’ll get maximum yield in the first 3 years, then it’s a good idea to replace the plants in year 4.

Don’t forget us!
It may be tempting to forget about the plants after fruiting, but taking care of the plants at the end of the growing season will bring you great rewards the next year. Remove the dead leaves and any straw or mats you’ve used, and you’ll prevent pests and diseases making themselves at home (they like strawberries as much as we do!).

Free plants!

The strawberry plant you start with will crop well and even more amazingly, it will also give you lots of extra new plants – free! The new plants come from ‘runners’ – these are long stalks which grow out from the centre of the plant, producing roots and a few leaves at the end of the stalk. It can be a real family project – children love the idea of free plants and may happily pot these up so they can grow even more strawberries next year!
Prior to fruiting, its a good idea to snip out the runners before they grow too long so that the plant keeps its energy at this time for developing the fruit. But after fruiting, let the runners grow until they develop their little roots, then plant them into pots and you’ll be able to grow even more strawberry plants for next year!

What will I need?

Pots – the more room you can give the roots, the better
Compost – either a fruit & veg compost or a multi-purpose for pots
Feed – A base fertiliser such as slow-release Miracle-gro and fast-acting feed such as Tomorite
Garden net (or other bird decoy)
Straw, Fibre-mat – or other means of keeping the fruit off the ground