When it comes to fruit, strawberries are usually towards the top of the list when it comes to peoples favorites. They’re great for a snack or a beautiful cake topping. The only thing better than eating strawberries is eating strawberries you’ve grown yourself! In this article we take a look at how to grow strawberries.
Strawberries can be grown in the ground, in raised beds or in containers in your yard, and some varieties do well in hanging baskets. Some growers grow them through a sheet mulch to keep weeds down. It is essential that you ensure that your planting site is blessed with full sun; otherwise, your fruit will not be as juicy as it could be.
Preparing the ground is essential. Strawberries like a good loam with plenty of organic matter, such as compost. It should be water retentive, but free draining, as waterlogged soil is awful for strawberries. If you’re unsure we’d recommend measuring soil moisture before committing to planting your seeds.
The ground should be cleared of weeds, particularly perennial ones, and it must be worked into a good tilth by hoeing.
One mistake is to plant strawberries too close together, for they like space. Forty-five centimeters between plants and seventy-five centimeters between rows is recommended (Thompson and Morgan). They also need a planting hole large enough for their roots, which you should make with a trowel. Spread the roots in the hole evenly, trimming any overly broad root, but never to less than four inches. Plant, so that crown (top of the root) is level with the rim of the hole. Fill the hole and firm in. Water well.
Strawberries need watering and feeding. Plants need to be well-watered at the following times:
- After planting until new leaves form
- During dry spells
- When the fruit is ripening;
- In early fall for summer bearers to maintain supply.
When fruits have formed do not do any overhead watering, especially late in the day, as water falling on the fruits creates the wet conditions that are conducive to the development of botrytis, a fungus that will destroy your crop. You can water with a trickle hose laid between the rows. I use a small watering can with a narrow spout that enables me to direct the water carefully. I water the ground around the roots.
The water supply can be used for delivering feed. Tomato feeds, particularly high potash ones, are adequate. The big, juicy strawberries that are served at Wimbledon are the product of skilled watering and feeding with the correct feeds. Those in grow-bags need feeding after four weeks and until flowering.
Perform maintenance by tidying over-wintering strawberries by thinning damaged, dead or diseased leaves to facilitate new growth. Also trim out unwanted runners, the shoots that come laterally out of the plants. Strawberries produce leaf clusters known as crowns. Thin them out to no more than four crowns per plant. Doing this allows the plant to concentrate its energies on fruiting.
Protection may be useful. Where frost is a possibility, a fleece tunnel cloche may be a desirable option in spring. Many growers place a straw mulch around the plants to protect against soil splash, which mars the fruits.
For best results pick on warm days when temperatures are high, but only pick fully colored fruits. Then eat them as soon as possible. If you want to store strawberries pick when they still have a white tip and then place them as quickly as possible in a fridge, but eat within a few days. They survive being frozen, but few remain intact.
Protection against viruses can only come from purchasing stock certified virus-free. Strawberries suffer pests, such as birds and squirrels, for which netting might have to be used. In glasshouses, there might be problems with red spider mite, for which the best solution is to import natural predators, such as ladybugs, which are the gardener’s friends as they devour pests, such as mites and aphids, or Phytoseiulus persimilis, a predatory mite commercially available. This will also deal with strawberry seed beetle and strawberry blossom weevil.
For general protection against fungal infections ensure that fruits are not allowed to stay damp and that the area around them is well-ventilated. On a lighter note, alpine strawberries, which produce small fruits, are sometimes used as a ground cover plant.
Strawberry Recipe Resources
Now that you’re comfortable growing your own strawberries, all that’s left to do is find creative ways to eat them! We’ve put together a list of recommended recipe resources below:
- Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Michael Pollack, RHS, 2002