Thanks to John Harrison of Allotment & Gardens
Strawberries are the quintessential summer fruit, easy to grow and delicious to eat. They’ll easily grow in pots, containers and the specially designed strawberry barrels.
Strawberries are short-lived. After three years, dig out the old plants and replace with new, planting in a different position or into new soil. Or, start a second new bed in year two for continuous harvest.
Recommended Strawberry Varieties
There are two main types of strawberry – spring fruiting, usually two–three weeks around June, and perpetual, aka everbearing, varieties that produce flushes of fruit over the entire season.
- Different varieties are suited to different uses, some better for eating fresh and others more suited to jam making.
- Many varieties have been developed to resist mould and rot.
- Elsanta was developed for commercial growers but there are many other varieties available for the home grower. Pegasus is botrytis resistant, Flamenco is a good perpetual variety and Tenira recommended for jam making.
Strawberry Pests and Problems
- Birds adore strawberries so protect plants with netting.
- Strawberries suffer from mould, rot and slugs. Prevent rot and mould and keep the fruits off the soil by mulching with straw or planting through weed-suppressing fabric. Slug pellets may be needed around plants.
- Avoid overwatering during fruiting season as this causes the berries to swell and rot faster.
- Strawberries prefer a slightly acidic, humus-rich soil with some rotted manure for their shallow roots. A handful of bonemeal at planting time will give them a great start.
- Started plants set out in March and April are easiest to cultivate, and seeds are not particularly hard to start.
- When planting a started plant, it’s important to set the plant’s growing line, aka original soil level, at just slightly below the original level to prevent rotting. If planted a bit too deeply, the whole plant will simply rot. Make a shallow hole and mound up soil in the centre, to just above the soil level. Place the strawberry on the mound, spread the roots down the sides and gently firm in soil to cover the roots. Space plants about 20–25 cm (8–10 inches) apart.
- Water well and don’t let the plants dry out.
- Strawberries propagate from runners – small plants that form on shoots thrown out by the parent plant. In the first year remove all the runners as they appear. It seems heartless but must be done so the parent plant doesn’t waste energy and yield small berries. In the following years you can allow one or two runners only to develop and produce new plants. Peg the runner into a small pot of compost using a piece of wire bent into a ‘v’ shape. Once the runner roots, you can cut it away from the main plant. Keep watered until fall when it can be kept in a cool greenhouse or planted out.
- The plants are hardy but the fruits are not. Blossoms and fruit may need protection with cloches at the beginning and the end of the season.
- After fruiting is finished, feed the plants with either some rotted manure or fertilizer.
- Strawberry plants will die back for winter., which is the time to tidy them up by shearing off the dead foliage at ground level, but do not snip into the central crown.
Harvesting, Eating and Storing
- Harvest as the fruits become red and ripe. Strawberries will rot if left on the plants once ripe. Always handle berries very gently as they are very tender. To extend shelf life a few days, leave the green leaf core on until ready to eat. Cool picked berries as soon as possible.
- If there is a lot of rain, berries will rot faster still. Green berries will not ripen after picking.
- Nothing beats a dish of fresh strawberries. They also make wonderful strawberry jam, sauce and ice cream.
- Strawberries can be frozen individually after hulling and gentle washing, but will change texture after freezing making them more ideal for baking or jam making rather than eating.