There is nothing quite like a sun-warmed strawberry, plucked fresh from your own garden. And the good news is, they are really simple to grow. A summer favourite for many gardeners, strawberries bring a splash of colour to your plot, and buckets full of flavour to your plate – and there are plenty of tasty and beautiful varieties to choose from.
To get your growing space ready for the addition of a strawberry bed, prepare the soil, digging in plenty of compost, or well-rotted manure. It is also important to ensure that all perennial weeds have been removed from your planting area. Strawberries will grow best in a position with full sun, although they will tolerate some periods of shade throughout the day. The other most important thing is to plant them in a sheltered spot, with protection from strong winds and areas prone to frost. As long as your soil is free-draining, your plants should be happy – they aren’t fussy once they are established.
It is possible to grow your strawberry crop from seed, but it is far more common practice to begin with already established plants, or runners. Growing from seed is more usual with alpine types. Assuming that you are starting with small plants, space these so there’s 45cm between each one, with rows spaced 75cm apart. This gives adequate room for your crops to grow on.
Mulching is extremely beneficial to your strawberries. Not only does it help to retain moisture (and means less watering for you), but it also suppresses weeds and keeps your berries clean, by making sure that they aren’t sitting on the soil which can cause them to rot. Air circulation will prevent fruit from rotting. There are lots of different types of mulches and ground covers that you can try – straw, mats, plastic sheets, to name but a few. Place whichever type you decide on around the plants, and carefully tuck it in, so that the leaves and berries are sitting on top. If you are using plastic sheeting, you will need to ensure this is taut and secured, so that any water is not able to collect in pockets where it would sit.
Ripening and harvesting
Early varieties of strawberry may require covering with a fleece overnight if frost hits. So be sure to keep your eye on the weather forecasts to save losing your crop. If you do cover them, remove the protection during the day. The plants need insects to have access to them for pollination.
Once you start to see fruit turning red, it is a wise idea to check your plants every day, as these berries ripen very quickly and can turn mushy if left. It’s best to harvest the fruit when it has just turned red, but is not yet soft. It’s obviously ideal to pick your crop as close to the time you will need it as possible. But, if you are going to be keeping them in store for a few days, select
specimens where the ends are still a little white. These will continue to ripen in storage.
Your strawberry plants should give you good crops for a few years, but the yield will decrease over time. Therefore, it’s a good idea to look at replacing them approximately every three seasons. This can be done simply and cheaply by rooting runners from your existing plants.
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12th August 2022