You can’t beat the taste of a freshly picked strawberry. You will notice that the red colour goes right through to the core unlike the tasteless white centered supermarket strawberries.
How easy is it to grow your own strawberries? It is probably one of the easiest fruits to maintain and grow.
There are 3 types: summer fruiting, perpetual fruiting and Alpine.
Summer fruiting strawberries give a heavy crop over about 3 weeks in midsummer and if you feed them well you may get a few more strawberries in the autumn.
Perpetual fruiting strawberries, also known as ever bearing, generally crop for a week or so in summer and then crop again from late summer through to the frosts if you keep them well fed.
Alpine strawberries produce very small fruits with a delicate flavour. They are often used as edging plants .
The best way to grow strawberries is from runners or commercially supplied plants. (Alpine strawberries are often grown from seed.)
Planting a mixture of summer and perpetual fruiting plants will give you a long cropping season.
Perpetual fruiting varieties are best planted out in the spring. Summer fruiting varieties are best planted in early autumn so they can get established before they fruit, although they can also be planted in spring. For either type, if planted in spring then pick off all the flowers and any runners that form until the plants are growing well. Yes it does seem daft but it really will give you stronger plants and much more fruit in the future.
Strawberries like rich soil so dig in plenty of well rotted manure or compost. If growing in pots you can use grow bags to fill your pots. Choose a sunny site for the best flavour. Avoid planting in soil that previously had peppers, tomatoes, aubergine or potatoes in it – these plants could pass on verticillium wilt.
Alpine strawberries are easily grown from seed. Put the seed in the freezer for 3 or 4 weeks before planting in early spring. Germinate at 21C before gradually hardening off the young plants. A pot of compost on sunny window sill and sealed in a clear plastic bag will give a reasonable germination rate. Pot up when then have 3 or 4 true leaves. Alpine strawberries make good ground cover or path edging. Alpine strawberries are easy to propagate as they self seed fairly well.
Strawberries can be quite successfully grown in containers, window boxes and also hanging baskets. The flowers and fruit can look quite attractive.
Years 2 & 3 are the heaviest cropping years for strawberries so if you have room you should look to plant out fresh plants in years 2 and 3 ready to take over in year 4. To propagate your own plants you can put the runners (the little mini plants that appear on long stems) into pots of compost. When they have rooted you can cut the stem that joins it to the main plant and grow them on.
To maximise your crop size and flavour feed the plants regularly, tomato fertilisers work well for strawberries. Keep the soil moist but not water logged.
As the strawberries develop then you can lay some straw down under the fruits to prevent them from rotting on the ground. In window boxes, pots and baskets this is not a big problem.
Its not just you that loves the taste of fresh strawberries. Birds will peck at them and they are also attractive to slugs. Vine weevils may also be a problem especially in pots.
Birds can be easily deterred. We have added some of the reflective children’s seaside windmills to our window box to scare the birds away. You could also use netting to prevent the birds from getting close to the fruit.
Slugs can be controlled with a Biological Nematode which is quite effective and very environmentally friendly. Other methods of control include pellets, or you could use a slug proof barrier. See our slug control article for more insights into beating this pest.
With vine weevils prevention is the key. Use a vine weevil nematode to prevent problems.