You can't beat the
taste of home-grown strawberries, and right now the garden centres
are stocked up with young plants ready to go in the ground.
Strawberries are one
of the quickest of the berry fruits to produce a crop and not difficult
to grow. You can grow them for several years, but for bigger and
better produce it's best to treat them as annuals, as once they
get older, problems with pests and diseases appear. The plants get
old and tired and start to get competition between the crowns. They
usually do not give the same performance in the second and subsequent
As for all plants, soil
preparation is important. Enrich the strawberry bed with compost
and bury some fowl manure between the rows in a shallow trench.
This will provide a boost of food as the roots spread out.
In heavy soils, plant
on ridges to improve drainage, as strawberries are prone to root
disease in very damp conditions.
Plant at 15cm intervals.
A warm sheltered site will help produce early berries and protect
against frost at flowering time.
It's important with strawberries
not to bury the crown. Keep the crown, which is the part just below
the leaves, just above ground level, as shown here to the left.
Many people plant on
black plastic, as it keeps the plant clean. However, there can be
some problems with black polythene in that the soil underneath deteriorates
quickly because it's not a living membrane.
An alternative is to
use newspaper. Mulch can be placed on top of the newspaper.
Come spring, when the
plants are starting to bear their fruit, put some straw down around
the plants. This helps as a weed suppressant and mulch. The fruit
will sit on top of the straw and stay clean and less likely to rot
from contact with the soil.
Also in spring apply
more fertiliser (one containing potash) as this encourages sturdier
plants, better fruit colour and quality and more disease resistance.
To keep the birds off the fruit, cover the plants with netting just
before fruiting begins.
In late summer the strawberry
plants will send off runners and these can be turned into new strawberry
plants. Make sure your 'mother' plants are healthy: virus and pest
free. The most vigorous runner tends to be the first one off the
main clump, but you can try planting several runners.
Neaten the runners by
cutting off any dead or damaged leaves and plant them in a seed
tray containing an inert mix such as pumice, river sand or gravel.
No fertiliser is required at this point. When you put in the cutting,
once again don't bury the crown otherwise it will rot. New roots
are formed as the plant sends out roots to search for nutrients.
Water well and keep the
seed tray in a damp, shady spot. After about 5-6 weeks you should
find good roots on the cuttings and the plants can then be set out
in the garden.
AND TERRACOTTA STRAWBERRY TOWERS
You don't need a lot
of room to grow strawberries. Provided you can give them a sunny
spot, you can grow them in a terracotta strawberry tower or hang
a strawberry pouch where the pesky birds can't get at the luscious
If using a strawberry
- Fill the bag with
a good, damp potting mix or shrub and tub mix.
- Plant the strawberry
plants into the pre-cut holes.
- Leave the pouch lying
down for a week or two so the plants can establish themselves,
then hang the planter in a sunny spot. Remember to check the watering.
- Once the plants have
started growing give them plenty of liquid fertiliser.
If using a terracotta
or earthenware tower:
- Put a good layer of
pumice in the bottom of the tower to help drainage.
- Stand a roll of cardboard
in the centre of the tower and fill it with sphagnum moss. (A
sphagnum core provides a column of moisture down the centre of
- Fill the tower with
potting soil up to the level of the pockets.
- Lay your strawberry
plants in the pockets on the soil (it's easier than trying to
insert them into the pockets once the tower has been filled with
- Finish filling the
planter with potting mix and pop a couple more plants on top
- Pour water into the
sphagnum moss down the cardboard core, then pull the cardboard
- Put a light sprinkling
of strawberry food on the top of the pot.
- Once the plants start
growing, give them plenty of liquid fertiliser, and you'll have
lots of luscious fruit in summer.
From 5.30 with Jude and Maggies Garden Show