There’s nothing quite like the taste of a freshly picked strawberry, especially if it’s from your own garden. Nothing like the strawberries from the supermarket, each home grown strawberry is a mouthful of summer.
Strawberry plants are easy to grow, and the fruit can be enjoyed in desserts, jams and even in some savoury dishes. The fruit is usually ready to eat in July, though some varieties will be earlier or later.
Planting Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants like a sunny position that is sheltered, and free draining soil.
The get the most out of your plants, they should be spaced at least 35cm apart. Each row should be around 90cm apart.
If you have bought plants that are bare rooted runners, they should be planted in mid-autumn. Soak the roots first before planting. Dig a hole, or trench if you have a few plants, big enough for the roots to be spread out evenly. Cover the roots with soil, firm well and water.
Growing from seed is another option, though it will take longer for the strawberry plant to produce fruit.
Growing Strawberries in Pots
Container grown strawberry plants can be planted at any time during the year. Dig a hole that is a couple of inches deeper than the pot. Add some loose soil and compost to the hole, and then plant. Firm the roots and then water well.
For runners and container grown plants, the level of the soil should be up to when the leaves, or crown, of the plant begins.
Strawberries work well when planted in pots, and this is also a great space saver. There are even specially made strawberry barrels, where you can grow several plants in one pot. One thing to remember with potted strawberry plants is that the need to be watered well each day in hot weather, as they tend to dry out.
Caring for Strawberry Plants
Fruit will arrive from the first year of planting, but the most fruit comes from plants that are two or three years old. Old plants should be regularly replaced to ensure a good crop each year.
An easy way to replace old plants is by using the runners from the main plant. Strawberry plants send out long stems, or runners. At the end of the runner, roots form and a new strawberry plant will grow. These can be planted into pots while still attached to the main plant. After a few weeks, once the strawberry runner is big enough, the runner stem can be cut and you have a new plant ready in a pot.
Keep the soil around the strawberry plants free from weeds, so they do not have to compete.
When fruit begins to develop, place some handfuls of straw to the soil at the base of the plants. This will stop the fruit from being in contact with wet soil, and keeping them in a healthy condition.
Feed your strawberry plants in springtime with an organic fertiliser.
Harvesting and Storing Strawberries
Once the fruits are red and ripe, they are ready to be eaten. Pick them and eat straight away!
Fresh strawberries will keep for a few days in a cool place.
The whole fruits do not freeze well, but you could freeze a strawberry sauce or compote to use whenever you want to enjoy a sweet dessert, a filling for a cake, add some interest to yoghurt.