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How to Grow Strawberries in any Garden

How to Grow Strawberries in any Garden

Ripe strawberries are the epitome of summer – just add fresh cream and you’re onto a winner. Strawberries are incredibly easy to grow and you don’t need a large garden to get a bumper crop. Plant them in borders, pots, bags or even hanging baskets to enjoy delicious home-grown fruit all summer long.

Which type of strawberry should you choose?

‘Alice’ strawberry plants supplied as bare root runners.Image source: Thompson & Morgan

There are two main types of strawberry plants: summer-fruiting varieties and perpetual strawberries.

Summer-fruiting plants produce a lot of large strawberries over a two to three week period in the summer. To keep fruit coming for several months, plant a combination of early, mid and late cultivars. Each plant will produce fruit for about four years.

Perpetual strawberries (or everbearers) produce smaller fruits in regular flushes from early summer to early autumn. They’re a good choice if you don’t have lots of space, and are often planted alongside summer-fruiting varieties to prolong the season.

You can grow strawberries from seed, or buy them as plants in pots. You can also buy bare-rooted runners that look like pieces of root without many leaves. Most people buy their plants in pots or trays, as they can be planted straight away.

How to plant strawberries

Strawberries can be grown in hanging baskets.
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Strawberries like to be planted in a sunny position, sheltered from wind and frost. They prefer rich, fertile, well-drained soil that has been prepared with plenty of compost and a healthy dose of general fertiliser.

Traditionally, strawberries are planted into the ground in rows. Each plant should be about 30cm apart with enough space to move easily between the rows and pick the fruit.

First, dig a hole large enough for the plant. The crown should be at surface level - too deep and the plant will rot; too shallow and the plant will dry out and die. Firm in gently and water well.

If your soil is poor, or you don’t have space to plant this way, you can grow strawberries in vegetable trugs, pots or growing bags. Alternatively, hanging baskets also work well. But be sure not to overcrowd your plants or they won’t have the space or nutrients to thrive. A 12" hanging basket would contain three strawberry plants at most. Water-retaining granules prevent containers and hanging baskets from drying out too quickly.

When to plant strawberries

If you buy strawberries as plugs or in pots, you should plant them in April to May.
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If you buy your strawberry plants in pots, they’ll be available from late spring and can be planted straight away. If you’ve chosen summer-fruiting strawberries, plant them as soon as you get them home (April - May) and remove the first flowers if the plants are weak.

Plant perpetual strawberries in the autumn or early spring. But always remove the first flush of flowers to make the plant stronger and healthier.

Bare root runners should be planted in autumn or late spring. Don’t plant them in winter, the ground is too cold and wet.

How to care for strawberries

A soft, dry mat of straw will protect your strawberries as they grow.
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Water your newly planted strawberries regularly until they get established. Then water them carefully during dry spells, but avoid wetting the crowns and fruit.

Every spring, give your plants a good dose of all purpose fertiliser and use a liquid potash feed (tomato feed is ideal) every 7 days during the growing season. Once the fruits start to appear, tuck straw or a mat underneath to keep them clean and free from rot.

You don’t want all your hard work to be spoiled at the 11th hour - birds love strawberries so protect them with mesh during the growing season.

Once your summer-fruiting strawberries have finished cropping, cut the old leaves back so fresh leaves can develop. Do the same for perpetual strawberries at the end of the season. Remove the protective straw or mat, and take down any netting, to prevent disease and allow birds to feed on pests.

Strawberry varieties to try

Early cropping summer strawberries

HONEOYE: Orange-red to red berry with firm texture. Slightly less sweet.

VIBRANT: Red firm fruit with sweet, aromatic flavour.

Mid-season cropping summer strawberries

ALICE: very popular sweet and juicy bright red berries from mid-June.

CAMBRIDGE FAVOURITE: flavoursome, sweet red fruits from late June.

PEGASUS: Soft, juicy and sweet fruit from late June.

Late-season cropping summer strawberries

FLORENCE: Large, bright, glossy fruits with good flavour from mid-July.

SYMPHONY: Sweet, highly rated fruit, deep red, from mid to late July.

Perpetual strawberries

AROMEL: Popular, delicious fruit.

MARA DE BOIS: Intensely flavoured fruit similar to that of wild strawberries.

We hope you’ll enjoy growing and eating homegrown strawberries throughout the summer and into the autumn. And if you’re lucky enough to get a glut, make jam to see you through the dark days of winter until your strawberry plants spring back into life once more.

Lead image: Shutterstock

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