How to grow strawberries
Strawberries are one of the UK's favourite fruits - sweet, juicy, healthy, and so easy to grow at home.
Strawberries should be grown in a sunny position, as they need plenty of warmth to ripen the fruit.
Strawberries will grow in just about any free-draining soil that has been improved with lots of organic matter to hold moisture and nutrients.
But don’t worry if you haven’t a lot of space, as they will grow and crop perfectly well in a container – even hanging baskets. Specific strawberry planters or towers will allow you to grow a dozen plants or so in a small space. Put the containers near your kitchen door and you can just step out and pick garden-fresh strawberries whenever you like.
Strawberries come in a range of different shapes, sizes, flavours and cropping times. The main summer fruiting varieties are divided into early, mid, and late season types. There are also perpetual or everbearing varieties that can more-or-less fruit continuously from July to September.
Although young plants can be planted at any time of year, the best times are September/October or March/April.
If you’re planting directly into your garden soil, remove existing weeds and dig over the area before planting. Strawberries are a long-term crop and the plants will go on cropping for several years, so for the best results incorporate a soil improver to enrich the area with organic matter and add your favourite general plant feed.
Strawberries should be planted 45cm (18in) apart in a row with 90cm (3ft) between rows
Insert the young plants to the same depth as they were growing in their pots, as planting too deep can cause them to rot and planting too shallowly will cause them to dry out.
After planting, water in thoroughly and continue to water regularly for the next few weeks until plants become established.
To ensure you get the biggest crops of the juiciest fruits, it’s important to water regularly and thoroughly during summer whenever there are periods of prolonged dry weather. This is especially important when the fruit has formed and is developing.
From flowering until harvest, feed once a week with a high potassium liquid plant food.
Good, regular watering and feeding is particularly important when growing strawberries in containers. Overhead watering, splashing water onto the leaves and fruit, can cause grey mould (botrytis) disease, so always aim to water at the base of the plant, wherever possible.
As the strawberries ripen, they will need straw or some other dry material placed under them to prevent the fruit coming into contact with the soil and rotting.
After harvesting, remove the straw, tidy up the plants and cut back the old leaves to expose the rest of the plant to sunlight as this will encourage more fruit the following year.
When to replace or propogate strawberries
Plants will continue producing fruit for around 6 years, however, after 3 or 4 years the yield will reduce, so most gardener’s start a fresh planting. You can either buy new plants from the garden centre or make your own from ‘runners’ (these are the smaller plants that are sent out across the soil surface from the main plant). Simply peg these down and they will root quickly to form a brand new plant for the following year.
When to harvest strawberries
Strawberry fruits tend to ripen individually, so pick and eat them as they become ready. Eat them as soon as possible for the best flavour - and enjoy!
Strawberries may be susceptible to the following pests, diseases and problems.