One of my favourite things about summer is eating fresh strawberries.
These delicious little fruits are perfect with scones, as part of many desserts and simply served in a bowl with cream. Unfortunately, even when they’re in season, strawberries are not cheap so if you’ve ever wondered about growing your own, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s very straightforward.
While strawberries are a fantastic addition to an allotment, you don’t need an allotment to grow them. You can grow them in your garden or even in a pot or hanging basket, making them ideal for people who don’t have much outdoor space but still want to grow their own fruit.
Gardens And Allotments
When growing plants in your garden or allotment, you should choose a sunny area, planting your strawberry plants in rows and then covering the soil either with straw (lay it after the flowers form and remove after fruiting) or a weed control matting (lay it securely then cut slits to allow you to plant the strawberry plants through) to ensure the fruits are not in contact with the soil, which can cause them to rot.
Strawberry plants are hardy and can be put outside right away. For a good yield, plant them between June and September. They should really be between one and two feet apart (one is the absolute minimum). Strawberries thrive in sunshine but you should be careful not to allow the soil to dry out, but don’t overwater as this can spoil the fruit. One of the biggest risks to strawberries is birds so a net above the plants, placed before the fruits ripen, is essential.
Pots and Containers
If you’re growing your strawberries in a pot, ensure you regularly check the pot for slugs and use pellets to protect your plants. A hanging basket may be preferable as slugs cannot get to it. You can also buy purpose made strawberry planters which can hold around 20 plants so are a great way to grow plenty of fruits if space is limited. However planters can be expensive, and you need to renew the soil at least every couple of years or the roots become very compact. Ensure the soil in the planter or pot you are using does not become dry. After fruiting, the old leaves can be cut back and then the plants left.
Each strawberry plant will send out several runners which have small plants on the end. It’s best to remove these when they are a reasonable size and secure them in soil in a small pot. Once they establish root growth, the runners can be cut leaving new plants. As you should renew strawberry plants every three to four years for maximum yield, these new plants are ideal for replacing old plants. If you don’t need the new plants you should still remove the runners as they can draw nutrients from the parent plant.
If you are lucky enough to grow a large quantity of fruit, making strawberry jam is an ideal way to preserve and enjoy your strawberries for a long time. Home made strawberry jam also makes a great gift with an added personal touch. Alternatively, strawberries can be frozen and used in smoothies for a delicious and refreshing summer drink.