Introduction to Strawberries
Succulent, flavorsome strawberries epitomise the traditional British summer but many of the supermarket varieties don’t come close to the flavour, juiciness or fragrance of your own sun-ripened, freshly-picked fruit. Our hand-graded runners (potential fruiting stems) will crop prolifically for at least 3 years; the first year’s crop is smaller, but increases in subsequent years.
Each plant will give around 750g (1 ½ lb) of fruit in its second year. Our vigorous runners are lifted from healthy mother beds stocked with high grade parent plants and are certified by Defra.
When you receive your strawberry runners, soak the roots in water while you are preparing the planting site. Plant in an open, sunny position in soil which is rich in humus (or bulky compost).
Similarly water pots well, if your strawberries arrive in small pots.
Set plants 45cm (18in) apart in rows 75cm (30in) apart.
The top of the soil should be at the same level as the crown of the strawberry plants (where the green starts, above the roots).
Arrived as Bare-rooted runners?
Dig out a shallow planting hole (or trench for more than one plant), and create a small mound(s) in the centre. Spread the roots out evenly over the mound. Firm soil around the plant(s) ensuring the top of the soil is level with the crown and water well.
Arrived as pot plants?
Dig out a planting hole or trench (for more than one plant) to 5cm (2in) deeper than the rootball of the container. Add a shallow layer of compost to the bottom of the hole, incorporating some of the dug-up soil. Ensure the top of the soil is level with the crown and water well.
Planting under polythene
Create individual or long mounds (for more than one plant) above the soil level 7.5cm (3in) high. Water the mound well. Place polythene over the mounds and tuck sides into the soil. Make slits into the polythene to place the individual plants.
The strawberry fruits are now protected from the soil (which can cause rot) and less likely to be damaged by slugs.
Planting in pots and baskets
A great way to have strawberries when you are trying to save space. Be sure to keep these plants very well watered.
After planting, water thoroughly. If no rainfall occurs during the first few weeks after they have been planted, water regularly to keep the soil moist until plants re-establish.
When planting strawberries the high-humus content will feed intitally-planted young plants or runners for a good head-start in growing.
Apply a general fertiliser around plants straight after planting.
An application of a high-potash fertiliser at the rate suggested on the pack increase yields and promotes good development of flowers and fruits, as they start to form flowers.
Water well morning and evening, especially when growing strawberry plants in pots, when they can dehydrate quickly. Try to keep the water off flowers and fruit as this can bring about rot.
Be extra vigilant to water strawberries grown in pots and baskets.
After planting apply a mulch (protective layer) of straw around the plants. This will keep moisture locked up in the soil, keep soil warm for accelerated root growth and provide a dry surface for growing fruits which may rot if coming into contact with the soil.
After the first season you may notice a few horizontal stems growing out from the plants and rooting along. This is the strawberry plants natural way of spreading. If you sever these runners, it keeps mulching and weeding a simpler task. Severing runners produce less fruits than when you leave runners to root. However the fewer fruit are bigger and fuller. So quality over quantity.
Replace strawberry plants every 3-4 years, and preferably grow in another location to prevent soil-borne diseases building-up.
Remove old and dead leaves as they arise to prevent breeding places for disease, but be careful not to damage the growing stems.
You’ll probably have to protect from pests – birds are very partial to the fruits, as are slugs and snails. Apply slug pellets if need be or grow plants under cloches or netting.
Harvesting and Storing Strawberries
Greater yields arise from the second and subsequent years, so be prepared for a small harvest in the first year. Nip the stalks off with a pruning knife of thumb and forefinger, keeping the hulls on the strawberries until you use them to eat or prepare as an ingredient.
Remove diseased and damaged strawberries as soon as you see them.
Strawberries keep for only a few days if left in a cool place; too cold however and you can lose the flavour. They freeze badly.
Pests and Diseases of Strawberries - Slugs and snails, Birds, Strawberry Mildew