Are you sometimes disappointed by the strawberries you buy in the shops? They look so big and juicy, yet when you bite into them they are often watery and not naturally sweet.
Why not try growing your own strawberries in your garden this year instead? It’s not hard to do, and you don’t need lots of space. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of eating something you’ve grown yourself, and you will know that they haven’t been sprayed with harmful pesticides or flown halfway around the world like shop-bought ones can be.
It does take work to grow a crop of strawberries, but keep thinking of next year’s delicious crop and how good you’ll feel when you finally pick them.
Where to Plant
Strawberries should be planted in a warm, sunny position in well-drained soil. You can make a raised bed on heavier ground by making a mound around a foot high and planting the strawberries on top.
If you have flowering strawberries in April or May, you must cover them with fleece if frost is forecast, because the fruit will not grow once the flowers have been damaged by frost.
Don’t plant strawberries close to potatoes, as they can transfer a disease called verticillium wilt to each other.
You can buy special strawberry containers for growing in if you are pushed for space, or you can grow strawberries in hanging baskets too. Self-watering towerpots are also a great idea, and can accommodate up to 24 plants. Best of all, they do the watering for you.
Types of Strawberry Plants
Chef Raymond Blanc’s favourite strawberry variety is called ‘Marshmello’, as he says it is the tastiest variety of all. ‘Emily’ is an early variety, along with ‘Honeye’, which also performs well in cool summers.
If you are after an unusual perpetual fruiting variety, you can get the ‘Marie des Bois’ strawberry, which is related to alpine strawberries. The taste is different to normal strawberries, being more of an aromatic alpine strawberry flavour.
Another new strawberry in town is the white strawberry. This is another type of alpine strawberry, and is not pure white but a creamy blush colour. White strawberries can be used in exactly the same way as red ones.
Caring for Strawberry Plants
Remove any faded, brown leaves in April and May, and weed the bed in early spring.
Weed again in July and August after you have finished picking the fruit. Cut off all the leaves and fork between the rows. You can take off the runners now, and pot them up if you want to grow new plants. Once the strawberries flower, feed them on a high-potash specialist strawberry feed.
Birds love strawberries as much as we do, and you’ll need to protect your crop with a net, unless you don’t mind sharing your precious fruit with our feathered friends.
Nothing conjures up the feel of summer quite like fresh strawberries, so why don’t you give growing your own a try this year?