Strawberries are easy to grow and are a very rewarding too. Often you will find just one variety of strawberry, ‘Elsanta’, is available to buy in supermarkets. This is because it stores well and is less prone to damage than other varieties. However, ‘Elsanta’ doesn’t always taste as good as other varieties of strawberry. Therefore growing your own will enable you to experiment with other, tastier types.
What’s more, by growing your own, you will eat the strawberries when freshly-picked, enabling you to eat fresher, tastier and more nutritious strawberries than if you buy them commercially.
How To Grow Strawberries
Strawberries thrive in a well-drained soil in full sun or part shade. It is easiest to grow strawberries from plants bought from the nursery or garden centre. The best time to plant them is in early autumn or in the spring. If you plant them in spring, remove any flower buds from the plants so they concentrate their energy on developing roots and becoming established. Space the plants 40cm (16in) apart in rows 1m (3ft) apart. Water well. It’s a good idea to mulch around the plants with a thick layer of well-rotted manure, compost or straw (some gardeners grow their plants through black polythene). This impenetrable layer will prevent weeds from growing and competing with the plants. It will also keep the soil moist so you won’t have to water the plants as often, and prevent soil splashing on the fruit.
Harvesting The Fruit
The strawberry plants will begin to flower from early summer. Once the flowers have died down, the fruit will develop. At this stage you will need to protect the young fruits from slug damage or damage from mud. It’s a good idea to mulch with straw or tuck handfuls of straw under the fruit trusses to ensure they are not in direct contact with the soil. Once the fruits are ripe (when they are deep red in colour and slightly soft to touch), simply pick them gently off the plant.
After the final fruits have been harvested, cut the remaining foliage down to about 10cm (4in) above the crown to allow new leaves to grow. Clear away and burn any debris from around the plants (including foliage you have removed). This prevents disease from building up around the plants and hampering growth next year. Water the plants thoroughly and apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost to provide nutrients to the soil to feed the plants.
At the end of the fruiting season, you will notice that the plants will have developed several runners, with small plants growing from them. These small plants grow roots and can be grown into new plants. The best time of year to do this is in late summer. Simply insert individual plants attached to runners into small pots filled with cutting compost. Sever each new young plant from the parent plant when it has rooted.
Strawberries taste delicious when eaten fresh from the plant on a warm summer’s day. There are plenty of varieties to choose from, often with a more superior natural flavour than those available to buy in the shops.