Soil Preparation & Planting
Strawberry beds have a limited life and need to be replaced every 3-5 years with virus-free stock. As they should each time be replanted on a fresh site where they have not been grown for a number of years, they are best grown as a rotational crop with vegetables rather than being included in a more permanent fruit area. Choose a sheltered area of the garden in full sun and, if possible, avoid known frost pockets.
While strawberries will grow on most soils, they require a well-drained, moisture-retentive soil, rich in humus to thrive, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, like farmyard manure or garden compost. Set plants 37-45cm (15-18in) apart, in rows 82-90cm (33-36in) apart. Plant with a trowel, ensuring the roots are well spread out in each planting hole. It is most important to set the crowns just level with the soil surface. After refilling with moist soil, firm in each plant with your boot.
If your plants are not growing strongly, particularly if they are spring planted, it is best to de-blossom them in their first season. This may seem hard in the short term but will enable plants to devote all their energies to building strong crowns for future years. At the beginning of June, mulch fruiting rows with straw, tucking it around the plants and under the fruiting trusses. This keeps the fruits clean and reduces rotting. Do not put down straw earlier in the season as this will increase the chances of frost damage.
After strawing, cover rows with a net to prevent the ripening fruits being attacked by blackbirds or other birds. Support the net clear of the plants. If frost is forecast after plants have come into flower, protect them by covering with fleece, plastic or other suitable material.
Strawberries suffer more than most other fruit in times of drought. If the weather turns dry at any time after the fruits start to swell, water rows thoroughly about once a week until rainfall returns to normal. Immediately after picking has finished, clip over the plants with a pair of shears to remove the leaves. This allows a crop of new leaves to grow to nourish developing flower buds that will produce the following year’s crop. Remove the straw and give the bed a thorough weeding at the same time. Compost or burn all the material removed.
Plants will start to produce runners from about mid-June onwards. If you wish to keep rows of single-spaced plants, cut off the runners as they develop.
The alternative is to encourage the formation of matted rows, which give higher yields. To achieve matted rows, allow the first 7-10 runners from each parent plant to root in a band 20-25cm (8-10in) on either side of the row and only remove any that are surplus to this. Keep rows well weeded at all times and, each year in February; top-dress plants with a high potash fertiliser to encourage flowering and fruiting. You can have extra-early strawberries if you cover an early variety with cloches or a polythene tunnel at the end of February.
Perpetual (Everbearing) Fruiting Strawberries
Known as everbearing types, these varieties start to flower at more or less the same time as other strawberries but continue to produce flowers and fruit until the weather becomes too cold in October. The fruiting period can be extended if plants are protected with cloches in the autumn. As the main reason for growing these varieties is to obtain fruit in late summer and autumn, it is recommended that any flowers produced before the end of May are cut off to encourage maximum production of fruit from July onwards. Later flowers should all be left on, even in the first year.
Cultivation differs from that of standard varieties in that fewer runners are produced and, as these flower and fruit immediately, they should not be removed. Also, plants should not be defoliated in summer. Instead, old leaves should be removed and beds cleaned up in late winter.
Growing Strawberries In Hanging Baskets
Strawberries are well-suited to hanging baskets or patio containers and are ideal for those with limited space. Growing them in baskets will also reduce attack from slugs and snails. For a 12in basket use 10 plants. Upon receipt, they can be planted straight away. Incorporate some water-retaining granules and slow-release fertiliser into the compost before planting and ensure they are frequently watered.
Taking Care Of Your Framberry Plants
This variety combines the taste of strawberry and raspberry! They are easily grown in the same way as strawberries. Fully hardy, and with a fast-growing habit Framberries can be grown in containers or baskets, as well as in the traditional way planted in the ground.
Prepare the ground in the same way as for strawberries. When planting out, space the plants at 45cm (18in) intervals with 75cm (30in) between each row and apply a generous layer of mulch around the base of the plants, being careful to avoid the crown. If training onto a support, tie them in as they start to grow and keep the runners off the ground.