To prepare the soil, dig in plenty of well-rotted garden compost and apply a dressing of sulphate of potash fertiliser. Plant the strawberries so their roots are just buried, about 30-45cm apart, then firm the soil around them. Water well for the first few weeks.
Strawberries are also suited to growing in pots and hanging baskets. Use deep pots at least 15cm wide and plant one strawberry per pot. They like well-drained conditions, so use a soil-based compost with a deep layer of gravel or broken crocks in the base.
A growing bag will support six to eight strawberry plants, especially if you lay one bag over another, with holes cut to allow roots to penetrate to the full depth.
Tending to strawberry crops
To encourage flowering and fruit set, feed with tomato fertiliser (follow the pack instructions) and water regularly. Avoid wetting any of the ripening fruits to prevent grey mould.
Tuck some straw around the plants just before the fruit starts to develop. This helps to keep the berries clean and deters slugs and snails.
To encourage strong growth for next year’s crop, after fruiting finishes, cut off foliage about 5cm above ground level and give plants a good feed with a general-purpose fertiliser (again, follow the instructions on the pack).
After three to four years, fruit size and quality declines so you will need to replace your plants with new stock.
Once strawberries have been picked, the ripening process stops. So, wait until the berries are fully red, then pinch through the stalks with your finger and thumb to avoid bruising the fruit.
As strawberries are perishable, they’re best eaten straight from the plant, still warm from the sun. You can store unwashed fruit for a few days in the fridge. Some varieties are suitable for freezing.
Strawberries: preparation and uses
Damp strawberries will quickly go mouldy, so only wash what you can eat and blot them dry on kitchen paper. If you’re lucky enough to have a glut, whizz them into delicious smoothies or use to make jam.
Strawberries: problem solving
Protect against slugs and snails, and net to deter birds.
Grey mould can be a problem in wet weather, causing the berries to rot. Water plants in the morning rather than in the evening to give them time to dry out. If the problem persists, use a systemic fungicide.
Why choose cold-stored runners?
Mail-order fruit nurseries sell bare-root runners that have been stored in cold conditions. Once planted, these young plants grow quickly to form flowers and fruit in as little as 60 days. Plant them into pots or hanging baskets for a speedy, easy and delicious crop.
Great strawberries to grow
Choose summer-fruiters or everbearers
‘Elsanta’ – heavy cropper with large, tasty, red fruits
‘Elvira’ – heavy crops and good disease resistance
‘Hapil’ – large glossy fruits, even in dry conditions
‘Honeoye’ – prolific fruiter with large, firm berries
‘Pegasus’ – sweet, juicy, top-quality berries
‘Symphony’ – good yields and fairly pest resistant