Sweeter than sweet, distinctly aromatic and packing a serious punch when it come to flavour, home grown strawberries are a fruit I’d recommend
everyone grows if they possibly can. Right now there are plenty of plants available in garden centres so why not treat yourself to a few?
Choose sturdy looking, compact plants with dark green leaves but avoid those which are already forming fruits (chances are they will be too exhausted already!)
Strawberries can be grown in open ground in a sunny or slightly shaded spot, alternatively grow them in good-sized containers so whether you’ve got plenty of space or more of a back yard garden, you can grow these gorgeous fruits. I’ve never eaten a home grown strawberry which wasn’t delicious, so I’d recommend any variety but, if you have space and can grow several, I suggest choosing some described as early and some as late, that way you can be enjoying them for as long as possible.
If you’re planting into the garden, fork the soil over to remove weeds and debris then incorporate plenty of compost or some well-rotted manure. For containers I suggest mixing a good quality multi-purpose compost with some loam-based John Innes No.2 compost. Mixing equal quantities of these composts gives you the best of both worlds – good moisture retention and weight but plenty of aeration too. You can purchase special ‘strawberry planters’ which look great on a patio , but I find them quite tricky to plant up and to maintain so I prefer to buy a large, attractive standard pot instead. Alternatively, why not create a strawberry tower? All you need are three fairly shallow pots, medium, large and extra-large, each one about 15-20cm top diameter larger than the next. Once filled with good quality compost you can stack them on top of each other, creating a ‘ring’ of compost at each level , perfect for planting a circle of strawberries . The end result, you very own strawberry waterfall will look great and take up a minimum of space.
Water the plants in well after planting and keep the soil just moist at all times and they will soon establish. During the spring and summer I feed mine with liquid tomato food, perfect for encouraging plenty of flowers and fruit.
There are a few problems you’ll need to watch out for:
*Birds and squirrels love the fruits once ripe or nearly so, so temporary netting cover may be a good idea. Just one word of warning though, make sure the netting has mesh over 1cm diameter or that you put it in place once the flowers have all been pollinated, otherwise you’ll also keep out the bees that you need to pollinate them!
*Slugs and snails can devastate the fruits, generally growing in pots dramatically reduces damage from these pests, especially if you apply copper tape around the rim of the pot. Other options include nematodes, copper-impregnated strawberry mats and mulches such as wool pellets, pine needles or crushed shells