Guide to Growing Strawberries
Strawberries are, of course, an essential feature of the English summer, and it is well worth growing a few plants. They are encouraging to grow as fruit can be produced in the first year after planting, and you can gain a delicious reward for relatively little work. There are three types of plant; the summer fruiting, the ‘perpetual’ fruiting and the Alpine strawberry.
Summer fruiting: ‘Cambridge Favourite’; ‘Grandee’; ‘Tamella’.
Plant in a sunny position, having dug compost into the. The best time to plant open ground plants is in late summer or early autumn, for fruit the following summer. It is possible to plant in spring, but if you do so, pick off any that appear in May and wait until the summer of the following year for a really good crop. Pot grown plants can be planted in spring to flower the same summer, because their roots will not have been disturbed. Allow spaces of 12 to 18in between plants, and 2ft between rows. Plant firmly so that the crown of the plant is just on ground level. Water the plants every day until they become established, and if they lift out of the ground with winter frosts, firm them back in. When the flowers have died and the fruits start to form, give the soil a really good watering every week or so.
Weed between the plants and lay polythene on the soil around them when the fruit is swelling, to keep theclean. ‘Runners’ will appear in the form of small, off-shoot plants from the parent plant. These can either be pulled up and discarded or allow them to root and replant them as new stock in August. Never take runners from plants that are diseased.
Immediately after all the fruit has been picked, remove the polythene from around the plants, and, using a sharp knife, cut off all the leaves and burn them in order to minimise the risk of perpetuating disease. New leaves will soon start to appear. On the question of disease, any plants that have stunted growth, discoloured or crinkled leaves should be dug up and destroyed. Proprietary sprays and dusts are available to deal with most pests and diseases to which strawberries are susceptible.
The perpetual fruiting plants produce fruits from June to October. The main plant itself fruits first, and then the runners fruit in the autumn, until the first frosts, although the main crop is picked in August and September. Plant in autumn or spring and remove flowers until July.
The variety most commonly offered for sale is ‘Baron Solemacher’ which is, strictly speaking, a relative of the alpine strawberry. It is extremely useful as a small garden plant, for it is tolerant of shade and can be planted under larger subjects. Plants produce tiny fruits right through the summer.
Strawberries in pots
Strawberries are very well suited to growing in pots and tubs on the patio, or even in a. We like to see them in the traditional terracotta strawberry pot, with several cup shaped openings, but a more modern alternative in the form of a tall plastic ‘tower’ planter is becoming popular. Containers should be of a minimum 10in depth and a similar width.