Grow Your Own … Strawberries!

Strawberries are so easy to grow and I think, one of the most rewarding crops. All you need to start with is a strawberry planter – you can buy plastic pop-up ones, or a large pot. I have grown them in an old tyre, which worked very well! There are also hanging planters, which can be hung almost anywhere giving the slugs a real problem climbing into them! You will also need enough rich soil to grow them in, a net to cover them with when fruiting so that the birds don’t eat them all and, of course, the strawberry plants. Never use soil that potatoes or tomatoes have grown in previously or your precious plants will be prone to disease.

Early autumn is a perfect time to plant strawberries, about late September to mid October. They will grow a little throughout the autumn and their roots will have a chance to burrow down into the soil.

Young strawberry plants or “runners” are not expensive to buy. The variety I grow is a perpetual one called “Aromel”. They will fruit from early summer to late November and taste out of this world! Other tasty, perpetual varieties include “Mara de Bois” and “Flamenco”. For summer cropping strawberries, which produce lots of fruit over a shorter season, try “Elsanta” or “Cambridge Favourite”. There are so many varieties available. Maybe you know someone who grows strawberries, if so, ask them for a few free runners!

Once you have a container, soil and plants, fill the container with the soil and plant the runners. It is important to plant them so that the crown is at soil level. If you plant them deeper than this, they will rot. Once planted, water well. Continue to water over the autumn when the soil is dry.

The following spring your plants will grow bigger and stronger. Make sure they have plenty of sunshine but are sheltered from strong winds. Remove the first flowers when they appear. Yes, this is difficult, but I promise you that your plants will reward you with many, many more strawberries a few weeks later. In fact, a lot of growers remove all the flowers during the first season. I’m afraid that I’m too impatient for that even if I don’t get a huge amount of fruit during the first year! Strawberries are hungry plants and benefit from a seaweed liquid feed every couple of weeks. They need regular watering during warm weather.

When the plants start to produce a few fruit, although I’m tempted to try them, I wait until they’re ripe before picking them all. I put them in a bowl with some lightly whipped cream and a few crushed meringues…yum…Eton Mess! This way at least, all the family will get to try some

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