Everybody loves strawberries! These delicious and aromatic fruits are a quintessential summer treat. Why settle for expensive supermarket strawberries when they’re so easy to grow at home? Happy both on the vegetable plot and on the patio, try growing strawberries in hanging baskets, containers, and even window boxes! Grow your own strawberries today and discover the flavour of warm sun-ripened fruit picked fresh from your own garden.
Strawberries are best planted in the spring or autumn. They prefer a sunny and sheltered position in fertile, free-draining soil. Improve your soil with lots of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure prior to growing strawberry plants. Strawberries can be grown in semi-shade - in fact alpine strawberries prefer this! However, summer-fruiting and perpetual-fruiting strawberries may not crop as prolifically in the shade as those grown in full sun.
When planting your strawberries give them plenty of space for better cropping and easy access. For growing in the ground, plant strawberries 45cm (18") apart and in rows spaced 75cm (30") apart. Use a trowel to dig a hole big enough to accommodate the roots of the plant. If planting strawberry runners spread the roots out in the hole and make sure the crown of the plant is resting at soil level. Pot-grown plants should be planted so the top of the crown is level with the soil surface. Planting too deeply can cause the strawberry plants to rot, and planting with the crown too high above the soil surface can cause the plants to dry out and die. Firm the plants in well and water thoroughly.
Strawberries are well-suited to hanging baskets or patio containers and are ideal for those with limited space. This also keeps them safely away from slugs, snails and small animals who enjoy the fruits as much as we do! Why not grow strawberries in our strawberry planters for an attractive, space-saving patio display - plus you won't have far to go to pick your delicious fruits.
For a 12" hanging basket it’s best to only grow three or four strawberry plants so they don’t compete too much for light, nutrients and water, which will ultimately reduce cropping. Incorporate some water-retaining granules and slow-release fertiliser such as incredicrop® into the compost before planting. Check the compost daily in hot weather and water if the top half-inch of compost feels dry. For more information about planting up hanging baskets click here.
After cropping, remove any straw and netting to allow better air flow around the crown of the plant. As the summer progresses, keep on top of weeding and continue to remove any runners. Clear away dead foliage as this can harbour pests and diseases over winter. Each spring spread a general purpose fertiliser around your plants along with a mulch of well-rotted manure or compost.
Strawberry plants tend to lose vigour after about three years; harvests become smaller and the plants succumb to pests and diseases. It is best to replace plants after their third year of cropping. If space allows then rotate your strawberry beds every three years to a different part of the garden to prevent pests and diseases building up in the soil.
Although strawberries are normally bought as plants, you can also try growing strawberries from seed. Seeds take up to a month to germinate and will usually crop the following year. The advantages of growing from seed are the unusual varieties that aren’t available as plants, such as ‘Florian'; which has pink flowers and produces fruit both on the parent plant and the runners, making it ideal for a hanging basket.
Growing strawberries in a greenhouse or conservatory can produce fruit up to a month earlier than usual. (If you don't have a greenhouse or polytunnel then placing a cloche over your outdoor strawberry plants in February will also advance ripening by about three weeks.) For growing strawberries indoors it’s best to plant each strawberry plant into a 15cm (6") pot of general multipurpose compost.
Strawberry plants need to be left outside for the autumn and winter as they require a chill period to initiate flowering. From February you can bring the plants indoors to a bright position and water as needed. Take care not to let the temperature rise above 16C as this will inhibit flowering. You’ll also need to pollinate the flowers by hand. To do this, lightly brush a soft paint brush around the central yellow part of each of the flowers. Remember to feed your plants with a balanced fertiliser every two weeks until flowering begins, at which point you should switch to a high-potash liquid fertiliser for the best fruiting.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.