Growing strawberries is one of life’s most wonderful pleasures! Early to mid-autumn is the best time to plant strawberries, while early spring is strawberry sowing time, and we at Lifestyle Home Garden have put together some guidelines on what environment you need and just how to have success with growing and harvesting strawberries in your garden…
Garden Requirements to Grow Strawberries:
- At least 6 hours of full sun per day
- Well-drained, humus rich soil
- Regular watering
- Thick mulch (at least 10cm). Traditionally straw was used as a mulch – hence the name – to keep fruit off the ground and protect it from dirt, damage and fungal disease. Mulch will also suppress weeds and maintain the soil moisture. As straw is not always readily available, disease free grass clippings, pine needles, leaves or newspaper strips can also be used.
- Strawberry plants can be transplanted from August to November.
- Seeds* can be sown in September and transplanted in the following 3 months.
Sowing Strawberries by seed:
The time to sow seeds is in Spring, so be prepared to sow by September and not later than the end of October. The seeds are incredibly small and can easily get lost or blow away in the wind and it can dry out very quickly.
Start preparing by filling seed trays with coir or peat mix or a germination mix. Normal potting soil is too heavy. Sow one seed per cavity and cover very lightly, or almost not at all. Keep these seeds moist and never let them dry out. A suggestion is to slide the seed tray into a plastic bag to retain moisture during germination. Water regularly with a spry bottle to keep moist, but not soggy. The seeds will germinate slowly, so be patient, and after about 3 weeks the first seedlings should start showing their little heads. Remove the plastic bag at this stage. Plant out at 8 weeks, following the guidelines below.
Preparing Garden Beds for Strawberries:
Prepare the beds for strawberries in late summer by digging a layer of compost, bonemeal and organic 2:3:2 fertiliser into the soil. Strawberries prefer a slightly acid soil. This can be rectified by adding a small amount of acid compost to your soil at the preparation stage.
Buy and plant strawberry plants in March and April. Space plants about 30cm apart. If you don’t have space for a designated strawberry bed, plant them as a path edging or groundcover amongst vegetables or bedding plants. Alternatively strawberries can be planted in special strawberry planters, barrels, pots, planter boxes or hanging baskets. When planting ensure that the roots are buried, but the crowns are sitting just on top of the soil. Firm the soil down around the plants, apply mulch and water deeply.
Watering and Fertilising your Strawberries:
Continue to water 2 – 3 times per week in the mornings. It’s preferable not to water onto the leaves as this can lead to fungal disease. When the fruit starts to ripen, cut down on the watering, but never let the soil dry out. Fertilise in autumn and again in spring with an organic 3:1:5 granular fertilizer. Ensure that there is always a thick layer of mulch around the plants.
Maintaining and Harvesting your Strawberries:
The strawberry plants will send out runners, which are bare stalks with a leaf cluster at the end of it, from which roots will form. During the first two years, cut the runners from the mother plants to concentrate the plant’s energies on fruit production. In the third year leave runners to develop and in autumn choose the 2 strongest runners from each mother plant. Peg these little plantlets down with a U-shape bent garden wire or a hairpin into the soil, close to the leaf cluster (or into small pots with soil) to ensure root growth. Only cut the runners from the mother plants when they start making new leaves (about 1 month), an indication that they have established a healthy root system. Transplant the new plants into new beds or containers or use them to replace diseased plants in the original bed. These runners will already bear some fruit the next spring and will ensure a continuous crop. Allow the fruit to ripen on the plant before harvesting to ensure the best flavour.
Strawberry plants should not be grown in the same bed for longer than 3 years. After 3 years, lift and transplant them into new beds.
What to Plant with your Strawberries:
Good companions: Borage (flowers will attract bees for pollination), Spring onions, Spinach, Lettuce
Dislikes: Gladioli, Brassicas, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme