How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

Grow

How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

Water frequently while new plants are establishing. Also water during dry periods in the growing season. Try to avoid wetting crowns and fruit as this can promote disease.

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In early spring, feed with a high potassium general fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4. Scatter half a handful per square metre/yard around the plants. Additionally, feed strawberry plants growing in containers and grow bags with a high potassium liquid feed, such as tomato feed, every 7 to 14 days throughout the growing season.

Netting may be required to protect from birds. If squirrels are a problem, protect with wire mesh. In May, protect your bed with fleece if overnight frost threatens developing fruits.

As fruits start to develop, tuck straw or fibre mats underneath plants to keep fruit clean. This will also help suppress weeds. Pull out any weeds that do emerge.

After cropping has finished, cut off old leaves from summer-fruiting strawberries to allow fresh leaves to develop. This isn’t necessary with autumn fruiting plants, instead just remove old leaves in the end of season clear up. Also remove the straw mulch, fibre mat, or black polythene, to prevent a build-up of pests and diseases. Take off any netting so birds can feed on any pests.

Plant

How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

Strawberries are so versatile – they just need sun, shelter, and fertile, well-drained soil. Avoid areas prone to frost and soils that have previously grown potatoes, chrysanthemums, or tomatoes because they are all prone to the disease verticillium wilt. 

Strawberries are traditionally grown in rows directly into garden soil. In poor soils grow in raised beds, which improves drainage and increases rooting depth. Alternatively, try growing in containers or growing-bags.

Avoid windy sites which will prevent pollinating insects from reaching the flowers.

Buy plants from a reputable supplier so that cultivars are true to type plants are disease free. 

Strawberries can be bought as potted plants or bare-rooted runners.

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Strawberries for sale in pots or packs (normally from late spring onwards) can be planted as soon as you buy them.

Runners look like little pieces of roots with very few leaves. Don’t be alarmed, this is how they should look. You can buy runners from late summer to early spring, and they should be planted in early autumn, or early spring (avoid planting in winter when the ground is wet and cold).

You can also buy cold-stored runners. These can be planted from late spring to early summer and will fruit 60 days after planting.

 

Strawberry types

Summer-fruiting varieties have the largest  fruit. They have a short but heavy cropping period over two or three weeks. There are early, mid-, and late fruiting cultivars cropping from early to mid-summer.

Perpetual strawberries – sometimes called everbearers – produce small flushes of fruits from early summer to early autumn. The crops are not so heavy as the summer-fruiting ones and the fruits are smaller, with the plants less likely to produce runners. Perpetual strawberries are useful for extending the season.

How to plant

Prepare your ground by digging in two buckets of well-rotted manure or garden compost per sq m (sq yd). Add a general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore at 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd).

Measure out planting holes 35cm (14in) apart. Space rows 75cm (30in) apart. Dig out a hole large enough to accommodate the roots. Trim the roots lightly to 10cm (4in) if necessary, then spread them out in the hole. Ensure that the base of the crown rests lightly on the surface before firming in gently. Planting at the correct depth is important: if the crown is planted too deeply it will rot; if it is planted too shallowly the plants will dry out and die. Water the plants in well.

If planting in the autumn or early spring, remove the first flush of flowers of perpetual strawberries, but remove flowers of summer strawberries only if the plants are weak.

If you’ve planted  cold-stored runners in late spring to early summer, leave the flowers on. These will produce strawberries in 60 days, reverting to their natural cropping period the following year.

Common problems

Grey mould
How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

A usually grey, fuzzy fungal growth which can begin as pale or discoloured patches. Grey mould ( botrytis) is a common disease especially in damp or humid conditions. Spores enter plants via damaged tissue, wounds or open flowers. Mould can also damage ripening fruit such as strawberries. Black resting spores survive over winter.

Remedy

Remove damaged plant parts before they can become infected. Cut out infected areas into healthy tissue and clear up infected debris. In greenhouses, reduce humidity by ventilating and avoid overcrowding of young plants and seedlings.

Powdery Mildew
How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.

Remedy

Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.

Frost damage
How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

Late frosts can damage growth, leading to it dying or being distorted.

Remedy

Remove any damaged growth and protect the bed with a double layer of horticultural fleece if frost is forecast.

Vine weevil
How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

Adult vine weevils eat notches in the edges of leaves, while plump, creamy white larvae with brown heads cause more damage to the roots, on which they feed. This can kill the plants.

Remedy

Apply biological control.

Harvesting

How to grow strawberries / RHS Gardening

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Strawberries ripen from early summer to early autumnm, depending on the variety. 

Pick when they’re bright red all over, ideally during the warmest part of the day as this is when they’re at their most tasty.

Eat them as soon as possible – they don’t keep well once ripe. Most don’t hold their shape when frozen.

Recipes

Nigel Slater’s soft set Strawberry jam is easy to make and tastes of summer.

Simply impressive – this Strawberry and mascarpone tart is simple to make but looks impressive.

Recommended Varieties

‘Vibrant’ AGM

Vibrant is an early-season strawberry which produces heavy crops of medium to large bright red berries in early summer and a second crop may be produced in September if July temperatures are not too hot.

‘Alice’ AGM

Alice  is one of the best midsummer strawberries and which produces good crops of sweet and juicy, shiny orange/red berries which have a superb flavour

‘Cambridge Favourite’ AGM

Cambridge Favourite is probably the best known of all strawberry varieties available producing medium-sized, orange/red berries from mid-June, which will hold their shape and flavour very well. This variety is a reliable cropper, has good all-round disease resistance and performs well on a wide range of soils and growing conditions

‘Hapil’ AGM

Hapil is a mid season strawberry and often considered as one of the best all-round varieties available. Hapil produces heavy crops of large glossy, light red  berries with an excellent sweet flavour

‘Honeoye’ AGM

Honeoye is an early but heavy cropping strawberry which produces bright red, large berries. This variety can be susceptible to mildew but well worth growing.

‘Pegasus’ AGM

Pegasus is a heavy cropping, late summer strawberry which is considered to have a good all round disease resistance. The large, red berries are easy to eat, sweet and juicy.

‘Rhapsody’ AGM

Rhapsody is a late season strawberry which produces heavy crops of attractive, glossy, large, red berries. Rhapsody is considered to have some disease resistance

‘Symphony’ AGM

Symphony is a late season strawberry which produces heavy crops of attractive, glossy, red berries which have an excellent flavour. Although considered to be disease resistant it can be susceptible to mildew

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See also  How to Prepare Your Mulch Beds