A Beginners guide to growing your own strawberries

BG_StrawsStrawberries can be growing easily in containers, as well as in the ground or even in hanging baskets. This makes them a popular home-grown fruit. They also taste delicious when they have been picked straight from the plant, after having been sun-ripened.

 

What equipment do you need?

You don’t need much to start planting and growing your own strawberries, we recommended having the following to hand:

  • Strawberry plants: For a sweet and delicious tasting strawberry that’s easy to grow our Marshmello variety is ideal
  • A trough or planter: We stock a range of VegTrug planters which are perfect if you are limited on gardening space
  • Vegetable growing compost: Marshalls Vegetable Growing Blend compost contains the perfect blend of organic matter for strong strawberry plant growth
  • A trowel & watering can – For maintaining and preparing the soil for planting
  • Plant feed – A quality plant feed will encourage healthy growth and a better quality crop, Westland Big Tom tomato feed has a high nutrient formula to achieve this and works great on strawberries too!

 

When and where to plant strawberries

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Strawberries can be planted anytime from autumn to May. They will grow best in sunny conditions, with plenty of shelter and a well-drained soil that is kept moist.

If you are planting your strawberries in winter or when the weather is cold, water only once a day to keep the compost moist without being waterlogged. It is also important to avoid areas of the garden that are prone to frost.

If it’s warm outside water twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening to keep the soil moist.

 

How to plant and grow strawberries

We recommend getting your equipment ready as soon as you receive your plants, ready to prepare the soil for planting.

When your strawberry plants arrive, you will notice they have lots of roots and a stubby stem. This may look unpromising at first however, once the roots contact the soil in your trough, they will establish and encourage healthy growth.

To start growing strawberries follow these instructions:

  1. Fill the trough or planter with Vegetable Growing Compost so that there is a 3cm (1 ½ in) gap from the top of the trough
  2. Create a level surface, smoothing compost down with the back of the trowel
  3. Place the many-rooted strawberry plants at stations 20-25cm (8-10in) apart
  4. Dig small holes in the Vegetable Growing Compost with the trowel so that you can spread out the roots of the strawberry plants
  5. Back-fill the holes and firm plants in with your hands- the roots should be buried and the short stubby green stem proud of the soil
  6. Water generously to maintain moist soil level

Planting strawberries that arrive as Bare-rooted runners

  1. Dig out a shallow planting hole (or trench for more than one plant) and create a small mound(s) in the centre
  2. Spread the roots, of the plant, out evenly over the mound
  3. Firm soil around the plant(s) ensuring the top of the soil is level with the crown
  4. Water the plants well

Planting strawberries that arrive as pot plants

  1. Dig out a planting hole or trench (for more than one plant) to 5cm (2in) deeper than the rootball of the container
  2. Add a shallow layer of compost to the bottom of the hole, incorporating some of the dug-up soil to the mix
  3. Ensure that the top of the soil is level with the crown of the plant.
  4. Ensure you water the plant well

Planting Strawberries in pots and baskets

Planting strawberries in pots and baskets is a great way to have strawberries when you are trying to save space.

After planting, it is important to water thoroughly. If no rainfall occurs during the first few weeks after they have been planted, water regularly to keep the soil moist until plants re-establish.

How to feed Strawberry plants

When planting strawberries the high-humus content will feed initially-planted young plants or runners for a good head-start in growing.

After planting you should apply a general fertiliser around the plants. An application of a high-potash fertiliser at the rate suggested on the pack increase yields and promotes good development of flowers and fruits, as they start to form flowers.

Once the stems produce flowers and you notice the centre of the flower is swelling into a fruit (the petals should be wilting at this point) it’s a good idea to feed your strawberry plants to give them the nutrients they need to produce superior fruit.

Another way to feed your strawberry plants simply insert Easy-Feed sticks on both sides of a single strawberry plant. Insert 12cm (5in) away from the main stem and 2cm (1in) below the surface. 

How to water strawberry plants

Water well morning and evening, especially when growing strawberry plants in pots, when they can dehydrate quickly. Try to keep the water off flowers and fruit as this can bring about rot.

Be extra vigilant to water strawberries grown in pots and baskets.

How to train strawberry plants

  1. After planting apply a mulch (protective layer) of straw around the plants. This will keep moisture locked up in the soil, keep soil warm for accelerated root growth and provide a dry surface for growing fruits which may rot if they come into contact with the soil.
  2. After the first season you may notice a few horizontal stems growing out from the plants and rooting along. This is the strawberry plants natural way of spreading. If you sever these runners, it makes mulching and weeding a simpler task. However, by severing these runners it produces less fruit.
  3. Remove old and dead leaves as they arise to help prevent creating an environment for disease, but be careful not to damage the growing stems.
  4. You’ll probably have to protect from pests – birds are very partial to the fruits, as are slugs and snails. Apply slug pellets if need be or grow plants under cloches or netting.
  5. Replace strawberry plants every 3-4 years, and preferably grow in another location to prevent soil-borne diseases building-up.

How to harvest your strawberries

When strawberries have ripened (fully red in appearance) simply cut off by the stem, avoid pulling the fruit when harvesting and place gently in a container or basket to avoid bruising. 

Eat them as soon as you can as they do not keep well once they are fully ripened.

In Year 1 you should get about a punnet’s worth of strawberries from one plant. In Year 2 and 3 this will increase to about double the quantity.

Pests and Diseases

Slugs and snails, Birds, Strawberry Mildew

Marshalls recommend these strawberry varieties:

  • Strawberry ‘Vibrant’: High-yielding with rich-red, glossy, perfectly-shaped berries, it has truly excellent eating qualities.
  • Strawberry ‘Snow white’: An unusual white variety with vivid red seeds that will make a refreshing change to fruit salads and ice cream.

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