To enjoy sweet strawberries in spring and early summer you should be preparing and planting now
The best spot to grow strawberries is in full sun, in soil that drains quite well. Start off by digging the soil over to about a spade’s depth, removing all stones, plant roots and weeds. Apply ample bucketfuls of good-quality garden compost and enrich the soil further with bonemeal. Rake the prepared bed level and water lightly the day before planting.
There are two ways to plant
You can plant healthy runners removed from a previous season’s mother plants, or invest in fresh stock obtainable in pots or punnets at your local nursery. When planting bare-rooted plants, mound some soil at the bottom of the holes and position the plants on top of the mound while gently spreading their roots down the sides before filling in with soil and firming it down. Plant containergrown plants in rows, making sure that the bases of the central crowns are level with the soil’s surface. Spacing between plants should be about 20-25cm.
Water frequently and protect against snails and slugs with organic snail bait. As soon as flowering starts they can be given a dose of 3:1:5 SR fertiliser. Good companion plants for strawberries are spring onions, chives, borage, lettuce, French beans and beetroot.
Portable strawberry garden
Strawberries can also be grown in containers like hanging baskets, so-called ‘strawberry pots’, window boxes or even buckets. Use a good-quality potting soil to which some bonemeal has been added. Remember to water and feed regularly with a foliar fertiliser.
- In heavy soil, drainage can be improved by adding river sand and coarse organic material, and by mounding the soil. Plant the strawberries on top of the mounds and mulch between rows to deter weeds from growing there.
- To prevent ripening fruit from touching the soil and to keep soil from being splashed onto it, you can use a mulch of straw around the plants.
- Another way to protect the fruit and to keep weeds at bay is to cover the prepared planting areas with weed matting. Cut slits with a sharp knife, through which you can plant.
- Replace strawberry plants every 3-4 years with fresh stock to prevent a build-up of plant disease.
- The best time for planting strawberries is from January to April in regions with a temperate climate and February to April in colder climes. This will prevent the blossoms from appearing before the worst frost is over.
- Strawberries grow well with morning sun only but will be sweeter if they are in full sun all day long.