Strawberries - surely the most luscious of the summer fruits and always top of everyones fruit planjting agenda. They are easy too, and, although the ideal is to plant a traditional 'bed' of say, between 20 and 40 strawberry plants [which would give plenty of fruit for a family of 4 plus excess for freezing & jam making] a few plants can be tucked into pockets and spaces without taking too much space. These will give some enjoyable sporadic berries to pick and eat as you pass by! Strawberries are also the ideal container plants and can be grown in hanging baskets and troughs too.
A full seasons cropping
With some planning it is possible to harvest delicious strawberries all year round. Yes, really. Here's how.
THE MAIN STRAWBERRY SEASON
Those plants that you can grow conventionally and pick outside without cover, can be enjoyed from May to October. A continuity can be obtained with these varieties:
EMILY is the earliest naturally ripening strawberry. It can be enjoyed from late May, and even earlier with cloching.
HONEYOYE is a natural early - harvest inearly-Mid June.
EROS Follows on from honeyoye.
PEAGSUS Ripens a week later.
RHAPSODY is a good late-summer season variety that ripens in July.
Next we go onto Autumn fruiting varieties; these will start in August and go on to the frosts. With cloching you can still enjoy them well into October. TANGO, AROMEL or FLEMANCO are the best varieties.
Now - to continue your strawberry planting plan into the winter you will need a greenhouse or a conservatory. By potting some Autumn fruiting varieties and bringing them into the greenhouse in September these can easily be encouraged to fruit into November, even without heat. And now hear is the clever bit - the strawberries that will keep on yielding right through the Winter. Known as Day-neutral varieties, they are so called because they are impervious to day length. That means that as long as the temperature can be raised to +60 degrees, they will start to flower and crop. They do this in successive flushes for 3 months or more.. Pot them and keep them in a mildly heated greenhouse or conservatory and you will enjoy the berries in successive weeks right through the winter. You must only do this with day-neutral varieties. Conventional strawberry varieties will stop growing and fruiting as the daylength shortens, no matter how much heat you give them. The only way to trick them into cropping during the winter would be to provide additional daylight simulation lighting which is costly and complicated. Day-neutral varieties like Selva and Seascape make this a very simply and enjoyable project.
By March your Day neutral varieties will be coming to an end of their cycle and will need a rest. So, in february you should pot up a few early forcinbg varieties - Cambridge Vigour or Elvira are good - and bring them into gentle heat where they can be forced and will ripen from April, continuing until the first of the early outdoor varieties are ready.
FURTHER NOTES When growing in pots for the greenhouse, use a good proprietary potting compost and feed fortnightly with maxicrop seaweed extract to maintain fruit quality and yield.
Day Neutral varieties that have been cropped overwinter can be rested until the following Autmn by removing any flowers that appear through the summer, before bringing them indoors and starting again.
Strawberries - general cultivation guide
Always plant FIRMLY and CAREFULLY, they will provide you for many years.
Don’t dig or hoe near to plants as this damages the roots.
Do not use new compost which is likely to burn roots.
The use of Sulphate of Potash will give you better flavour, heavier crop, and we believe increased resistance to pests.
SPRING PLANTING. The main season for pot grown plants is July-late September. Some gardeners prefer to plant in Spring and once again a pot grown plant is to be preferred. Perpetual varieties (Autumn fruiting) will give an excellent crop from August onwards when planted in Spring.
Bare rooted runners is a traditional method and allows planting during the winter months, as long as the weather is open. If you have missed the summer planting season as pot grown plants then get some of these. These plants may not provide a full crop the following summer. Pot grown plants set out during the late summer usually will.
GROWING IN CONTAINERS. The best time for planting in containers is from July until the end of the year with the heaviest crops coming from August/September plantings, however pot grown plants planted in containers in Spring will still provide a worthwhile crop. Perpetual varieties in containers will give an equal crop whenever these are planted until the end of April.
PREPARATION AND PLANTING. Strawberries grow well in most soils but are best in ground enriched with organic matter and in a sunny position. When digging the soil before planting a generous dressing of well rotted compost or farmyard manure may be incorporated at the approximate rate of one barrowload to six square yards. This should preferably be done at least one month before planting. All weeds should be removed at this time and Sulphate of Potash at the rate of half oz per square yard and Bonemeal at three oz per square yard may be added during final cultivation before planting. Be sure that neat fertilizer or compost is not allowed to come into contact with the roots of the plants as this can cause scorching of the roots.
Rows should be 30 inches apart (24 inches minimum) with the plant 15 inches apart in row. Make a hole large enough to take the pot or roots and PLANT FIRMLY. Do not remove the pots with pot grown plants and make sure that the pot is planted deep enough, with the runner plants roots should be spread down to the fullest extent. After planting the crown or eye of the plant should be level with the soil. If planting during the Summer months or a dry Spring period, soak the roots in water for approximately 15 minutes before planting, with pot grown plants the whole pot should be placed in the water. Until the plants are established they should be watered and the soil around the plant kept moist and the plants not allowed to flag.
CULTURAL DETAILS. The strawberry is, of course a surface rooter and is best grown without cultivation. Once the plants are in position hand weeding and shallow hoeing should be all that is necessary.
CLEANLINESS OF FRUIT. After flowering place a thin layer of straw or black polythene around the plants to prevent soil splashing on the fruit during or after rain, this should be removed immediately after fruiting. When the plants have finished fruiting all leaves should be cut off approximately three inches to four inches above the above the plants so that the crown is not damaged and then removed and burned. This will result in heavier crops the following season as new growth quickly appears.
FEEDING. We strongly recommend the use of Sulphate of Potash between the rows so that undue amounts do not fall on the foliage. This should be used after the leaves are removed following fruiting and again the following Spring in late February/early March at the rate of half oz per square yard each application.
POTS AND CONTAINERS. Enjoy a superb crop of delicious fruit in your greenhouse, sun lounge or on your windowsill. Ensure that your pots are large enough with a minimum depth of six inches with a drainage hole. Use a good compost such as Arthur Bowers soil less, J.I.P. No.2 etc. Before planting ensure that the compost is soaked and never allowed to become too dry after planting. Suggested varieties: Cambridge Prizewinner, Cambridge Vigour, Cambridge Favourite, Talisman and Royal Sovereign. The plants should be potted up during August/September and left outside until February when they should be taken inside and treated like house plants. When the flowers are in full bloom tickle with a camel hair brush or feather and you can pick your delicious berries by late April.
Using containers on a patio or similar area will produce an excellent crop. Growbags, tubs, pots, boxes, towers etc. are all suitable and suggested varieties are Cambridge Favourite, Saladin, Tantallon, Cambridge Vigour, Talisman, Harvester, Royal Sovereign, however most varieties give good results. To ensure heavy crops from containers it is normally advisable to re-plant annually. Liquid feeding with foliar feed following the manufacturer’s instructions is to be highly recommended. With some of the larger tubs use of potting compost can be expensive and this can be eased by adding a good quality garden soil to the compost (Arthur Bower or Levington) on a half and half basis. Autumn fruiting varieties in containers can be bought inside in September to extend the crop well into Autumn/Winter months.
CLOCHING. For an earlier crop by cloching, plant in August and September in rows three feet apart with nine inches apart (variable according to cloches available). Do not cover the crop until mid/end of the following February and then water and ventilate as required. During flowering give ventilation whenever possible to allow adequate pollination and prevent too high a temperature. Water and sprays are best applied in the morning now to allow the plants to dry before night. One bonus for this system is you will usually get a small Autumn crop from Red Gauntlet and Montrose, if the old leaves are removed after this first crop. Suggested varieties: Montrose, Red Gauntlet, Cambridge Favourite, Cambridge Vigour, Cambridge Prizewinner, Gorella and Tantallon.
SUMMER FRUITING CULTIVARS. With Spring planting in the open ground is advisable to remove any flowers formed the following May/June to allow the plants to build up their strength for a heavy crop the following year. To obtain a heavy crop of top quality fruit, plants should be renewed every third year.
PERPETUAL FRUITING CULTIVARS. Remove any flowers formed in May to enjoy Maximum Autumn crop, August inwards, only a limited number of runners are produced with Autumn fruiting varieties but these should be left as they will frequently produce fruit and increase the total yield. Perpetual varieties decline in after two seasons and should be replaced accordingly.
A strawberry hanging basket
Perhaps the most novel and attractive method of growing strawberries of all, an attractive feature beyond compare to hang either side of your doorway or from arches in the garden. The fruits hang down over the sides in a very tempting fashion! Cultivation is just the same as for strawberries in pots and planters. A standard 15-18" basket can happily accommodate 10-12 plants. Slugs are kept at bay and with the added advantage of good air circulation, fungal diseases are discouraged as well. The most important aspect of growing strawberries in hanging baskets is of course very regular watering; they will dry out much more quickly than plants on the ground but as long as this essential requirement is satisfied, then growing in hanging baskets is very definitely a worthwhile and attractive method of cultivation that cancels the requisite of a garden completely.
Grow strawberries beneath other fruit bushes
If you have currant bushes, gooseberries, of maybe some dwarf fruit trees, then you can underplant with strawberries. They provide an attractive and productive ground cover under such situations and, because they are shallow rooted, they don't compete much with the host plant. The same principle can be employed in the border, you can even grow your strawberries between or beneath roses and shrubs, as long as the soil isn't too dry or the area too shady. They will in time spread and create an attractive ground cover, discouraging weeds to grow.
Varieties by Season
Good early varieties
Good mid season varieties
Red Gauntlet [sometimes remontant]
Good late sumemr varieties
Good Perpetual/Autumn fruiting varieties
The best varieties for pots
All strawberries can be grown in containers. These are particularly good.
The best varieties for forcing in the greenhouse, or early cloching