They say it's set to be dry this weekend and now's a great time to plant strawberries for delicious, sweet fruits this summer. They’re so easy to grow, and a great idea for children, who can join in the fun and will be amazed to see how the little flowers turn into juicy red berries as the weeks pass.
There are lots of strawberry varieties to choose from, with early types, such as Honeoye and Christine, fruiting from late May, mid season crops developing later in the summer, and everbearer or perpetual strawberries, like those in this pretty basket, which will produce berries from May to September. You’ll find a wide selection at garden centres or your local DIY store now, or order from specialist suppliers like Ken Muir.
[Above: Ken Muir strawberries at Chelsea Flower Show 2011]
Planting really couldn’t be easier. All you need is a large pot or a hanging basket – choose a big, sturdy one that will hold plenty of compost. You can also plant your berries in a raised bed if you have one. First, give the plants a good soaking with a watering can fitted with a rose. If you have bought runners, soak these for about 10 minutes in a bucket of water.
To prevent the compost clogging up the hole at the bottom of the pot, place a few pieces of polystyrene packaging over it. Then fill up the pot with a 50:50 ratio of multipurpose compost and John Innes No 2 compost.
Tip the strawberries carefully out of their plastic pots and plant them in the compost – make sure that the roots are covered but try not to bury the leaves. Firm them in and water well. Stand your pots on pot feet, which allow water to drain from the bottom and prevent waterlogging, and set them in a sunny spot – hopefully we will see some sun this summer!
Now all you have to do is keep the pot well watered, and as soon as the little white flowers appear, feed your plants with a liquid tomato fertilizer once a week. The experts say that you should pick off all the flowers in the first year and not allow plants to fruit, allowing them to put all their energies into building up strong root systems to produce more strawberries the following year. However, if you are impatient like me, I would suggest removing just some of the flowers so that you can enjoy a few berries in the first year. And if you plant four or five strawberry plants that should give quite a nice crop this summer. Your plants should then fruit for three more years, although the everbearers need replacing every year (don’t remove any of their flowers).
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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert
View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert