How to grow strawberries

Many people want to learn how to grow strawberries because there are few taste experiences more pleasant than eating fruit fresh from your own garden, and strawberries tend to top that list. Growing strawberries is also a fairly straight forward thing to do.

It is argued that the world’s best strawberries are grown in the UK and Europe. 2011 was in fact an excellent year for British strawberries, due to the usually mild and dry spring. They were luscious and very sweet.

This soft fruit tolerates the summer heat of Spain, and the cool damp of Scotland, and does well on most soil-types, except heavily waterlogged clay. But almost any-one can grow them with the correct preparation.

Sadly, strawberries do tend to be an expensive fruit to buy, especially if they are organic, so if you are a fan of these delightful fruits, then learning how to grow strawberries in your own garden makes absolute sense both in terms of freshness, and cost.

Preparing for planting
The soil should not be too richly fertilized, as you will get a lush growth of leaves but less fruit. (If you do get a profusion of rich leaves, remove and mulch.)If you manure it the year before, this creates the ideal environment. Prior to planting is the time to add a barrow of garden compost for every eight feet of soil, plus bone meal and seaweed meal, available from most garden centers and through the Internet. You may also add well rotted manure if your garden is particularly short in nutrients. These fruits absolutely thrive on leaf-mould, so you can dig in two inches before planting.

Siting, sourcing, and planting
The ideal position in your garden or allotment is one which gets the maximum amount of sun. Also, this soft fruit tends to be susceptible to soil-borne diseases and virus’, so buy the runners from a reputable garden center.
They can be planted outdoors from June to September, but if you plant them later in the year, remove the flowers so the plant can develop strongly for its second year. Plant them about 12 to 13 inches apart in rows, with approximately 30 inches between rows. The crown should be at soil level, and watered well. You can then place broken eggshells or grit around each plant to discourage slugs, and a net over the plants to keep the birds and squirrels from eating the ripening fruit.

If you buy early fruiting varieties and place cloches over the rows in March, you can extend the growing season, with the plants fruiting about three weeks earlier than normal. Hoe between rows and the individual plants regularly. Pick any early ripe fruit so that it does not rot on the plant. Check the fruit every other day in the ripening season, as soft fruits ripen surprisingly quickly.

If you want to plant your own runners from these plants, you will see them growing from the parent plant in June and July. Peg them down, and don’t allow more than five to develop per plant. By August, when they are firmly established, cut them off and transplant at once. Alternately remove all the runners.

It is best to pick the fruit in dry weather, and gently, avoiding pulling or tearing the host plant.

After the harvest, cut back the foliage of the plants, leaving about five inches, and be careful not to cut deeply into the plant crowns. Remove the cuttings and any old straw or fertilizer to the compost heap. Keep the soil well irrigated. Add leaf-mould or fertilizer in early spring, compost if your soil type is poor.

The plants will produce good crops for a maximum of three years, after which time the fruits will become smaller, there will be less, and diseases begin to take hold. Once the last harvest is over, you will need to implement a rotational system, and prepare a different position for your new crop. Alternate the soil with flowers, rhubarb or vegetables. The plants should ideally not be planted in a patch where they or raspberries have been grown for three years.

Learning how to grow strawberries will give you the smell and taste of summer every year, and for such a reward the preparation and husbandry is negligible.

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