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Growing Strawberries
Strawberries, in my eyes, are a must in every gardener's garden. Not only colourful, decorative and tasty they are a vital source of vitamin C and B and wonderful to use in the kitchen.

Indeed the varieties available today are a far cry from the wild strawberries past generations enjoyed but they are still delicious nonetheless. The Strawberry tree, or arbutus (Arbutus unedo), produces bright red fruits that resemble strawberries but their taste is more suited to jams and preservatives than eating. Other wild varieties such as the Alpine strawberry have fruits that taste like vanilla.


Although we refer to strawberries as fruits they are technically not. The seeds that appear on the outside of a strawberry are the true fruits and the tasty flesh is merely an accessory to them. Strawberries are enjoyed all over the world by people young and old and indeed wildlife too. If you find you have an intolerance to strawberries that causes reactions such as hives, or allergy symptoms why not try white fruited strawberry cultivars as an alternative. These cultivars lack the ripening protein that botanists believe may cause the allergic reactions to the red varieties.

When choosing a variety to grow be mindful of the purpose you will be using the strawberries for. Choose varieties that will either taste better when picked off the plant and eaten immediately, varieties that are better frozen and made into desserts or varieties that are better preserved. Strawberries prefer a light well drained soil and you may find it easier to start growing them in pots or hanging baskets. If they become to water logged the fruit will begin to rot, however there is a variety called 'Cambridge Favourite' that copes well in places with high rainfall due to their ability to hold their fruits above soil level. Using light soil instead of heavy will allow more warmth to penetrate thus ensuring the plant will grow quicker. It will also promote good drainage and prevent red core root rot. If the soil you have is heavy choose red core root rot resistant varieties and plant four weeks earlier than usual to ensure establishment. If the soil you have is not free draining add sharp sand and well rotted compost.

Strawberries are also notoriously hard to weed when they are in the ground so ensure if you are planting them to clear the area thoroughly beforehand. As a strawberry plant takes the nutrients it needs from the soil it is vital they are replenished. To ensure this add manure and/or composted straw.

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Planting Strawberries

  • Plant mid summer to early autumn and you should have a crop the following summer.
  • Plant in full sun and out of the wind.
  • For heavy not well drained land plant in raised beds ensuring sufficient room around the edges for harvesting the fruits. 
  • Planting too close together may encourage mildew. Choose varieties that do not have too many leaves as this may make them closer together and again will cause a mildew outbreak. 
  • If planting in pots or baskets water daily whilst they're growing. 
  • Add tomato feed or another potassium rich supplement approx every fortnight. 
  • If planting in rows the plants should be at least 40cm in rows that are 60 cm apart.
  • Protect the area from slugs using which ever method works best for you. Bearing in mind Let's Go Gardening loves organic gardening! The bonus of pots and baskets is they are easier to keep slug free. 'Slug Stoppa Tape' are ideal for this purpose.
  • Place a net over the plants to protect from birds and wildlife.
  • In early Spring hoe between the plants to allow moisture and air to circulate. 
  • When watering take care not to splash the leaves or fruits of the plants. Use a watering can instead of a hose and water carefully around the base of the plant.
  • Use straw or strawberry mats around the base of the plants to stop the fruit from lying on the ground and to prevent weeds.


Maiden plants (Runners)

When a strawberry is growing they produce tendrils that have little plants on the end and these are the runners. New strawberry plants either bought or grown must be from runners. Wait till they reach approx 3 or 4 leaves and remove from the plant. Plant it in a pot of compost and water well. Label and date your runners.


Check the plants every other day for fruits.

Harvest in dry weather.

Be gentle and take care not to bruise the fruit.

Ensure when picking the green stalk goes with the fruit.

Look for the correct colouring this may vary from each variety.


Once your harvest is over remove all the protective straw or mats that were put down and either destroy, compost or clean thoroughly. Remove all old leaves from the plants with shears leaving the crown and any new growth.

Remove the nets to allow birds access to pests. Many varieties will crop for 3 years some possibly more, when you think the plant has reached the end of its life span remove it and compost it. If your plants have been infected by disease then they would be better off destroyed rather than composted.
Strawberry Pests & Diseases

Aphids - Distorted shoots and leaves. Control: Biological control such as hoverflies, ladybirds and lacewings.

Birds - Damage to plants, eaten fruit crops. Control: Fruit cages or mesh and nets.

Botrytis - Brown spots, which are followed by a furry grey mould. The cause of the disease is too much dampness in cool conditions. Prevention rather than cure! Avoid over watering, ensure decent air circulation, cut down on fertiliser use. If infection occurs remove affected areas and burn or discard. Do not compost.

Powdery Mildew - Light grey powdery patches on the leaves, shoots and flowers. Non developing, discoloured flowers. Causes and treatment as with botrytis above.

Red Spider Mites - Speckling and bronzing of the leaves. Usually found in greenhouses as they thrive in warm and dry climates. Control: Spray underside of leaves with water to keep plant moist and turn down the temperature slightly.

Slugs - Damage to plants. Nematodes are the best way to control a slug infestation. Barriers around the plants such as crushed egg shells, sand, soot and ash work temporarily but need replacing often.  Chemical controls are on offer but make sure you choose those that do not affect the plants or wildlife. 'Slug Stoppa Tape' is ideal for this purpose.

Viruses - There are many individual viruses that affect strawberry plants. By buying a registered disease free, disease resistant plant you should ensure that the plant will not be infected in the future. If however something does not seem quite right it is important to research exactly what you may have and if it will affect any of your other plants. If the virus is specifically attracted to strawberry plants it may be necessary to destroy and start again. It may also be useful to find out exactly where the virus originated from.

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