Tips for Growing Strawberries
Like all fruits,should have a sunny position so that the fruit is properly ripened. Only then will the true flavour be brought out.
In most gardens, the vegetable plot is the most convenient place to grow them. For a start, the crop will be grown in rows and the row spacing is convenient for this. Secondly, strawberries seldom occupy the ground for more than three croppingand this is frequently reduced to just one, depending on the variety.
Two to three dozen plants should normally be enough for the average family and remember that any surplus fruit can be frozen so there is unlikely to be any waste.
In spite of being relatively small plants, strawberries need good soil conditions. It should be deep, fertile and well drained. This can usually be achieved by digging in plenty of bulky organic matter, in the form ofor well-rotted manure, in advance of planting.
The two main groups ofare the summer (July) fruiting varieties and the Perpetual Fruiting sort that are normally induced to fruit only in the autumn. These latter are normally disbudded until the end of May so that they are prevented from wearing themselves out on early fruits.
A third group covers the tiny alpine varieties. These can be grown from seed, but the other two groups are propagated from runners.
Summer varieties should be planted during August or September if they are to give a good crop the following July. Perpetuals are planted from October to March; they will give a good first crop in their first year following planting at any time during this period.
The ground should be well prepared before planting strawberries with, as mentioned earlier; the incorporation of plenty of garden compost or manure. It should be firmed down well before planting and, if the soil is reasonably fertile, nowill be needed at this stage.
The young plants will normally be growing inpots or blocks and the summer varieties should be planted firmly 15-18in (38-45cm) apart, depending on the standard of the soil and the vigour of the variety, with 30in (75cm) between rows.
Keep the plants well watered after planting so that they establish quickly. This helps to ensure a good first crop.
If, for any reason, planting is delayed beyond about the middle of September, the crop weight in the first summer will be progressively less the later that planting takes place. This can, to a great extent, be overcome by planting cold-stored runners instead of ‘ordinary’ ones. These can be bought and planted from May to mid-August and will fruit within two to three months, depending on the time of year.
The same planting rules apply to autumn varieties except that they are normally less vigorous and need only be 12-16in (30-40cm) apart in the row.
In the spring, when the first flowers are showing, straw should be spread beneath the plants to stop the fruits getting mud-splashed. Failing straw, special strawberry mats can be bought or made. There is even a type of silted polythene that can be laid between the rows or, better still, lay this down before planting and plant through holes made in the planting positions.
After fruiting, it is wise to cut off all the foliage, flower stalks and runners (if they are not wanted for propagation). A lot of pests and diseases are removed with these and the plants quickly put out fresh and vigorous leaves to build up strength and fruit buds before the winter Both the straw and the tops should go onto the compost heap. That done, give the plants a high potash feed to encourage them still further
Ground covering is also needed for the perpetual (autumn) varieties, but the foliage should not be cut off after fruiting and it is normal to feed them in the spring rather than after fruiting. They are also improved if they are protected byor polythene tunnels once the weather starts to deteriorate, usually towards the end of September.
As far as pests and diseases are concerned undoubtedly the worst problem is Botrytis (Grey Mould). This turns the fruits of all varieties into little grey balls of fluff and is particularly bad in a wet season. Spray every seven to ten days with a systemic fungicide once the first flowers are showing white.
Strawberries can also be forced in aperfectly easily by bringing them in under cover at the end of February. Alternatively, first-year plants in the open can be cloched at the same time.
As an alternative to the open ground, strawberries may be grown in pots, proprietary Tower Pots, once-used growing-bags or in special strawberry barrels (wooden or clay). All have the advantage of mobility in case of frosts or simply for showing-off to neighbours by having them in fruit in a prominent position.
The best advice on varieties is to get in touch with a specialist nursery, such as Pomona Fruits ofmWalton-on-Naze, but here are some of the best and most popular.
This has more than stood the test of time. It produces a lot of runners, is good for processing and will stay cropping well for maybe six years, provided that it stays healthy. The berries remain in good condition on the plant for several days after ripening.
An early and popular variety. Large and round bright red fruits with very good, old-fashioned flavour. Heavy cropping. Excellent for jam. Fruit June to early July.
A new variety showing good disease-resistance (excluding!). The sweet and well-coloured fruits have an excellent flavour In season mid-June to late July.
This heavy-cropping, midseason variety could well rob Elsanta of the title of the most popular commercial variety. It is equally good for growing in gardens. The fruits are larger and sweeter than Elsanta and seem to be better able to withstand adverse weather, both wet and dry. Resistant to powdery. Mid-June to mid-July.
A very promising variety that ripens with Favourite. One of the best looking strawberries and gaining in popularity with commercial growers for the punnet trade. Moderate crops and with a flavour on a par with Vigour
Taking over from Favourite on many commercial holdings. It will last for certainly four cropping seasons. The internal colour and flavour are better than Favourite. It is also firmer Usually ripens just before Favourite and has a shorter, more condensed picking season.
This is so far the best for any kind of processing. It’s a firm berry and thaws well after freezing. It also has excellent internal colour; so makes a lovely jam. The flavour is good as well. Totem doesn’t yield heavily so allow runners to root between the parent plants and form what is called a ‘matted’ row. Similar season to Favourite.
The fruit is medium to large and with a good internal colour. Produces more runners than most other perpetuals. Very good flavour, but best grown for only one year. Crops from August to October.
A new, heavy-cropping variety of exceptional quality, with large and firm fruits. Very sweet and with excellent flavour. Resistant to verticillium wilt and powdery mildew. Season:August to October.
A brand, spanking, new variety from the top fruit research station in England. It sets new standard for quality, flavour and yield amongst perpetuals. Heavy crops of large, sugar-sweet and juicy fruits. Season: August to October.