Growing strawberries at glance
- Growing difficulty -Easy
- Strawberries are easy to grow at home
- Best planted in early spring, March/April
- Planting a strawberry will not produce a strawberry plant
- A strawberry plant will usually be ready to harvest after 4-6 weeks
- Feed strawberries during their growing season
- You should grow strawberries in an area with good sunlight
Can you grow strawberries easily at home?
Yes you can grow strawberries easily at home! Although strawberries have a reputation for being difficult to grow this reputation is unfounded. If you generally have some common sense and a small amount of experience with growing plants you should be fine with strawberries!
As a matter of comparison, growing strawberries is comparable to growing tomatoes!
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Growing strawberries the Backyard Farmer way (for beginners)
There’s 101 blogs and tutorials on how to grow strawberries, majority written by people who have only ever eaten them! Here at the backyard farm we live what we write and here s how we grow strawberries in real life.
1. Picking your variety
With a mountain of strawberry varieties to choose from you may be wondering where to start. So we have pulled out some of the ones we have had the best results with here in the North West of Britain.
When picking your strawberries you need to consider:
- How many do you want to produce
- When you want to grow them
Although the majority of strawberries will usually harvest around the months of June and July. You can also get ‘Ever baring’ variates that will produce berry’s ‘out of season’.
With some clever planting you could have strawberries all year around! Experiment with different varieties and find your perfect balance.
If your looking to get started quickly you can save yourself some time, we’ve set out how we grow strawberries below.
2. Planting your strawberry runners, cold stored runners or misted tips
Strawberry plants can be started in a variety of ways from seeds to misted tips. We will cover how to plant strawberries using the most popular methods.
How to plant strawberries so you have them all year around in Britain
Find yourself a sunny area with a good amount of space and get it ready for your plants. If you don’t have a ‘garden’ you can get some plant pots and hanging baskets.
What soil for strawberries?
Fill your chosen growing pots, raised bed or flower bed with some soil. For the best results mix your soil with around 20% of organic compost in an area with good drainage.
If drainage is an issue you can use raised beds. Doing this will help with drainage and create more root space for your plants.
How far apart should my strawberry plants be?
If your growing in raised beds or at ground level strawberries do well in rows with 8”-12” separating them and around 30” between each row. This will allow you enough room to get stuck in for maintenance and weeding.
Dig a hole for your strawberries allowing enough room for the roots to spread out. If the roots are long you can always trim them back to around 4” to help get an even spread.
When covering the roots, be sure that the ‘crown’ of the strawberry plant is sitting on the ground before firming in. If you plant the crown to low it will rot, to high and the roots will dry out.
Planting your strawberry runners
If your preparing your strawberry patch for the following year then you should plant the ‘runners’ in the Autumn (September-October). Make sure you get them in before the ground becomes to wet, this will allow the plants to establish before winter.
Planting cold-stored strawberry runners
If you missed the boat and your planting in spring then you need to get some cold-stored runners. You can plant these in spring time preferably in April.
Planting Misted Tip strawberry plants
Misted Tip strawberry plants are created by taking the best un-rooted runners from mother plants that have been certified. They are then rooted into 4cm ‘Ellepots’ under controlled conditions using a special mist propagation unit to entice growth.
Using this method creates strong and healthy plants that establish quickly. You can also harvest their first years crop. They will likely be available in your local garden centre between the months of August to late September.
Pro planting tips
Avoid areas prone to frost and soils that have previously grown potatoes, chrysanthemums, or tomatoes because they are all prone to the disease verticillium wilt.
Avoid planting in windy areas! Wind will stop pollinating insects getting to your crop which can decrease your yield.
3. Looking after your strawberry plants as they grow
As your plants grow you will need to keep an eye on them. We are not the only creature in the animal kingdom with a taste for strawberries! As well as pests trying to munch your berries you also need to keep an eye out for their nutritional needs and stay vigilant for disease.
Cover the ground with mulch
Once your runners are in and established you can begin to cover the ground beneath them with some mulch. Mulch is used to help maintain the moisture in the soil & it also suppresses weed growth.
When to water your strawberries
Strawberries are thirsty especially during their fruiting months where can guzzle up to two inches of water per day! The most effective way to keep your strawberry plants happy is to have a drip feeder running around 2” away from the plants.
Drip feeders are not always possible and if so then you must work hard to maintain moisture levels. Mulching is a great way to reduce evaporation and keep the ground wet. Using a heavy mulch like grass cuttings can be beneficial and better at retaining moisture than something like hay.
We have quite wet ground here so luckily straw or hay from the chickens does the trick, along with watering regularly during the fruit producing months.
When to feed your strawberry plants
Ideally fertilizing your soil should be done before planting or in between growing seasons. However you can always supplement the plants nutrient intake with gentle compost teas added to the watering can.
For good berries plants need good nutrition! Luckily strawberries do not need any special balance of nutrients and will be quite happy with an organic fertilizer. If your growing organic then you can utilise any form of organic compost tea using things like chicken manure or plant based compost.
Here at The Backyard Farm we like to make a rich brew from old chicken manure and organic compost, the strawberries love it and produce fantastic fruits!
During the early spring & autumn strawberry plants benefit from an increase in nitrogen. This helps feed the growing of the runners that the plants send out during this time.
A good way to add more nitrogen to your soil is to add used coffee grinds to your soil or grow hemp in between harvests. Both will replace the nitrogen in your soil.
Common problems growing strawberries you should look out for
As time goes by you may or may not develop some problems along the way. Many of which can be avoided with careful planning and correct placement of your strawberries. However here are some common issues that people come across when growing their own strawberries at home.
Protecting your strawberries
Birds & squirrels can be the bane of any growers life, especially when it comes to berries. You cant blame the animals for trying, after all they are very tasty!
If birds are your problem then a simple netting to cover the plants will suffice at keeping the birds from picking at your fruit.
If its squirrels you will need to use a wire mesh to keep them out as they are crafty little rascals! Who also love strawberries I might add.
Common strawberry diseases
Not only are your strawberries at risk from mammals eating them for lunch, you are also at the whim of fungi and other microbial life forms. Here are some common disease that can plague your strawberry patch in Britain.
Grey mouldor Botrytis
Grey mould also known as Botrytis occurs when dead and rotting matter are left to fester on or around the plant and fruit. There are no products on the market that treat Botrytis and therefore prevention is not only the bets method, it is the only method.
- Keep your strawberry patch well ventilated
- Remove dead foliage and other plant matter asap
- Remove any infected fruit as soon as you see it
- Avoid over fertilizing the soil, Grey mould likes lush vegetation
- Be sure to rotate your strawberry patch at least every 4 years
This can be identifiedby the outer leaves of the plant browning or wilting. The later stages of the disease will see all of the leaves turn brown and wilt leading to the plants death. Verticillium wilt is a fungus found under the soil in the root system.
Don’t grow strawberries where potatoes, chrysanthemums, or tomatoes have been cultivated as there is a heightened risk of the strawberries developing verticillium wilt. I
Powdery mildew starts by forming a white powder like mildew on the young leaves. It will then spread through the leaves and eventually to the fruit if left unabated. The best way to solve powdery mildew is prevention.
It thrives in damp areas with a steady temperature, it will also take advantage of weak or stressed plants. Keep your plants well ventilated and free from dead matter.
Strawberry flowers but no fruit?
If this has occurred then the plant has suffered one of two fates:
- Lack of pollination by insects
- Damaged by a late frost causing ‘black eye’
Black eye on strawberries
Black eye occurs when a late frost damages the open flower of the strawberry plant. This damage will in turn prevent the successful formation of the berry, it will occur on each damaged flower head. To prevent your plants developing black eye, keep an eye on the weather and cover with some horticultural fleece.
5. Harvesting your strawberries
After all your hard work you should be seeing some juicy, bright and tasty looking strawberries in your patch right now! It’s time to harvest, most summer fruiting species will produce the majority of their fruits around June.
Perpetual types will have fruits available for harvest from early summer all the way through to early autumn.
To harvest the fruits of your labour, simply ait until the strawberries are ripe and cut them off. Leaving some stem attached to the strawberries will allow them to keep that little bit longer.
How to tell if your strawberries are ripe
To harvest your strawberries simply look for the ‘ripe’ fruits. A ripe and ready strawberry will be bright red all over and should not be to hard to squeeze. If there are any parts still white or green you should leave the berry for another day to ripen
How to tell if strawberries are bad
A fresh strawberry will be firm to the touch, offering a little freedom of movement when you squeeze the berry. If it is very soft or ‘mushy’ there is a chance that the berry is going off or has been bruised.
If the strawberry is showing any signs of mould or mildew DO NOT consume it. A high percentage of people will have a bad/allergic reaction to many forms of mould that grows on berries.
Smell is also a good indication of whether or not a strawberry has gone bad. Any scent of fermentation could mean the strawberry is suffering from a disease like botrytis or its started to go off.
Avoid any strawberries that either look, smell or taste foul.
What month should you plant strawberries?
With some planning tactical thinking you could be harvesting your strawberries most of the year round! There are is a multitude of different types of grapes but they all fall under one of these three categories.
Early season varieties of strawberry:
These varieties are best planted around mid to late spring (April-May). This gives them plenty of time to establish before their harvest months of June to early July.
Early season strawberry plants:
- AC Wendy
- Sweet Charlie
Very early season strawberry plants
Mid season varieties of strawberry:
Most varieties of strawberries will be mid-season to be harvested sometime around June. June bearing strawberries are very popular among growers as they usually produce the largest fruits over a period of 2-3 weeks.
Mid-season strawberry plants:
- Saint Peirre
- Governor Simcoe
Late season varieties of strawberry:
Late season species of strawberry are the last to bare fruit during the growing season
- AC valley sunset
- L’Authentique Orléans
- Yamaska Fragaria × ananassa AAFC
Very Late season
- Valley sunset
Ever-bearing varieties of strawberry:
Although referred to as ‘ever-bearing’ the strawberry plants do NOT bare fruit all year around. They do however crop twice in one year, once in the spring time and then again in the autumn.
The skilled gardener has been known to be able to entice 3 crops from ever-bearing varieties!
Day neutral strawberry varieties
Day neutral varieties are unique in that they will grow and produce fruit according to temperature opposed to yearly cycle. They also produce smaller fruit usually no more than 1” in size, these berries maybe small but they are packed with flavour!
Day neutral strawberries are usually used in gardens that a stuck for space.
Can you grow a strawberry plant from a strawberry?
Yes, you can BUT you need to process them first. If you just place a strawberry into a hole and hope for the bets you are not likely to see a strawberry plant anytime soon.
To grow a strawberry plant from a strawberry you must first remove the seeds from the berry. To do this you can follow this quick and simple guide here (https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Strawberry-Seeds )
How long does it take for a strawberry plant to produce fruit?
The majority of strawberry plants will be ready for harvest within four to six weeks. This is provided you have followed the guidance for your chosen variety. Any plant in the wrong conditions will not do well.