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Grow Your Own : Strawberries

Strawberry-plantsYes, we know, the strawberry season is over. But oddly enough, it’s not a bad time to think about growing strawberries for next year.

At this time of year, strawberry plants have put out their runners, and canny nurseries and gardeners are busy potting them up to make lots of little strawberry plants for next year.

In addition to all these little plants, garden centres will often have plants left over from this year that they will be selling off cheaply. These plants have often put out their own runners, so if you choose your plants carefully, you may get three or four plants for the price of one!

grow-your-own-strawberrys-tipsStrawberries are very tolerant plants, and will generally grow in most soils (find out about soil types). They are also small enough to grow in containers or even, for some varieties, hanging baskets, so you can grow them even if you only have a little space. If you’re growing them in containers, you’ll want a good quality potting compost, but in garden beds, any topsoil is generally good enough. You can and should feed strawberries with something like Tomorite, which is designed for fruiting plants.

Strawberry plants generally fruit for two or three years only, so you need to replace them periodically. The best way of doing this is to take the runners the plants make in the first year and plant them out. These will fruit for the next two years, and next year, you will take the runners from these plants and plant them, like so:

Year 1: Plant new plants

Year 2: Take the runners from the Year 1 plants and plant them (you now have Year 1 and Year 2 plants)

Year 3: Take the runners from the Year 2 plants and plant them. Remove the Year 1 plants after fruiting.

Year 4: Plant the runners from the Year 3 plants and remove the Year 2 plants after fruiting.

And so on.

If you don’t have many plants, you may never get more strawberries than you can eat before they go off, but if you do have a glut, strawberry jam is well-loved for a reason.

Strawberry Jam can be difficult to set, but my top tip is to add some redcurrants as well as strawberries, perhaps a quarter of the total quantity of fruit, as this will help the jam to set. The quantity of sugar to fruit is usually 1:1 for redcurrants, and 0.75-1 sugar: 1 fruit for strawberries. If you don’t have redcurrants – and they’re not always easy to buy if you don’t grow them – then a few cooking apples chopped up small and the juice of a lemon will have the same effect.