Personal advice and tips from Farmer Chris
I have been planting, growing and nurturing Strawberries for over 30 years. Our Farm currently producers over 50 tonnes of fruit per season from 108,000 plants, half of which we replace every 16 months to ensure that we always deliver healthy, flavoursome berries to our customers across Staffordshire.
Strawberry plants are perennial and self-fertile, so will pollinate themselves. However to ensure an abundant crop, I do call upon the assistance of our bees every season who help to transfer the pollen from the stamens (the male parts of the flowers) to the stigma (the female part of the flower)! They do keep themselves to themselves however, so please don’t worry if you come across one whilst picking!
Ideally plant in spring or autumn.
Strawberries can be grown from seed but will take a year before they bear fruit. For ease I would recommend buying strawberry plants – they are the fastest fruit you can grow and can be eaten within weeks! To extend the summer picking season to its maximum, try to buy a selection of early, mid-season and late-cropping varieties.
Strawberries are very versatile, needing just need sun, shelter and fertile well-drained soil to thrive.
You can plant strawberries in the grown or in pots:
Ground grown plants: Plant strawberries 45cm (18″) apart and in rows spaced 75cm (30″) apart. Use a trowel to dig a hole big enough to accommodate the roots of the plant and if you are planting strawberry runners, spread the roots out in the hole and make sure the crown of the plant is resting at soil level. If possible, make sure you give them plenty of space for better cropping and easy access!
Pot-grown plants: Plant so the top of the compost is level with the soil surface of the pot. Firm the plants in well and water thoroughly.
NB. Planting too deeply can cause the strawberry plants to rot, whilst planting with the crown too high above the soil surface can cause the plants to dry out and die.
Water frequently while new plants are establishing, and always from the bottom as water from overhead can rot the crown and fruit. For really bumper crops of juicy strawberries, feed them weekly throughout the spring and summer.
It’s important to pick any fruit as soon as it’s ripe to prevent it rotting on the plant. Pick it gently to avoid bruising and make sure the green stalk (calyx) remains on the fruit. Ideally pick fruits during the warmest part of the day because this is when they are at their most tasty! I recommend that you eat them as soon as possible, but most can be frozen or made into delicious preserves to be enjoyed all year round.
After cropping has finished, remove the old leaves with secateurs. Expect strawberry plants to crop successfully for 3-4 years before replacing them. Crop rotation is recommended to minimise the risk of an attack by pests and diseases in the soil.
Always remove the runners! When you purchase your strawberry plant you have a central plant which as it grows produces runners which create baby strawberry plants. These baby plants suck the nutrients out of the central plant, so by removing them your plant will produce a lot more delicious strawberries!
Look after them throughout the winter! Strawberries thrive if they are well protected over the long winter months.