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Strawberries are such rewarding plants to grow. They produce a bountiful harvest of luscious sweet fruits within a year of planting. They also produce offshoots as runners from July that can be used to grow even more plants.

A wide selection of gardening materials are also available online to buy from these well known and established garden centres.


July-August.   Select and Root Best Runners.
 
For best results select a good healthy, vigorously growing parent plant. This plant should have put out many runners. Select four runners that show the most promising root and leaf growth. Carefully extend them from the plant and pinch all the other runners out. If there is more than one plantlet on a runner, pinch out those farthest from the parent plant, leaving the nearest one remaining.
In order to move each new plant to a new home it is best to root them into individual pots first; 75 cm (3 in.) pots are ideal. Propagate each runner in the same way. Fill the pot with John Innes Potting Compost No.1 or an equal mixture of peat and sand, and firm it down. Dig a hole, not too close to the parent plant but within the length of the selected runner, to take the pot. Bury the pot up to its rim. Place the runner on top of the compost in the pot, and hold it in place with a stone, or pin it down wth a U-shaped length of wire. Keep it well watered.
1. Select runner with
good roots and leaves.

2. Plant in pot and hold
in place with stone.

Mid-August - September. Plant out the new plants, and the time to buy new ones.

About five weeks later the roots will have filled the pot, and the plant will be ready to be separated from the parent and transplanted into its permanent site. Before planting, dig in plenty of peat and well rotted compost. When planting the young strawberry plant in its new position it is important not to plant it either too deep or too shallow. Dig a hole for the plant with a trowel.

Then place the plant with the top of its roots, which is the crown, level with the surface of the soil. By burying the roots up to the crown they will not dry out. In addition, keeping the top of the crown just above the surface will ensure that it does not rot. After planting, sprinkle a handful of bonemeal (to encourage food roots) around each plant and carefully incorporate it into the top few inches of the soil using a fork or trowel. Water the plants well after planting.


3. After 5 weeks separate potted
plants from parents.             

4. Plant out in permanent
home.                          

5. Water new plants.  
 
February. Cloche plants for early crops.
 
For the earliest fruits, place cloches over the plants in the middle of February and leave them on until the fruit has been picked. In this way, fruit can be obtained about three weeks earlier than from uncloched plants. In addition, the cloches will protect the fruit from birds. On sunny days when the flowers are open on the plant leave the end flaps of the cloche open during the day to ensure that the flowers are pollinated. Alternatively, if the weather is bad, leave one of the end flaps slightly ajar to let insects in, but keep the weather out.
6. Use cloches for ealier harvest.

7. Open cloche ends for
pollenating insects.  

When all the flowers have appeared on the plant give them a feed with a high-potash fertiliser. Continue this feed each week until the fruits have ripened. Pinch off any very early flowers that appear by themselves and any that have been blackened by frost.
 
To prevent the fruit from being attacked by slugs or being marred by contact with the ground, strawberry mats can be placed around the plants to prevent the fruit lying on the ground. Mats also help to prevent splashback when watering the plants or, if they are out in the open, splashback from the rain. Straw can also be spread out as a layer around the plants.

One of the advantages of earlier varieties is that the ground is still wet from the winter and spring when the fruit starts to swell so less watering is required. If you want to concentrate on fruit of good size and quality then pick off all the runners as they appear. Once the fruit has formed and started to swell, make sure that the ground does not dry out. This is more important with later varieties than earlier ones.


8. Place down mats to  
protect the fruit.      

A continuous crop of strawberries can be obtained throughout the summer and autumn by planting early, mid-season and late varieties. Good early varieties I have tried are Cambridge Vigour and Grandee - my favourite because of its earliness, good size and flavour. Mid-season varieties are Cambridge Favourite and Tamella. A good late variety is Talisman. Gento is a perpetual-flowering variety and will also provide an early crop under cloches.

It is always a challenge each year to see how early I can obtain strawberries. My earliest are obtained by planting early varieties in the sunniest position in the border in front of my southfacing fence. These plants are cloched up in the middle of February and produce fruits by early June.


At the end of the season when all the fruit has been picked and sufficient runners taken off the plants, it is a good idea to cut down all the old foliage to within 5 cm (2 in.) of the ground. Use shears to do this but be careful not to damage the crown. This may seem rather drastic but within ten to fourteen days new leaves will grow. The plant will grow healthier for not being buried under old decaying foliage.
Burn or throw away with the rubbish the old leaves and the straw from aroung the plant. It is best not to compost it for risk of disease. Change the plants for new ones every three years.

  .

 


9. Cut down the old        
foliage, taking care not
to damage the crown.     

10. Variety Tamella grown in
a pot in the greenhouse.
If you have a greenhouse try growing a few of the young plants in pots. A variety called Tamella can be easily grown in this way.

A wide selection of gardening materials are also available online to buy from these well known and established garden centres.

 

 

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All rights reserved. (c) Written and Photographed by B V & T M Wood.