Few things can provide a gardener with such a delight as growing strawberries in your own garden. The best time to plant your strawberries is during early to mid-autumn. If you decide to sow and grow from seed, early spring is the best time. Here are some guidelines on how to successfully grow and harvest strawberries in your garden
What is needed in your garden?
- No less than six hours of full sun per day
- Soil that is well-drained and healthy
- You must be able to water it regularly
- It is recommended that you add at least 10 cm of mulch. The mulch will minimise weeds and keep the soil moist for longer. Mulch can comprise of straw, healthy grass clippings, pine needles, leaves or even newspaper strips.
If you decide to grow strawberries from seed
The time to sow seeds is in Spring, so be prepared to sow by September and not later than the end of October. The seeds are incredibly small and can easily get lost or blow away in the wind and it can dry out very quickly.
Preparing the seed trays by filling it with a mixture of compost and very good soil or potting soil. Sow one seed per cavity and cover very lightly with soil. Keep the seeds moist but not soggy at all times – you can use a spray bottle and never let them dry out. Be patient – the germination happens slowly. The first seedlings should show within three weeks. Take good care of these little plants and plant them out at eight weeks.
When the plants are eight weeks old, prepare the beds for strawberries by digging a layer of compost, bone meal and fertiliser into the soil. Ask for the best option for your region at your local nursery. Strawberries prefer slightly acid soil. If your soil is not very acidic, you can add a small amount of acid compost to your soil before you plant the small strawberry plants.
If you decide to plant strawberry plants
Buy and plant strawberry plants during the end of March or the beginning of April. The distance between the plants must be about 30 cm. If your garden is too small for a strawberry bed, strawberries also grow beautifully along paths or can be used as a groundcover. If even that is not an option, do not despair, you can plant strawberries in special planters, barrels, pots, boxes, or even in hanging baskets. When planting, ensure that the roots are buried properly, but be sure that the crowns are sitting just on top of the soil. Press down firmly on the soil surrounding the plants, cover the soil with mulch and water deeply.
Watering your strawberries
It is recommended that you water the strawberries between two and three times per week in the mornings. Try not to water onto the leaves – this could lead to diseases. As soon as the fruit starts to ripen, you can water less, but do not let the soil dry out completely.
Maintenance and harvesting
It is important that the strawberry plants are trimmed to ensure that the plan can use all its energy on fruit production. This is done by cutting down the runners that will shoot out. When the plant has produced good fruit for the first two years, you can start using the strongest runners in the third year by pinning them in a U-shape, and bend them down to the soil to start forming roots. Once these new plants have found their roots, you can transplant them into new beds or containers or use them to replace plants that are not so strong anymore.
With strawberries, it is best to let the fruit ripen on the plant before harvesting. This ensure the best flavour.
It is recommended that strawberry plants should not be grown in the same bed for more than three years. This is a good time to lift and transplant them into new beds.
With these simple and effective guidelines, you can be sure to experience the joy of growing your own, delicious strawberries.