Strawberries are a deliciously juicy, sweet fruit. Who would not want to grow their own strawberries!
They come in a wide range of varieties; some wild and they can be grown from early in the year in some cases for an earlier crop. Alternatively, autumn is a good time to plant out.
Usually, they are grown on from small plants although you can plant them from seed. (Alpine strawberries). Do check your variety for specific instructions and factor in your location and its conditions.
You can propagate runners (late summer, before autumn begins) to form new plants in sunken, compost-filled pots with some watering and detach from the parent plant once the runner has rooted. Runners tend to do this naturally in the ground anyway but you can propagate them to speed up the process of forming new plants.
Strawberry plants can be planted in the ground or in containers; some do well in hanging baskets or tiered strawberry planters.
Containers are often preferred, particularly for wild varieties because they can be more controlled. The shallow roots of the strawberry plant will grow relentlessly if you do not address the runners. Depending on your growing requirements, allow a sufficient sized bed if you are planting in the ground and keep on top of them so they do not overrun. By controlling the growth of the runners, you will also get a more plentiful crop with larger fruit.
Strawberry plants only need to be planted at very little below soil level as they have very shallow roots and this will also help prevent rotting. They like well-drained soil and added mulch - not too much moisture and slightly acidic soil.
They will benefit from a regular feed during flowering season, Tomato Feed is perfect for them. When the plants do flower, add more mulch and straw around the plant to help lift the fruit when they form to prevent them from rotting. You may also want to consider protecting them from birds and be mindful of other pests too.
In the first year, after planting, remove runners to conserve the energy for the fruit. In subsequent years you can be more relaxed about them as they are more established and allow for new growth for a more continuous crop.
Expect less or little productivity in the first year and consider replacing or adding to your crop after approximately 3 years when the plants are pretty spent.
After your strawberry harvest, the plants will become dormant and die off during the winter months and you can remove dead leaves and debris but do not interfere with the crown.
Unlike tomatoes, strawberries will not ripen after picking.
Strawberries are best enjoyed fresh or you can use them to make jams and baked desserts. If you freeze them, they can be suitable for the latter with their much softer consistency.