How to grow the best organic perpetual/everbearing strawberriesPosted by Fiona Nevile in Fruit | 8 comments
(Massive rumble of drums)
Finally this year we are growing and will relish great strawberries! With a bit of trial and a lot of error.
Home grown strawberries, picked and guzzled within minutes taste far, far better than any strawberry that you can buy from a shop. Freshness is important but if you grow your own you can choose varieties that taste superb but just don't travel well and last for the number of days that the supermarkets need to display the fruit. Waitrose tried to sell the best tasting varieties of UK strawberries a few years ago and the project collapsed as the fruit couldn't last more than a day or so.
The reason that we haven’t had good strawberry harvests before is that for years I was wilful, stubborn and ignored universal gardening advice. As far as I was concerned the plants would flourish where ever I planted them. Perhaps I was led astray by the mountain strawberries that have infiltrated every inch of the garden.
Strawberries actually need quite a bit of sun, a slightly acid soil, to be exposed to winter frosts and above all new plants need patience as they are at their fruiting best in their second year. They are also heavy feeders and, like tomatoes, they need to be fed throughout the fruiting season.
In the past I edged a few borders with them. They looked pretty until it came to netting the fruit. Dr Quito and hungry birds managed to get under the eccentric, curving nets and ate the lot. Then I gave my strawberry plants their own border in a spot with just a couple of hours sun in The Kitchen Garden - strawberries need at least six hours sun to fruit at their best. Even when I fed and lavished them with attention, they just resembled large unhappy spiders dressed in cheap strawberry leaved fancy dress.
Last year I admitted defeat and decided that I’d build a raised bed for the strawberries on the gravel drive in front of the cottage. This spot is warmer and much sunnier than the back garden. This was quite a big investment in time and energy but it paid off.
As I had to pass this raised bed every time I walked to our front gate, they got far more attention. They were initially planted with lots of bonemeal to give them a good start and fed every couple of weeks with a liquid seaweed feed. Organic tomato feed is a good alternative. Finally we got a decent harvest of giant fruit last year – by growing perpetual/everbearing varieties we have a good initial flush and then a couple of handfuls every now and then until the first frosts. Perfect for breakfast!
Strawberry plants are at their best during their second year and this is it for us! Their runners were pressed into the soil with a dash of bonemeal in the autumn and over the summer will strengthen to be at their best next year.
“Once you’ve got the rhythm and feeding correct you will never need to buy a strawberry plant again.” Said the chirpy guy who wears the pork pie hat at the allotments.
And if you follow the universal guidelines he’s right.
Strawberry spacing guidelines:
Ideally plant strawberries at 12"/30cm apart in rows 30"/100cm apart. I stagger the plants in the rows and leave just 15"/40cm between the rows and they seem to be flourishing.
They need a lot of sun and reasonable drainage – add grit to clay or heavy soils.
Water them in dry periods.
Add bonemeal to the soil before planting and feed regularly during the summer months.
For more in depth strawberry care instructions in the UK see the BBC advice.
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