Q Which strawberry varieties should I grow?
A Rather than growing 20 plants of one variety, consider maybe five plants each of an early and a late variety, and 10 of a mid-season variety. This will help to spread the harvest. Good varieties include: early 'Darlisette' and 'Sallybright'; mid-season 'Elsanta' and 'Sonata', late 'Malwina'.
You can also increase the earliness of all varieties by a couple of weeks by covering half the plants with cloches, transparent polythene or garden fleece.
Caption: Grow a number of varieties to get fruits over a long period
Q What's the best way to buy strawberry plants?
A You can order rooted strawberry runners from mail-order suppliers from July, for delivery in autumn to early spring. You might also find bundles of dormant bare-rooted plants in garden centres in autumn, though you’re less likely to find our recommended varieties. Plant or pot these up on arrival, or as soon as you get them home.
Potted plants are available from spring to early summer. Some suppliers offer cold-stored plants that can be planted in early summer and should fruit after 60 days.
Q How far apart should strawberries be planted?
A Space plants 30-45cm apart, in rows 60cm apart, to allow plenty of room for picking. When we trialled ways to grow strawberries, we found the best results were from plants grown in the ground without mulch.
Strawberries do best in slightly acid soil (pH6.5) that is well-drained, but well-supplied with organic matter. If your soil isn’t ideal, grow them in raised beds or containers.
Caption: Plant strawberries firmly
Q How soon after planting can strawberries be allowed to crop?
A Traditionally, gardeners would remove all the flowers in the first year to help build up the plants. We didn’t do this and got a worthwhile crop in the first year, with no adverse effect on the following year.
Caption: Strawberries can be harvested in the first year after planting
Q How should I care for my strawberry plants?
A Keep them well watered when the flowers appear and feed with a tomato fertiliser. After harvesting the fruit, remove all of the runners, except those you want to use to increase your stock. You can also cut off the top growth of the original plant to reduce the risk of disease.
Strawberry plants should crop well for about three years, before they start to deteriorate. You may also notice distorted or yellowing leaves caused by viruses. Replace with new plants or propagate your own, starting again with a different piece of garden, or fresh compost in your pots and containers.
Caption: Cut back the top growth after fruiting has finished
Q How do I propagate new strawberry plants?
A Select suitable runners growing from the original, healthy plant in summer. Choose no more than three per plant. Peg each of them down into pots of compost. Remove any secondary runners that grow from them. Once they have rooted, after a couple of weeks, sever the connection to the mother plant, then plant them in a new bed in autumn.
Caption: Create new plants by rooting runners in pots of compost