Garden

My top 5 tips to help you to have a successful strawberry growing season

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We have had the most unbelievably awesome, strawberry growing season this year. To be fair, it’s not always been that way, but this year! WOW! So I thought today would be a fantastic chance to share some of my experience with you guys and give you my top tips so that next year, we can all grow lots of strawberries.

Number one, most important thing

So number one then strawberries love really, really, fertile, really good, soil. So you want to get in there with all your homemade compost, lots of organic loveliness. Get it really, really rich and keep it that way. As the season is going on, and as your plants are producing fruit, you want to be feeding them every couple of weeks with just the same sort of stuff you’d feed your tomatoes with and that will just keep everything going, keep the plants happy and keep it all just churning over and producing for you throughout the season.

Where to plant your strawberries

Ok, so let’s be honest. I’ve got this massive raised bed. It’s about eight foot by four foot, really handy, but strawberries will actually grow anywhere as long as you give them that really good rich soil they want and you feed them and apart from that, all they want is some shelter. They don’t like bad frosts. It can kill off the plants so give them a bit of shelter and importantly, they like lots of sun. It’s the sun that ripens the fruit so the more sun, the quicker your berries will ripen.

OK but in saying that, I’ve got them in this raised bed but you can grow them just in standard soil bed in your garden, you can grow them in hanging baskets and pots or containers. And I suppose the good thing about baskets pots and containers is you can move around the garden and find the right spot for them. You aren’t stuck like I am with these big heavy beds.

And… even if you don’t have a lot of space, a small pot of basket can give you lots of strawberries in a good spot. In fact, I’d say that this bed that’s far too big for Kate and I. As you can see if we’re getting as many strawberries every single day…

Strawberries

We are actually – absolutely pig sick of strawberries – so we could probably do with reducing this bed down. Sad but true.

So here’s the thing I’m saying about how we’ve got this bed and we get too many strawberries, but also this bed is overcrowded. There are just way more plants in here than there should be.

Space

The best way to get a good crop of strawberries is to give them space to let that light in so it can ripen the fruit, but also it lets the air get about because if it’s cramped in fact too cramped like this it, can stop the airflow and that can encourage things like mould and mildew which you don’t want. Now I did have issues this year specifically because this bed was overcrowded, not mould but aphids.

The cramped conditions, lack of light, space and airflow made it the perfect place for aphids to take hold without me noticing. Now to cut a long story short, a bit of pruning to let the light and air in and some treatment with my homemade insecticidal soap sorted this out and things are under control again.

I’ll ink those videos at the bottom if you are interested in finding out more about pruning or abut making your own insecticidal soap sprays.

However, these aren’t the only pests to think about.

Pests

Over the years, we had issues with the birds popping into my strawberry bed and helping themselves, and why wouldn’t they? Those gorgeous bright red jewels attract us, so why not the birds? This was an easy fix though. As you can see, we have nets over our beds to stop the birds getting in. Ours are quite swanky, on a rigid frame with a hinge to make it easy for us to get in and out but a bird-proof net doesn’t have to be fancy at all. Just make sure it’s fixed down, nice and tight to stop birds getting under it and getting caught in it.

netting over raised beds

So if you’ve got nets on there it will stop the birds so the next problem is the slugs now let me show you what slugs can do.

slug eaten strawberry

Now I don’t know how well you can see this but the slugs will take real chunks out of them, and then, the little gits won’t eat the whole fruit they’ll just move on to the next one. God that’s so frustrating. I’ve tried a few methods, most famously on here and youtube you have seen me go mad with my copper tape. And… to be honest, the copper tape works brilliantly on pots and my quadgrows etc and did have a bit of an impact on the problem in the strawberry bed, but… I’ve found the best way to deal with the slugs is to just get out there and pick your strawberries every single day. The slugs don’t seem to nibble at them until they are just about to go over ripe, so if you get out there every single day, it does really seem to make a huge difference.

And that’s why Kate and I are sick of strawberries.

Because we’re picking this amount every single day and have been for about two weeks now we have just run out of ideas of how to make this interesting. I wear we’ve tried everything except daiquiris.

Mulching

OK so once you’ve defeated the pests, the other thing to stop is rot.

Basically, if you leave these gorgeous, ripe fruits sitting on wet soil they’re gonna rot. That’s just the way it is, so what we do to combat that as we mulch around no the plant so the strawberries are never sitting on the wet soil they’re always sitting just above it. This way the water drains through the mulch and then you don’t have that puddle with a strawberry sitting in it. I use straw for my mulch, which is the traditional thing but there is no hard and fast rule here. For me, it’s a win-win. The straw stops the fruit from rotting and at the end of the season that straw can go my compost bin.

Keeping the plants going season to season

Another great thing is that I leave my plants out in the bed over winter, that way they get a good early start. Nice mature, strong plants to kick off spring.

I know some people might be surprised by this, but they do survive winter really well. As I said, the plants don’t like a hard frost, it burns all the foliage, so I’ll actually cut all of this back at the end of the season. I’ll take the plants down to the very newest growth, completely minimal strawberry plants here.

OK so my seasons just about over because these are early fruit and strawberries so I will cut all these plants right back to the bare minimum plant. Now as I said, my strawberries are in a spot that is quite sheltered from frosts, but if you are worried, you can cover them with fleece over winter or polythene to protect them.

Here is your Brucy bonus…

Free strawberry plants

Yup, you can get baby plants for free. Basically your strawberry plants will be really good for harvesting for about three years and then it starts to peel off so you want to replace those plants which can get expensive but the beautiful thing is that strawberry plants actually put out what is called runners and from these you get brand new baby plants.

This is why I’ve ended up with so many strawberry plants because the plants put out these runners and the land and they grow a new plant. OK now I can cut these off if I don’t want the new plants, but given that you want to replace your strawberry plants see every three years to keep it going and keep it vigorous, it would seem mad to waste these new plants.

So what I do is this.

I find all the runners and I pot them up in little pots. I do this by finding the end where the tiny new plant is growing and I pin it on top of the soil of a little pot.

potting on a strawberry runner

Then I just leave these plants in the bed with the other strawberries and this lets the new plant (from the runner) grow roots and become a self-sustaining little plant. Then I cut the runner and it is now a brand new, separate plant.

potting on a strawberry runner

So the day it comes time to replace all my strawberry plants, I’ve got a new batch ready to go.

So there we go my guide to having the most amazing strawberry season. As promised, some useful videos from our youtube channel.

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