How to grow strawberries for next year

Alys Fowler
·2 mins read

The 15th-century Welsh physician Andrew Boorde wrote: “Raw crayme undecocted, eaten with strawberries is a rurall mannes banket… I have knowne such bankettes hath put men in jeopardy of their lyves.” Quite! Fresh garden strawberries are truly to die for. If you want to wallow in heavenly pink creams, now is the time to establish your strawberry patch.

Young plants and rooted runners are offered by nurseries at a fraction of the price you will pay next spring for a potted version. Planted now, they will have enough time to bed down for a decent harvest next year.

Strawberries, perhaps more than any other soft fruit, benefit from good groundwork. Your patch or pot must be weed-free, particularly from perennial weeds such as dock or brambles, which will need to be dug out rather than hoed off. Then you need to pour on as much organic matter as you can muster: the more you love the soil, the more strawberries you will pick.

The old-school recommendation is a barrowload per 10m2 – if you can throw in some organic chicken manure or seaweed pellets, too, all the better. The crown on the strawberry must not be buried when planted, as this will cause it to rot, nor must it sit proud as this will cause the roots to dry out. After planting, top with fine bark mulch. Straw is traditionally used only at fruit-swelling stage to keep the harvest clean, and removed afterwards. Plants should be placed 45cm apart in each direction, or in rows 75cm apart with the strawberries at 35cm intervals.

There are three categories of strawberries. Only one is native, the small, delectable woodland or alpine strawberry, Fragaria vesca. The garden strawberry, a staple of the British summer, is a cross between two varieties that hail from the Americas, Fragaria virginiana and the coastal strawberry Fragaria chiloensis, to give rise to Fragaria x ananassa and its now many cultivars. There’s also the perpetual or everbearer strawberry, a cross between the alpine and large fruited cultivars. It fruits twice in the summer: in midsummer and again in autumn.

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I’m with Boorde and can’t imagine a garden without the tiny wild sorts: F. vesca ‘Alexandria’ and ‘Mara des Bois’ are very good improved forms. The best perpetual has to be ‘Albion’ with its sweet large fruit. If you don’t have space for a dedicated patch, dot this one through your border and pick from late June to October. If you have room, try ‘Honeoye’ (early season), ‘Hapil’ or ‘Alice’ (mid-season, late June) and ‘Symphony’ (late season into July), so you can really gorge on fruit.