Strawberries

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Strawberries on an Allotment Strawberries on an Allotment

Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits for gardeners and allotment holders alike, and it’s easy to see why. They are easy to grow, absolutely delicious, and produce a faster return than any other fruit – some will produce strawberries only 3 months after planting!

The berries are great frozen for use in smoothies or cocktails  (excellent for a strawberry margarita), brilliant in jam, and even better for eating fresh. Many of mine don’t even reach the kitchen – I will happily sit and eat them directly from the plant on the allotment!

Growing Strawberries

Strawberries can be planted in semi-permanent beds in the garden or allotment, they can be happily left for four or five years in the same bed. They need a rich well drained soil in a sunny position, and will grow well in most soils.

Since they are likely to stay in the same space for a number of years, it’s important to dig in plenty of well-rotted manure in advance – fork this in well and ensure it is not left in the surface of the soil as this will attract slugs and snails. They also do well in containers, such as hanging baskets, old chimney pots, and window boxes,  just ensure that the compost you use is rich in organic matter.

Plant strawberries in rows about 18in apart and 2ft between rows, and keep them regularly watered after planting.

Weeds are a problem for strawberries. The fruit lies close to the ground so they will both prevent the sun ripening the berries, and hide a multitude of slugs and snails that will devour your crop. You should hoe the area regularly, but not too close to the plant as this will damage the roots.

Mulch the plants in May.  Apply a general fertilizer to the ground and then mulch with straw, or with strawberry mats. This will keep the fruit off the ground and help them ripen. Alternatively strawberries can be grown all year round through weed suppressant fabric, but from experience this will need changing every couple of years.

The biggest problem with strawberries is the birds. The bright red fruit are very attractive, and they can devour your crop in a few hours. The best solution is to net them. I use water piping (usually blue or white), and simply spread a net over the whole bed in summer, held down by a few bricks (as per the image), and this seems to do the trick.

Propagating Strawberries

Strawberries are very easy to propagate. In midsummer each plant will produce a number of runners with small plants on each one. Choose the four or five strongest runners and peg these to the ground or into pots of compost, and cut off the outer end of the runner extending from the plant, but keeping it attached to the ‘mother’ plant. After four weeks check that the new plant has rooted then cut this from the mother plant and replant in its final position.

All strawberry plants should be replaced every five years, and perpetual (see varieties) varieties should be replaced annually.

Growing Strawberries Under Glass

You can get an earlier crop of strawberries if you pot some up and grow them in an unheated greenhouse from January. The fruit should be hand pollinated, and fed with a liquid fertilizer once per week when the fruit appear.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com
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