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Grow strawberry fields forever

Just in time for Wimbledon!

Autumn or spring is the ideal time to establish a new strawberry patch or plant new runners to replace old varieties.

Strawberries are easy to grow, as long as they have sun, shelter and fertile, well-drained soil. Don’t plant in areas that have previously grown potatoes, chrysanthemums, or tomatoes to avoid the disease Verticillium wilt.

Buy named varieties, or use your own runners – I have a mixture of both. In poor soils grow in raised beds, or try containers, hanging baskets or grow bags.

Plants can be grown under a cloche in early spring, but remove or roll up the sides when the plants are flowering to give pollinating insects access. Strawberries in containers can be grown in an unheated greenhouse.

In a heated greenhouse or conservatory, you can bring forward flowering by several weeks, so long as the temperature does not go above 16°C (61°F) because this will inhibit flowering.

You will also need to hand pollinate the flowers, which is time-consuming and quite frankly, life’s too short.

Cleaned up strawberries and gooseberries, early March

Plant 35cm (14in) apart, trimming the roots lightly to 10cm (4in) if necessary, then spread them out in the hole. Make sure that the base of the crown rests lightly on the surface.

Place the next row, 75cm (30in) away. A fibre mat can be placed around each one, or you can plant through black polythene. Water in.

Water frequently at soil level, as water from overhead can rot the crown and fruit.

Ripe for the picking

During the growing season, give plants a liquid tomato feed every seven to 14 days. In early spring, apply Growmore at a rate of 50g per sqm (2oz per sq yd).

As fruits start to develop, tuck straw or matting underneath them to prevent them rotting on the soil. Net if birds are a problem.

After cropping has finished, remove the old leaves with secateurs or hand shears, and the straw mulch, fibre mat, or black polythene.

Strawberry plants should crop well for three years before being replaced – the plants’ runners should provide you with ample replacements.

potted-guide-logo Potted guide: strawberries

  •  PLANTING TIME: March/April or October.
  •  HARVESTING TIME: June-September.
  •  PLANTING DISTANCE: 35-40cm apart (14″).
  •  ASPECT AND SOIL: Full sun, moisture-retentive, sheltered, fertile soil. Avoid windy sites. Feed with granular fertiliser in late winter/early spring and mulch; feed with tomato fertiliser every 7-14 days in growing season.
  • HARDINESS: Hardy.
  • PRUNING: Cut back old leaves after fruiting; tidy up plants in late winter. Remove unwanted runners.
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: Early: Honeoye, Frutium Belleure. Mid-season: Cambridge Favourite, Alice, Elsanta, Hapil, Pegasus. Late season: Symphony, Florence. Perpetual: Mara de Bois, Aromel, Parfum Line, Parfum Royal, Parfum Fraisonette, Parfum Fraisibelle, Parfum Eternal Love.

Everbearer/perpetual strawberries

Strawberry Parfum Eternal Love. Picture; Lubera
Strawberry Parfum Eternal Love. Picture; Lubera

Summer-fruiting varieties are the most popular, with short but heavy cropping periods over two or three weeks. There are early, mid, and late fruiting cultivars.

However, perpetual, or everbearer strawberries produce small flushes of fruits from early summer to early autumn. I have Parfum Eternal Love (Ewigi Liebi).

The crops are not so heavy, with plants less likely to produce runners, but are useful for extending the season.

The strawberries fruit from early June to late summer, combining the best characteristics of the garden and wild varieties in this Vescana hybrid.

Fruit is medium to large, heart-shaped at first, later irregular and intense dark red. Taste-wise, it is sweet, with a hint of acidity and a smell of wild strawberries.

For more details, log on to www.lubera.co.uk – delivery is £4.99 per order.