Grow Your Own

Strawberries

Strawberries are incredibly easy to grow. Strawberry plants can be grown almost anywhere – in borders, containers or hanging baskets. And of course the fruit is extremely popular – home-grown strawberries taste delicious and are great value too!

Strawberries

Grow

Water frequently while new plants are establishing. Also water during dry periods in the growing season. Try to avoid wetting crowns and fruit as this can promote disease.

In early spring, apply general fertiliser such as Growmore at a rate of 50g per sq m (2oz per sq yd). During the growing season, give strawberry plants a liquid potash feed – such as a tomato feed – every 7 to 14 days.

Netting may be required to protect from birds. If squirrels are a problem, protect with wire mesh. In May, protect your bed with fleece if overnight frost threatens developing fruits.

As fruits start to develop, tuck straw or fibre mats underneath plants to keep fruit clean. This will also help suppress weeds. Pull out any weeds that do emerge.

After cropping has finished, cut off old leaves from summer-fruiting strawberries to allow fresh leaves to develop. This isn't necessary with autumn fruiting plants, instead just remove old leaves in the end of season clear up. Also remove the straw mulch, fibre mat, or black polythene, to prevent a build-up of pests and diseases. Take off any netting so birds can feed on any pests.

Expect strawberry plants to crop successfully for four years before replacing them. Rotate your strawbery patch onto fresh ground to minimise the risk of disease build up in the soil.

 More information on propagating your own plants from runners.

Plant

Strawberries are so versatile – they just need sun, shelter, and fertile, well-drained soil. Avoid areas prone to frost and soils that have previously grown potatoes, chrysanthemums, or tomatoes because they are all prone to the disease verticillium wilt. 

Strawberries are traditionally grown in rows directly into garden soil. In poor soils grow in raised beds, which improves drainage and increases rooting depth. Alternatively, try growing in containers or growing-bags.

Avoid windy sites which will prevent pollinating insects from reaching the flowers.

Buy plants from a reputable supplier so that cultivars are true to type plants are disease free. 

Strawberries can be bought as potted plants or bare-rooted runners.

Strawberries for sale in pots or packs (normally from late spring onwards) can be planted as soon as you buy them.

Runners look like little pieces of roots with very few leaves. Don’t be alarmed, this is how they should look. You can buy runners from late summer to early spring, and they should be planted in early autumn, or early spring (avoid planting in winter when the ground is wet and cold).

You can also buy cold-stored runners. These can be planted from late spring to early summer and will fruit 60 days after planting.
 

Strawberry types

Summer-fruiting varieties have the largest  fruit. They have a short but heavy cropping period over two or three weeks. There are early, mid-, and late fruiting cultivars cropping from early to mid-summer.

Perpetual strawberries – sometimes called everbearers – produce small flushes of fruits from early summer to early autumn. The crops are not so heavy as the summer-fruiting ones and the fruits are smaller, with the plants less likely to produce runners. Perpetual strawberries are useful for extending the season.

How to plant

Prepare your ground by digging in two buckets of well-rotted manure or garden compost per sq m (sq yd). Add a general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore at 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd).

Measure out planting holes 35cm (14in) apart. Space rows 75cm (30in) apart. Dig out a hole large enough to accommodate the roots. Trim the roots lightly to 10cm (4in) if necessary, then spread them out in the hole. Ensure that the base of the crown rests lightly on the surface before firming in gently. Planting at the correct depth is important: if the crown is planted too deeply it will rot; if it is planted too shallowly the plants will dry out and die. Water the plants in well.

If planting in the autumn or early spring, remove the first flush of flowers of perpetual strawberries, but remove flowers of summer strawberries only if the plants are weak.

If you've planted  cold-stored runners in late spring to early summer, leave the flowers on. These will produce strawberries in 60 days, reverting to their natural cropping period the following year.

Common problems

Grey mould

Grey mould: A usually grey, fuzzy fungal growth which can begin as pale or discoloured patches. Grey mould ( botrytis) is a common disease especially in damp or humid conditions. Spores enter plants via damaged tissue, wounds or open flowers. Mould can also damage ripening fruit such as strawberries. Black resting spores survive over winter.

Remedy: Remove damaged plant parts before they can become infected. Cut out infected areas into healthy tissue and clear up infected debris. In greenhouses, reduce humidity by ventilating and avoid overcrowding of young plants and seedlings.

More info on Grey mould

Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.

Remedy: Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.

More info on Powdery Mildew

Frost damage

Frost damage: Late frosts can damage growth, leading to it dying or being distorted.

Remedy: Remove any damaged growth and protect the bed with a double layer of horticultural fleece if frost is forecast.

More info on Frost damage

Vine weevil

Vine weevil: Adult vine weevils eat notches in the edges of leaves, while plump, creamy white larvae with brown heads cause more damage to the roots, on which they feed. This can kill the plants.

Remedy: Apply biological control.

More info on Vine weevil

Harvesting

Pick strawberries when they are bright red all over, ideally during the warmest part of the day because this is when they are at their most tasty.

Eat them as soon as possible; they do not keep well once ripened. Most do not keep their shape when frozen.

Recipes

Nigel Slater’s soft set Strawberry jam is easy to make and tastes of summer.

Simply impressive - this Strawberry and mascarpone tart is simple to make but looks impressive.

Varieties

‘Aromel’ AGM:Pepetual - A cultivar popular for its delicious flavour.

‘Honeoye’ AGM:Early croppers - A darkish berry with excellent flavour. Can be susceptible to mildew. Fruits during early summer.

‘Cambridge Favourite’ AGM:Mid season - A traditional favourite, this variety can have a few disease problems but the fruit is juicy and possesses an excellent flavour.

‘Alice’ AGM:Mid season - One of the best midsummer strawberries with a sweet flavour and juicy texture with good disease resistance.

‘Elsanta’:Mid season - The most widely grown commercial cultivar, it has superb flavour and large yields of glossy, red fruit. Can be prone to disease.

‘Hapil’ AGM:Mid season - This mid-season cultivar produces heavy yields of light red fruits. Fruits are firm and have excellent sweet flavour.

‘Pegasus’ AGM:Mid season - A good, reliable cropper with excellent disease resistance, particularly to mildew and verticillium wilt.

‘Symphony’(PBR) AGM:Late season - Acultivar from Scotland with attractive, glossy, red fruit and excellent flavour. is hardy and has good disease resistance, although it can be susceptible to mildew

‘Florence’:Late season - A late summer strawberry with good disease resistance. The large, bright, glossy fruits have good flavour.

‘Mara de Bois’:Pepetual - Well liked for its crop of intensely flavoured fruit that is said to be reminiscent of wild strawberries.


Buy now

Do now

  • Continue to harvest perpetual strawberries until first frosts
  • Remove straw mulch and netting after harvest
  • Weed as necessary
  • Plant strawberry runners now to establish before winter

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