Home grown strawberries. Does your mouth water at the thought of them? They may not be as big or perfectly shaped as those from the shops, but the taste......
So after spending an afternoon getting my strawberries in shape for this season, here are my top 5 tips to help you get a large harvest.
1) Planting Strawberries in the ground in a mulched bed is great, but to get early Strawberries, plant some up in a pot or trough and put them in a greenhouse or conservatory, for the earliest harvest.
2) Weed round your strawberries now, and in 3-4 weeks time. This makes sure that weeds aren't sapping energy from the plants, and that as much light can get in to the crown as possible. - Also make sure that you've taken off any dead leaves, and taken away and potted on any runners that were crowding out the main plants
3) Feed those strawberry plants now, to give them the energy needed to fruit and fruit this summer. I use worm leachate, as it's free, but Seaweed fertiliser, Miracle gro, or Tomorite (when they are flowering) are equally effective. Water on your fertiliser around the base of the plant, to get it to the roots, rather than covering the leaves.
4) Water - Strawberries are thirsty, and will not fill out to full plumpness unless given lots of water. - Fine when in a border, where you can water with a can or a hose to the base, - but in a pot, they are relying on you for all their thirst quenching needs. - If you plant strawberries in a pot you can often drown the plants at the top before you've got any water reaching the bottom plants. - My suggestion is to use a grit filled plastic bottle with holes in the side as a watering vessel in the centre of the pot.
(Here's one I was planting up earlier, - showing you how I position the bottle as i'm putting in the plants) Tonic water or mineral water bottles are an ideal size for this. When you water into the top of the bottle, the water is held in the grit and soaks out through the holes at all leaves, and that means that the plants at the bottom of the planter get just as much water as those at the top.
5) and finally to get as many fresh strawberries as possible, - replace the main plants every third year, using runners, or new plants from nurseries, which means that you get fresh, healthy and vigorous plants to give you the most Strawberries possible.