Strawberries are an amazingly hardy crop. All the plants in both our beds survived the coldest winter we've had in years and we've had our best harvest from them yet.
This week alone from our Cambridge variety we've frozen approximately 30lbs, made 12 jars of jam, frozen a strawberry and rhubarb crumble and made two cheesecakes, as well as eaten them whenever we've fancied.
So what would it help to know.......
Preparation & Care
Strawberries are a woodland plant, which means that they tolerate shade, although they fruit better in sun. They like plenty of humus (in the wild they grow in pure leaf mould) and they don’t object to fairly acid conditions.
They prefer a light soil to clay, but will thrive in any well-drained ground provided they have plenty of humus. They develop a much better flavour in a cold climate, and new plants should be moved to totally fresh ground every three years as they are a hungry plant that tends to exhaust the soil.
When the soil is being prepared, it should be dug one spade deep and plenty of compost or well rotted organic manure incorporated. Strawberries like lots of potash too.
Weeds should be removed regularly using a hoe or by hand. Once the crop starts to spread, straw can be placed under the straggling stems to keep them clean.
Virus-free strawberry plants can be purchased from reputable suppliers. Once planted most varieties make runners that will root themselves, which can be encouraged by removing the blossom from a few plants. Small pots can be buried in the soil in the ground near the parent plants and the ends of the runners pegged on to the pots. When they have rooted properly, they can be severed from their parent plant, the pots dug up and the new plants transplanted. Parent plants can put out several runners, so choose two or three of the strongest and remove the weaker ones.
- Birds love to eat the ripe berries but the plants can be protected be covering with a net.
- Powdery Mildew will make them a dull brown colour.
- Aphids are a menace because they spread virus diseases.
- Strawberry Beetle can be discouraged by keeping the beds weeded.
- Rot can be a problem after rain. All ripe berries should be picked immediately after rain and rotten ones composted.
Harvesting & Storage
The fruit should be pulled off the plant with their stems intact, and the stems left on right up until eating otherwise vitamins and other nutrients are lost. They can be stored in the shade for a few hours, in the fridge for a day or two. The can be frozen but tend to go soft when thawed.
The straw should be removed once the crop has been harvested and the bed cleared of dead leaves, surplus runners and weeds.