Plant strawberries now so they have a chance to get their roots down before spring, as well as getting the spell of frosty weather they need to produce flowers and set fruit for a bumper crop of luscious, fat sweet berries next summer.
Strawberry plants are on sale right now here at the garden centre in Poynings, so come over and browse the different varieties on offer. For the longest season, plant lots of different kinds: early varieties like ‘Honeoye’ are first to fruit, followed by maincrops. Late fruiting varieties like ‘Florence’ are great for keeping you picking well into August; add everbearers, which produce fewer fruits but right through the season until autumn, and your strawberry season could last a good nine months.
Prepare your strawberry bed well, as strawberries come back each year and crop at peak production for up to four years (after which you should replace them with fresh stock). Remove any weeds and large stones, then fork in plenty of organic matter – you’ll find soil improvers such as farmyard manure here at the garden centre. A handful or two of slow-release fertiliser such as pelleted poultry manure boosts the soil still further.
Plant your strawberries so that the crown – where the leaves meet the roots – is just above soil level, placing plants about 45cm apart in their rows. If you don’t have room for a dedicated strawberry bed, tuck them in around other fruit bushes or even edge the flowerbeds with them – there are some particularly lovely pink-flowered varieties which hold their own with the prettiest of flowers. If you don’t have a garden at all, try growing in traditional terracotta strawberry containers; everbearing strawberries look particularly lovely in hanging baskets, too, cascading over the edge in a waterfall of gorgeous scarlet fruits for you to pick and enjoy with lashings of cream.