Although I long for luscious, red strawberries in the gloom of January, I can only dream of the fruit’s arrival in June. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help protect your strawberry plants over the colder months and boost their summer fruit yield.
Strawberry plants are hardy, mine have survived February snow and April rain showers. Here are a few jobs that you can do between October and March to help the plants produce an abundance of tasty fruit in the summer:
- Weed the strawberry bed or potted plants in the autumn. If the plants are very crowded, carefully dig up the roots of a big plant and move it into a new position.
- Fertilise the bed with manure or homemade compost in late autumn to give the plants a much-needed boost.
- Sprinkle over some ash from a stove in January. This is another good addition to the bed as it provides the plants with extra nutrition.
- Place runners in pots of compost so that they can root into them away from the parent. In March, check the roots have taken and cut the stem that connects the plants. Replant the runners into their permanent position when the soil is warm enough to work (from late March onwards).
- Strawberries need to be planted quite deep, at least 30cm. Allow a bit of space around the plant so that runners have some space to root.
Whether your plants are in a strawberry planter box or a bed in soil, they benefit from being in direct sunshine when flowering and fruiting. If there are any bushes nearby, trim them back to allow as much direct sunshine as possible for your strawberries.
Did you know?
You can have strawberries for a much longer season if you grow more than one type. There are some varieties that flower in May, then produce fruit early in June. Other varieties allow you to extend the fruiting season because they fruit in July or even August.
Here are some strawberry varieties to try so that you can pick from early June all the way through to the tennis season in July and well into August if you’re lucky:
Strawberry varieties to try
- ‘Honeoye’ flowers earlier than most strawberries and you can start picking fruit in June. This type fruits heavily in trusses so it’s a great first variety to plant.
- ‘Florence’ is one of my favourite varieties, producing strawberries early in July and it provides a lot of fruit per plant if the soil is rich. The strawberries are a vibrant red colour and they taste super sweet. These are perfect in pots on a sunny balcony or planted into a strawberry bed.
- ‘Champion’ fruits even later, starting in July and continuing until August and it is also resistant to crown rot and wilting.
- ‘Albion’ is the latest variety and some growers claim they are still picking strawberries in October. The plants produce a heavy crop so you will have plenty to make jam.
You can never have too many strawberries but if you have a glut, then make jam, add them to juices and use them as toppings for desserts. If critters eat part of the strawberries, chop off the chewed part and freeze the rest for winter cereal toppings.
Strawberries grow really well next to borage and sage. Nasturtiums are an effective lure plant for slugs, snails and insects and give you colourful blooms, edible flowers and leaves. Bees absolutely adore the flowers of sage and borage and the edible, star-shaped blue flowers of borage make any cocktail look amazing. The strawberries enjoy their company too and produce bigger, tastier flavoured fruit. Borage is said to enhance the flavour of the fruit in tests.
Change site every 3 years or so
Strawberries need rich, nutritious soil to keep producing large fruit so remember to pot up the runners and move these to a new bed to ensure that the plants don’t exhaust the soil. If your strawberries are in pots, change the compost every 2-3 years and top dress with a mulch or manure every spring.