When you receive your strawberry plants from Suttons, plant without delay, provided soil and weather conditions are favourable. Should this not be possible open the bundle of plants and place them in a box or seed tray surrounding the roots with moist potting compost.
Strawberry Growing: Ground Preparation
Strawberries prefer a good, loamy, well-drained soil that is rich in humus. Choose an open, sunny position which is sheltered from cold winds and late frosts.
On no account should planting be made on ground that has recently cropped strawberries as this greatly increases the risk of disease build up. Prepare the ground prior to planting,
Incorporating well-rotted garden compost or manure and remove all perennial weeds. Immediately prior to planting apply a general fertiliser such as Growmore.
Planting strawberries should take place as soon as possible after arrival provided the soil is not over wet or frozen. If the roots are dry, soak them in tepid water for a few hours. Dig a hole large enough to spread out the roots, spacing the plants 45cm (18″) apart with 75cm (30″) between rows. It is important to set the central crown level with the soil surface. Firm the soil around each plant and water in. If soil conditions are heavy planting can be made on a shallow (3″) ridge to aid drainage.
Strawberry Growing: Cultivation
For normal summer fruiting strawberry varieties, it is recommended that the flowers are removed in the first season. This will prevent fruiting and enables the plants to become well established before bearing heavier crops in subsequent years. Do not remove flowers from 60 day runners.
With the ‘everbearers’ remove the flowers produced in the spring following the initial planting. Blossom appearing after mid-June should be allowed to develop to produce a late summer and autumn crop. Cut off all runners unless you intend to grow them on the matted row system. Once the fruit has set, apply a thick mulch of chipped bark or straw to retain soil moisture, suppress weeds and protect the fruit from soil splashes.
As everbearer varieties have an extended fruiting season avoid using straw as this can encourage fungal diseases when used over a long period. Planting through black polythene is another useful method of protecting fruit. If the weather conditions are dry, water regularly whilst the fruit is swelling and ripening otherwise the strawberries will be of poor size and quality.
Treatment after Fruiting
Once picking ceases, cut off all the old strawberry leaves about 10cm (4″) above the crowns. When fruiting has finished on the everbearing varieties in the autumn, remove only the old leaves. Apply a dressing of Sulphate of Potash at 15gms per sq. m. (½oz per sq. yard). In spring add a general fertiliser such as Growmore.
Matted Row Culture
This is an alternative method suitable for all the summer strawberry fruiting varieties except the 60 day runners. Instead of removing the runners retain up to nine per plant and place so that they root in the soil between the plants within the row. This system results in a heavier crop though fruit size will be smaller.
‘Forcing’ an Earlier Strawberry Crop
Obviously it makes sense to use an early variety and autumn planting is advised. Plants can be covered with cloches, perforated polythene sheeting or fleece to hasten bud development and protect from cold weather. If plants are completely covered remember to remove for periods particularly in fine spells as this will allow access for pollinating insects. Crops treated in this way can be advanced by a couple of weeks and a mid May crop of strawberries is easily possible.
Strawberry Cultivation in Pots
On receipt, everbearing varieties can be potted for cultivation in a cold or cool greenhouse. Set one plant to a 15cm
(6″) diameter pot and use John Innes Potting Compost No. 1 or a good quality soil-less potting compost. Hand pollination, using a small paint brush to brush the flowers, may be necessary, should insufficient pollinating insects be present. Apply a liquid tomato fertiliser when the fruits start to swell.
Special Planting Methods
A number of techniques have been developed by commercial growers in recent years to enable plantations to be established where fruit can be picked very much sooner after planting and the first crops are very much heavier that in traditional regimes. The gardener can now take great advantage of these special plants with the same impressive results! Cropping in subsequent seasons and cultural methods are as normal plants.
Strong runners are harvested from open ground in early autumn and placed in cold store over winter. Latent buds are retained in the dormant crown and will quickly burst into growth once planted which can take place at any time from early spring to mid June. Regular and generous watering is vital to the success of these plants which if treated thus will bear a good crop of around 250 grams of strawberries per plant starting about 60 days from planting. The plants can then be treated very much like a normal plantation and heavy crops can be expected for at least another 3 years.
Misted Tip Plants
Essentially these are rooted cuttings taken from strong runner tips in early summer and grown on under glass in special modules. A strong multi-crowned plant is formed which is best planted in late August. To avoid drying out the entire root ball should be set at just below soil level. Again watering is critical for establishment. Yields in the first summer are very high and as much as 2lb per plant can be achieved – double the yield of normal plants.
Waiting Bed or ‘Jumbo’ Plants
Crowns are lifted from the mother plants and re-established in a special plantation at wide spacings thus allowing little plant competition and giving maximum light. The result is that a very large plant is formed with a huge yield potential in the first year. Plants should yield about 500g in the first summer – twice the yield of 60 day plants.Planting is from early to late spring and adequate watering is of course critical.