Everyone loves the smell and the taste of strawberries. But when a small bowlful can cost the earth, isn’t it time you grew your own? The flavour of these home-grown fruit far outweighs anything you can buy in the supermarket and even if you only pick a handful of fruit for the first year, you can be sure they’ll be the nicest one’s you’ve ever eaten.
Strawberries are one of the easiest crops to grow, a great plant to grow with children and very rewarding for all ages. You don’t need a greenhouse to grow them, but if you have a greenhouse you can get a much earlier crop when the fruit is at its most expensive.
Buy cold stored strawberry runners from a specialist supplier or pot grown plants from the garden centre for planting now. Order from a reputable supplier and plant them into strawberry planters or into the garden as soon as possible for a small crop this summer. If you keep the planter inside the greenhouse until after fruiting, then as long as the bees can access the plants to ensure pollination, you should be harvesting your first fruits a week or so earlier than any growing outside.
Providing that you look after your plants, feed them while flowering with a high potash feed and a general feed after fruiting, they should yield a small crop in their first year. If the plants are weak or there is a delay in planting them out then it is better to remove the flowers and allow them to direct all their energy into establishing a healthy root system rather than fruit. Next year the crop will be bigger and better.
For organic fruit choose to grow your plants in an organic planter, feed with an organic feed and deal with pests and diseases without the use of chemicals. Think how much they would cost to buy in the shops?
If you can resist eating the fruit while you are out in the garden, then experiment with them in the kitchen. A bowlful is easy to serve with cream, ice cream or a splash of caster sugar. Be sure to serve them at room temperature for their full aroma and flavour. For something a bit different, serve them with chopped basil. Or be daring and splash with some quality balsamic vinegar. Divine.
If there are only a few fruits to start with don’t waste them: A handful of ripe strawberries are a fabulous addition, sliced and added to fresh garden salad, a bowl of porridge or as a fruity topping to your morning cereal.
To get a continuous supply of fruits over the summer choose your varieties with care. If this is your first attempt at strawberries, then choose ‘Elsanta’, it’s a midsummer variety that has heavy crops of rich red and very tasty fruits. If you then want an earlier crop choose an early fruiting variety such as ‘Honeoye’ (AGM – RHS Award of Garden Merit) and a later fruiting variety such as ‘Rhapsody’ (AGM) or ‘Symphony’ (AGM).