Strawberries are very straightforward sort of plant - if you treat them right, they'll do right by you. So, if you want to grow lots of delicious strawberries [and who wouldn't want to grow lots of delicious strawberries], here are a few simple tips that might help you on your way. Let know if you have any questions, comments or clever ways of making sundried strawberries in a not-so sunny country like Ireland. Cheers - Andy.
1. Space is not an issue
Strawberries don't necessarily need a lot of space. As long as your soil is in good condition, strawberry plants will grow well for three of four years if the plants are packed closely together. (See the video below of my own small patch, roughly 3x5 feet, which contains about 60 plants). Growing close together can actually be a good advantage for strawberry plants. They climb together, smothering away weed (gotta love that) and they can actually give each other support when their stems are full of berries and start to droop. Drooping is not a great idea for strawberries, if a berry touches the ground it will blacken, but not before it is gobbled up by by some hungry insect. So a raised bed, with a cliff for them to safely droop over, is ideal.
2. Quantity is quality
To grow lots of strawberries you will need lots of strawberry plant. But, you don't always need to buy a lot of strawberry plants to have a lot of strawberry. The strawberry is an amazing berry, an amazing survivor and a very easy plant to propagate. If you have a little patience, you can turn a dozen plants into a 100 plants in a year or two. Find out how HERE.
3. Hungry hungry berries
Strawberries are shallow roofing plants, which means that they will use up the nutrients on the surface of the ground quickly. Good quality soil should d them for three of four years but poorer soil may need some help. The pants meet nitrogen early in the year and phosphorous and potassium when they are fruiting. A nettle soul fertilizer (find out how to make it HERE) is a great natural source of nitrogen, while a comfrey soup of mulch (find out how to make it here) will provide all the rest.
4. Beware the winds of March (and April and May)
Strawberries are tough, but they are not indestructible. They will survive pretty much anything that the weather of the West of Ireland can throw at them. However, when the plants are putting up flowers - this is any time from March to June - they do not like a very strong wind. The wind wont hurt the plants, but a very strong wind can actually whip off the flowers. And if there are no flowers, there are no berries. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, and you loose an entire summer of strawberries, you'll wish you had given them a small bit of shelter.
5. The sun is your friend
Strawberries are woodland plants and full sun is not essential. But, if you are looking for a big crop, the more sun the better. The sun promotes growth, of course, but also helps to ripen the fruit. Interestingly, if you pick a green strawberry it will (like a tomato) continue to turn red. The flavour will not develop though, so you'll be left with a lot of lovely red strawberries that are a little bit more bitter than they should be. But maybe you're into that...
6. Birds, slugs and ants are not your friend
Everybody loves strawberries. Everybody. Nets will help a little for birds and egg shells, coffee grinds, beer traps will help a bit for the insects. But really, you need to get up early in the morning and beat them to the berries. Go on, they're it.
7. Hedge your bets
When you get a lot of strawberries they can sometimes all come at once. There are differences between breeds but as a rule, the better sun, the earlier they will come. So, try planting two or three small strawberry plants in different spots in your garden - in full sun, partial sun and partial shade. When you're finished with the first crop, the second should be just about ready for you.
8. Nothing lasts forever
Unfortunately, not even strawberries last forever. Because they have shallow roots, they will start to drop back after 4 or 5 years in the same spot. So, you'll need to move them by propagating a new crop of plants (see how here) and giving the soil a rest.