Succulent strawberries for summer

Nothing signals the beginning of summer like the strawberry it conjures thoughts of delicious desserts, picnics and holidays.

Whether you lavish them with cream or chocolate, it’s the strawberry that carries the taste and this is one berry that tastes so much better straight from the garden.

Strawberries are easy to grow - getting them to the table before they are eaten is really the most difficult part!

Growing a few strawberries is a great way to introduce kids to the garden the rewards are quick, healthy and delicious. But if that leaves you wanting more, then it’s time to put in some effort to achieve bumper crops year after year.

We’d suggest you build a dedicated bed

the principal for luscious strawberries is simple, the better the soil and access to the sun, the better the harvest.

With this is mind a raised garden bed is a great idea see our guide to building a raised garden.

Planting in a raised bed, apart from being easier on your back, provides better drainage, good air circulation and control over the soil. Because the sides of the bed are exposed to the sun, the soil will also warm up quicker.

Strawberries need protection from the birds. You can attach poles to each corner of the bed, and then drape over bird netting. Don’t stretch it out to far or it’ll make the holes too big and the birds will just fly through.

Plant early

Plants will be in store in June, there won’t be many leaves on them as they are in their dormant phase. As soon as the weather warms up, new growth will start though and it’s better that this happens in your garden. As a guide you will need about six plants to every square metre.

Strawberry plants have a life of three years before the yields start to decrease and they need replacing. Throughout the season, the main plant will send out runners in an effort to reproduce. Runners are offshoots that grow from the main plant they are easy to spot. Unless you want new plants remove these runners to keep the main plant producing well.

Mulching is really important

Provide this protection to avoid disappointment. Strawberries are a delicate fruit and it is important to keep them off the soil for a few reasons. It:

  • Keeps the fruit clean - watering causes the soil to splash on to the fruit, spoiling them
  • Reduces the risk of soil borne diseases spreading to the plant.
  • Suppress weeds, like most plants they don’t like to compete for food or water.
  • Conserves water, make sure you water well before you apply. Mulching over dry soil will actually inhibit moisture getting to the plants.

Maximise your harvest

Strawberries are very productive, so whatever you have planned, look after them, right up until they reach your plate.

  • Pick all ripe and damaged berries daily to reduce the risk of any disease spreading. They can go from ripe to overripe very quickly in the sun.
  • Harvest them in the morning this avoids squashing them as they heat up in the sun.
  • Pick when they are fully coloured, this is when they are at their height of flavour and sweetness.
  • Keep the stem and the green cap attached when you pick, this will increase their shelf life.

See our guide to growing strawberries for how to plant strawberries.