Strawberries purchased as young plants or propagated from runners should be planted out no later than September. While strawberries should have been planted outdoors by the first week in September in northern areas, or the second week in September in southern regions here in the UK, you may still consider planting strawberries undercover in a polytunnel before the end of the month.
Choose Where You Are Planting Strawberries Carefully
Garden strawberries need a sunny spot, and moist but free-draining conditions. But beyond this, it is important to think carefully about where exactly you will grow your strawberries. Will you grow them in the soil, or will you opt for one of the many different container ideas?
If you are growing strawberries in the soil, you will need to decide whether grow them in a dedicated strawberry bed, or to incorporate them in mixed planting plans. You might even decide to use strawberries as bed edging around your different growing areas.
If you are thinking about container growing, there really are a huge number of options to choose from. It is important to make sure that you make the right choice for your situation. You should think about things like space available, ease of watering and harvesting. And, of course, whether the container options you are thinking about will actually suit the requirements of the plants.
Strawberry pots may look pretty – but do they really encourage healthy and productive plants? Strawberries might not always be happy in these traditional growing vessels. Watering such containers may also be a challenge if you do not think about this carefully ahead of time.
You might consider a range of different reclaimed containers for your strawberries. Just remember that the larger the containers are, the less frequently you will need to water them. Growing multiple strawberry plants in a larger container can often be easier and more successful than growing just one in a series of small pots.
Another important thing to consider when choosing where to plant strawberries is vertical gardening. There are a range of cool ideas which allow you to make the most of your space. Think on the vertical axis and you could potentially grow more strawberries than you imagined. Just make sure that you consider how you will water your plants. And think on other practical considerations.
Prepare Your Growing Areas for Planting Strawberries
Wherever and however you grow your strawberries, take a little time up front to properly prepare. If you prepare your growing areas carefully before planting, you can avoid a range of common pitfalls.
If you are growing strawberries in the soil, make sure that you amend the growing area before planting with plenty of home-made compost, well-rotted manure, or other organic material. Top dress the area rather than digging the material in. Since this will help protect the fragile and precious soil ecosystem below.
If growing in containers, make sure these are filled with a suitable multi-purpose peat-free potting mix, or a potting mix of your own devices made at home.
In addition to thinking about fertility and the health of the growing medium, preparing your growing areas also means making sure that the area is free from weeds. Obviously, weed pressure reduces over the winter months. But, especially in an undercover growing area like a polytunnel, weeds can still pop up throughout the year. Establishing strawberries will appreciate an area clear from competition. (Later, you might well add beneficial companion plants which are not overly competitive. We’ll discuss this a little later in this article.)
Another thing to think about when preparing your growing areas is water. Planning how to provide water to your strawberries up front can save a lot of hassle down the line. You might well decide to water by hand. But you should also consider options like drip or wick irrigation, or even an automated watering system for a polytunnel.
Space Strawberry Plants Correctly
One important thing to remember as you plant your strawberries is that spacing can be important. When growing strawberries in the ground, these are usually placed at as spacing of 35-40cm between plants. This should be seen simply as a rough rule of thumb, as optimal spacing can vary depending on the specific situation. But this guideline can give you something to work from.
When growing strawberries in containers, each strawberry plant will need, at a minimum, a pot or pocket of space which is 15cm wide and 15-20cm deep. Remember, however, that larger containers to grow multiple plants (and perhaps companion plants too) could be a better option.
Make Sure You Are Planting Strawberry Plants To The Right Depth
One thing that can go wrong with strawberry plants is the crown rotting. This is liable to happen if strawberries are planted too deep. When planting, it is very important to make sure that the crown remains above the soil. And when adding mulch, it is important to make sure that this does not heap around the base of the plant.
Choose Companion Plants To Grow Alongside Your Strawberries
Choosing companion plants to grow alongside your strawberries can be a great idea. It can help to keep pests at bay (at least to a degree). It can improve growing conditions. And it can keep your plants healthier. Some good companion plants for strawberries which might also be overwintering in your polytunnel include:
Spring onions/ winter onions/ garlic.
Winter lettuce/ perpetual spinach.
Thyme, oregano, sage and other aromatic herbs
Next year, sow borage close by. This is an excellent idea as this is one of the best companion plants for strawberries too.
Protect Your Strawberries
Strawberry plants can be protected to a degree by growing them within diverse polycultures. But there are also some other things you can do to keep strawberries safe over the winter months in a polytunnel.
For one thing, you can make sure you don’t overwater. Overwatering can lead to rot and increase the chances of certain fungal diseases taking hold.
A mulch of autumn leaves or similar can also protect your strawberries roots in case of more extreme frosts. And you may also protect spring growth from early frosts in spring with cloches or other cold protection.
Cloches and other physical barriers can also prevent slug or rodent damage over the winter months.
These are just a few tips for those planting out strawberries this month. If you have more tips, please share these with us below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.