How to grow strawberries, according to an expert

Bryony Firth-Bernard
·5-min read
Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Succulent and sweet, with a pretty flower, strawberries are a brilliant plant for beginners including children and can be planted all year round.

“You can buy potted strawberry plants from garden centres most of the year, but traditionally people bought bare-root runners, a plant that was grown in a field, dug up and posted through people’s letterbox in the winter and then planted on receipt,” says Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturalist at the Royal Horticultural Society.

People don't usually plant strawberries from seed, but if you're up for a challenge April or May is the best time and they will begin to fruit in late summer.

But if you want quicker results it is best to buy strawberry plants from a garden centre or online for an earlier crop in June and July.

Keen to get going? This is what you'll need to know...

How to grow strawberries: Best varieties

There are three main types of strawberries and depending on the size and what sort of crop you’re after will determine which variety you go for.

“The most common and popular type of strawberry is the June-bearing strawberry, because they produce their fruits around Wimbledon time,” says Guy. “You can buy these in earlier varieties too that fruit in June or mid-season ones that fruit just in July.

“Alpine strawberries are the kind of strawberries you'll find grown in a hedge. They're great fun for children but the fruits are very tiny, so it takes a long time to pick a bowl full and they last for years.

“Finally, there's a strawberry called the ‘Everbearing’. You might think that means it bears fruit all year, which is a reasonable supposition, but in fact it produces a big flash of fruit in June and then intermittent fruits throughout the rest of the summer until October.”

Where to grow strawberries

The great thing about strawberries is that they can be planted almost anywhere.

“If you have a nice bit of soil in your garden they grow brilliantly in the ground, but if you don't you can grow them just as well in a nice big tub, a grow bag and even hanging baskets,” says Guy.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Alpine strawberries can grow in the shade, but if you opt for June-bearing and Everbearing strawberries they need to be placed in a position where they’ll get lots of light to help them fruit.

One thing Guy doesn’t recommend is trying to grow strawberries indoors.

“It’s much better if strawberries are grown outside because they must be pollinated by insects, if not your strawberries can become lop-sided and they need to experience frost in the winter. Therefore, if you keep them in a greenhouse all year round you’ll find that you won’t get much of a crop” he says.

How to grow strawberries: care advice

When it comes to taking care of strawberries, Guy says it’s about a 3/10 for difficulty.

“If you've got the right soil, you don't let the weeds take over and cut off the runners in late summer, strawberries will easily last for four years,” he says.

“Plant them in any good garden soil, in full sun that you've enriched by forking in some compost or organic matter and make sure they don’t dry out in summer. Other than that, strawberries are very reliable because they're a woodland plant.”

Guy recommends giving them a good drink once every 10 days if the weather is really hot and once your strawberries have finished cropping in July or August give them just enough water to keep them alive. (They will die come autumn, but this is normal.)

Don’t spend your money on fertilisers either, because apparently strawberries don’t really need it.

“This is because they come from an environment which is a very low nutrient, so if you start giving them this, they can end up producing all leaf and no flower,” says Guy. “However, if you’re planting your strawberries in containers or a very poor soil, a feed in late summer of tomato fertiliser would be wise.”

Strawberries aren’t great at fighting off weeds though, so if they crop up you will need to remove them. The secret to weed-free strawberries? Straw!

“It’s traditional to give strawberries a good mulch of straw once they finish flowering,” says Guy. “Put down a good thick layer, not only does that keep the weeds down but it also keeps the fruits clean and from touching the ground where they can be eaten by slugs or rot.”

Vine weevil can also be a problem, so if you get this in your garden Guy recommends buying some anti-vine weevil and to water your plants very carefully with it.

“If you plant strawberries in a container it's a good idea to repot your strawberries every winter so that they get refreshed nutrients. Just take them out, shake off the soil and put some fresh compost in and repot. Even if you only do the first six inches it will be worthwhile,” says Guy.

How to harvest your strawberries

There’s no need for any fancy equipment here, just simply use your finger and thumbnail to snip your strawberries from the stalk.

Keep things classic and eat them as they come, or why not get creative and make some lovely strawberry jam?

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