It is easy to grow strawberries – and thank goodness because they are delicious and good for you too. If you grow strawberries you can add the edible flower petals to any cakes, drinks or other dishes you like.
In my opinion strawberries are one of those plants that taste so much better when home grown rather than bought from a supermarket. It is easy to understand why; farmers need to choose a variety that doesn’t bruise easily in transport, and are rewarded for increasing the fruit weight by adding plenty of water (they get paid by weight, not taste). If you’ve never had home grown strawberries they are much stronger in flavour. They are also easy to grow, and your strawberry patch will expand rapidly as they put out runners (aka. future strawberry plants) like crazy.
Basic Botanical Information about Strawberries:
Family: Rosaceae (the rose family which includes apples, berries, plums and of course roses to name a just few)
Genus: Fragaria (Strawberries)
Species: Garden strawberries are most commonly the hybrid Fragaria × ananassa, but there are about 20 species in total that are part of the genus fragaria.
Native to: Temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Some sources say Europe, others say north America. I suspect this largely depends if you are talking about the entire genus or the modern day garden species.
Current wild distribution: Wild strawberries can be found growing wild in North America, Europe, and some parts of Asia.
Edible parts: fruit & flower petals
Health/Medicinal properties: High in vitamin C, a moderate source of folic acid and iron. Since iron needs vitamin C to be absorbed this is a great combination.
Weird facts: Despite the name they are not technically a berry. This is because the fruit develops from the part below the flower, not the flower itself. And those aren’t seeds. They are called achene which means that little thing is technically the fruit, and holds the seed. Weird.
Where to Grow Strawberries
Strawberries are a ground hugging plant who prefers soil that is slightly acidic, and plenty of water for their roots but not their leaves. They really like mulch, such as straw from which they get their name. Strawberries are most fruitful in full sun but will be okay in shaded gardens; just keep an eye out for fungal disease.
When to Grow Strawberries
You can get a range of different varieties that fruit early or late to extend your harvest, yet most common varieties flower in spring and fruit in summer. I like to plant them in winter to allow them to get established and ready for the fruiting season.
You may want to think about other creatures who will like your strawberries as much as you do. You can get white strawberries which are meant to fool the birds, and planting strawberries vertically can keep them out of reach of ground dwelling strawberry lovers. Otherwise try nets/fences.
Fungal diseases can sometimes also be a problem, so putting new plants in a different part of the garden (crop rotation) is a always good idea. Remove any infected plants, and prevent as much as possible by watering in the morning rather than the evening and making sure your plants have plenty of space – about 30cm should do.
It is important thing to know is that strawberries only ripen when on the plant, so don’t pick them too early. You will need to be diligent at harvesting though (easy enough since they are delicious) because fruit ripens quickly and will attract plenty of other things that will be happy to munch on them.
After fruiting the plant will send out runners from which new plants will grow. These look like a stem coming from the centre of the strawberry plant, which will then form a few leaves and eventually settle on the ground and take root. I like to wait until early winter to dig up the runners because by then they have some decent roots, so I can move them to where they have more room to grow.
If you want to increase your gardening skills and get a better harvest without the use of nasty chemicals, I would recommend Organic Gardening by Peter Bennett. It helped me increase my understanding of soil preparation and fertility to get a happier, healthier veggie garden.
Happy Strawberry Growing!