How to Grow Strawberries at Home

Growing strawberries at home is a great way to enjoy sweet, juicy, fresh fruit without paying the supermarket price. A few strawberry plants can yield a bountiful crop of these red, sweet treats in your own garden, patio or containers all year round.

How to cultivate a strawberry patch

The first step is to prepare the ground: dig in plenty of well-rotted garden compost or horse manure and spread a high-potash general fertiliser over it. Strawberries like slightly acidic soils with a pH of around 5.5 to 6.8. For best results, add organic mulches such as leaves or sawdust and work in well before planting your plants.

How to plant a strawberry patch

The most important thing is to give your new strawberries plenty of space in which to grow and flourish. This is easiest done using a bed, pot or growing bag. Make sure you choose a sunny spot with sheltered soil and a minimum of 8 hours of sun each day for best results. If you live in a colder climate, you may also want to set up a greenhouse or cold frame for winter so that your crop can grow through the night.

When the ground is ready to be worked in spring, check your local frost date and plan your planting accordingly. It is always a good idea to cover strawberries with lightweight bird netting to deter birds from eating them.

You can buy strawberry plants, either from your garden centre or by mail order. They come in a bundle of about 10-15 plants, with long roots and a tiny tuft of leaves on top. If you prefer, you can also propagate your own runner plants from existing healthy berry plants to produce more runners in future years.

Once you have prepared the ground, dig a hole that’s about 30-45cm wide and 75cm deep. Put the strawberry plants in the hole with their crowns a little below the surface of the soil and spread their roots out evenly along the sides of the hill you’ve created in the bottom of the hole. Water well for the first few weeks, ensuring that the strawberry roots are buried deeply, so they can take hold quickly.

After a few weeks, you can begin to thin the plants out. For most varieties, it’s best to remove all but the smallest, most vigorous bushes, leaving only the strongest and largest. If you have a particularly hardy variety, you may be able to leave some of the plants in place for a second season and still harvest.

To ensure the berries remain fresh and tasty, regularly weed the beds. This can be done with a hoe, but it is better to avoid disturbing the soil more than an inch below the surface.

Alternatively, use a plastic mulch such as polythene sheeting to protect the plants from cold and wind damage in winter. This helps to preserve the strawberry crowns, which will be at their healthiest when spring arrives and they’re ready to grow.