Want strawberry fields forever? These sweet fruits can be grown just about anywhere – ready for smoothies all summer long…
There’s a lot to love about strawberries. Their candy colour, sweetheart shape and heady aroma. Homegrown, they’ll also be full of syrupy sugars and superior flavour.
But for me the best thing about strawberries is that they’ll grow almost anywhere. Wellies, wheelbarrows, colanders and containers, a strawberry will give buckets of berries in any location, with minimal effort.
The best time to plant is spring or autumn in a sunny spot. Most will tolerate shade and alpine strawberries (the wild or woodland strawberry) in fact prefer it.
Make a hole in your soil a little larger than the plant, pop it in and ensure the crown is at soil level. Then water well. Aside from us (and the odd squirrel), the strawberry’s number one fan is the slug, so add copper tape to pots or a little grit around the neck of each plant to deter them.
This is why containers are perfect for strawberries as the crop goes in your mouth, rather than being gulped by slugs and snails. There’s even a climbing strawberry called ‘Mount Everest’ that will clamber up trellis. In a 12” container you can grow around three or four strawberries.
The key to a good strawberry harvest is to prolong the enjoyment for as long as possible so buy varieties that will crop at different times. Alpine strawberries, for example, such as ‘Baron Solemacher’ or ‘Mara des Bois’ offer exquisite, small fruits from July to September. Heavy, summer croppers include ‘Marshmello’ and ‘Florence’, which crops right up to the end of July. Lastly, there’s ‘ever-bearing’. These are a bit of a misnomer because they don’t actually fruit forever, but you can harvest from them for the longest period, roughly mid-May to early autumn. ‘Malwina’ or ‘Flamenco’ are reliable varieties.
Feed your fruit with a high potash or diluted tomato feed. Avoid watering too much after flowering as this can cause rot and often dilute the sweetness of the fruit. When harvesting, pick between noon and teatime while the air is warm and retain the green stalks to prevent spoiling.
And as for that strawberry smoothie… blend a handful of strawberries with 1/2 cup whole milk and add 1 scoop of vanilla ice-cream and some strawberry yoghurt for a little luxury!