If you want to get children into gardening, grow strawberries. They are so easy to grow, come back year after year and the children can help pick them and eat them too. A great reward for their efforts. We have so many strawberry recipes that we enjoy and so it’s lovely to have a constant stream of fresh strawberries to enjoy through the summer.
Here are my top tips for growing strawberries:
Buy plants rather than seeds – When you first thing about growing strawberries, skip the seeds and buy a tray of strawberry plants instead. They don’t cost much – just a couple of pounds – but it will be so much easier than growing strawberries from seed.
Plant them – Plant the plants somewhere that gets a good amount of sun. It can be in a patch in your garden, in a border or in pots on the patio. You can even put them in hanging baskets which is great for keeping them away from slugs and snails.
Water them – Over the spring and summer, water the plants on any dry days but make sure you wait until the sun has gone in. Watering plants whilst the sun’s out can lead to them getting scorched so save it for the late afternoon.
Forget the first year – Not many strawberry plants produce strawberries in the first year – they just focus on growing big and strong. You’ll have strawberries form the second year though.
Make the most of the shooters – All strawberry plants produce shooters, off shoots that turn into new plants when planted. Keep these attached to the main plant but pot them up into their own little pots. Once established you can cut the shoot and replant them somewhere, growing your strawberry patch at no extra cost.
But, in the first year you want the strawberry plants to focus all their energy on growing bigger rather than producing new plants so cut the shooters off when you first notice them to stop them wasting energy.
Protect the plants – You can put straw around the plants to protect them or netting over the top. Slugs, snails and birds love strawberries but really, even if you lose a few to pests you will still get strawberries, especially as the years go on and your plants thicken out.
Harvest – When you start seeing bright red strawberries make sure you harvest them every few days. For us, it’s every other day during strawberry season. The more we pick them the more they seem to produce. It’s also good to remove any that have been attacked by pests or got damaged to stop the plant putting energy into these wasted ones.
Prune – As the season goes on, remove any dead leaves and keep doing this through the year. In the autumn the plants will look like they’ve died away but you can prune the dead leaves and leave the plants – they’ll come back again the following year.
Replenish – Strawberry plants apparently only last a couple of years and the harvest dwindles each year but I’ve never noticed this. I grow shooters each year, plant them in between the other plants in my patch and then get rid of any sad looking plants that haven’t done too well that year – sometimes they’re shooters that haven’t taken too well or older plants.
And that’s about it. Once you have established strawberries in the garden you will never look back. Despite the length of this post they are so easy to grow, low maintenance and once the plants are fully fledged they just keep coming back year after year. That’s one of the main reasons I never grow plants from seed – it’s too disappointing when the plants don’t grow or get eaten before they’re had a chance to establish themselves.
The children now come and pick strawberries with us and are gradually learning which ones are ready to be picked – and how to pick them. Always pick strawberries making sure you leave the green bit in and take a section of stem too. It keeps them fresher for longer.
Whilst I’m at it, if you have somewhere to grow raspberries or blackberries too these couldn’t be easier to grow. But a plant rather than seeds and plant them somewhere with light but not too much direct sun. One plant is enough as they will spread each year. We planted a single raspberry and a single blackberry plant a couple of years ago and slowly the bushed are covering the side of our shed and giving a good amount of fruit.
Berries are definitely the easy option when it comes to growing things in the garden – and getting the children involved too.