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How To Grow Strawberries

When and Where
Plant out your strawberry plants between late June and the end of September. You can plant them later than this, although you will miss a season's fruiting in year one while the plants gather strength and energy. The key to choosing a location is to avoid water-logging, which will encourage disease and rot. Strawberry plants will thrive when sheltered from the wind, with exposure to full sun. The soil type can vary. Choose the variety of strawberry according to which qualities you need - for example, the Strawberry Delia is a hardier plant whereas the Strawberry Cambridge is particularly disease resistant and sweet, perfect for jam making!

How To Plant
Begin by removing perennial weeds and digging over the soil. Mix in manure. Use a trowel to dig a hole deep enough for the plant to be placed with the crown at soil level; leave a 30 to 35 cm gap between plants.
Finally, water in thoroughly.
If squirrels and birds prove a problem - eating the fruit before you get a chance to pick it, then cover your strawberry patch with netting. Straw is laid down between the plants in order to prevent weeds from growing and to provide a protective surface for the growing fruit which may drop onto or rest against the ground.
Put the straw down from late May, the best kind is Barley straw, which is used for its soft and tractable qualities. If the straw is not practical, then polythene sheeting can also be used. We would also recommend that you hoe between the rows and individual plants on a regular basis.
You also need to ensure that you protect from slugs, using whichever anti-slug method you prefer.

Alternatively, you can grow your strawberries in a container or in a hanging basket. Plant out around five plants together in a basket; water daily, and feed with a plant feed (such as a tomato feed) every ten days from flowering to harvest.

As soon as they're ripe, pick your strawberries - you don't want to leave them to rot on the plant. Check over your plants every day during the harvesting period, if possible, as the fruit will ripen and redden fast. Pick carefully to avoid damaging the plant or the fruit, and make sure the star-shaped stalk is pulled away with the strawberry itself.
Strawberry plants are usually kept for two years as pests can build up and the yield will reduce, although the plants can usually fruit for up to six years.

Through The Year
To keep your plants for a good crop in the following year, when the harvesting period is over compost the protective straw and remove old leaves. Leave only the crown with new leaves. Then feed and water well. Pack away the protective netting after the fruit is gone as birds will eat away any pests which have built upon the plants.

Handy Tips
You can increase the number of your strawberry plants very easily. Strawberry plants are rhizomatic, meaning that they spread and send out runners over the surface of the soil. These can be pegged down and will form new, separate plants. One mother plant can successfully send out up to five runners at any one time. When established, cut the new plants away from the mother plant and transplant straight away.

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