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If like me the thought of home grown English strawberries is enough to make your mouth water then now is the time to start getting to work. You can't beat the flavour of home grown strawberries - the greengrocers just can't touch it. Of course, to get the very best flavour you will need to pick your strawberry straight from the plant, and the best way to achieve this is to grow your own strawberry plants!
Although the strawberry is a heavily associated with the English high tea and Wimbledon, the strawberry is not a native of this fair and pleasant land. In fact, the strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s via a cross of Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis, which was brought from Chile by Amédée-François Frézier in 1714.
How to grow strawberries
However if you need new plants for next year, pinch off the flowers from a couple of selected parent plants as this will encourage shoots and runners instead of fruit. Remove them carefully from parent plants in early autumn and pot them on separately using John Innis No 1 or No 2.
To grow strawberries successfully outside all you need is a little preparation. Strawberries do not produce deep roots and can be prone to damage from water logging so they appreciate the soil being both well drained and well-dug before planting. If you can, prepare the soil at least one month before planting and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. You can even give a little extra help hand by adding bonemeal at a rate of two handfuls per square metre. Then - a few days before planting - you can apply a general fertiliser as strawberries are greedy feeders over a relatively short period of time.
Plant them 13-15 inches apart along the row with each row being about 30 inches apart. They will need regular watering until they establish - again don't allow them to become water-logged at which time watering can usually be left until they come into fruit. You will also need to keep control of weeds growing near strawberries as they will compete for nutrients and can drastically reduce cropping.
If you have a problem with birds then the plants will need to be protected with light weight plastic netting. Put this in place when the fruits begin to swell, making sure that netting is well clear of the plants. Depending on your situation you may wish to invest in a fruit cage.
How to grow strawberries from seed
Most strawberry plants are cultivated hybrids that won't grow true from seed, however they will if there are species plants such as the alpine varieties or one of the new range of F1 cultivars that are now available.
These seeds can be lightly sown onto a seed tray filled with John Innes ‘seed and potting’ compost. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost - no more than 1/4 inch - and gently water in.
Transfer the seed tray to a cold, greenhouse or even a well lit room as both are suitable for germination which should take anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks.
Once the strawberry plants have germinated,wait for the 3rd true leaves to transplant into bigger containers. The seedlings can be gently lifted and potted on into 9cm pots using John Innes 'No.1' or 'No.2'. Come the following autumn they should be ready to transplant outside ready for fruiting the following year.
If weather permits, the plants can be planted directly outside in to their final position. For best results choose a well drained, moist and slightly alkaline soil
For more information click onto:
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Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_strawberry
Images fromhttp://naturallyhealthy4life.wordpress.com/ and http://www.swantonberryfarm.com/pages/farmstand_general.html