When it comes to picking fruit, strawberries have to come somewhere near the top of the list. Whether at a pick your own or in your own back garden, it should be an experience that every child should have.
What’s also great is that even for a beginner gardener, they are incredibly easy to grow. It also doesn’t matter how big your garden is because they can grow in the ground, in a container or even a hanging basket.
What you will need: Peat free compost, strawberry plants
Where do strawberries grow: Strawberries love a sunny site (will tolerate some shade), in well drained fertile soil that is weed free. Can grow in the ground, containers, pots or grow bags.
Difficulty growing: Easy – with some protection from birds
Growing strawberries is lovely and simple and something that children can get hands on with. And because you can grow them in a number of different ways, it suits all ages of young gardeners.
Growing strawberries in the ground
If you are going to set up your strawberry bed in the ground, you will need to choose a space that is in as full sun as possible and has fertile, well drained soil. You will also want to make sure that the soil is weed free. There are two main ways of growing strawberries in the ground and both will give great results. The most important thing to remember when growing in the ground is protecting the strawberries from touching the ground below. This can be done in one of two ways:
Use a weed membrane
A lot of growers tend to plant their strawberries in holes in weed membrane. Whilst this can take a while to set up, it pays dividends in the long run as it will help suppress the weeds. It also helps to keep moisture where it needs to be. Quite simply lay out some weed membrane and then cut holes in it to plant your strawberries. Simple as that. Then just make sure that they are kept watered, especially when fruiting.
if you don’t want to use weed membrane in your garden, you can also plant them directly in the soil. Most gardeners plant a group of strawberries together and they will come back year after year. Once your strawberries are planted, simply lay down some straw around the base of the strawberries. This will help prevent weeks coming through, maintain moisture and also protect your fruit from touching the compost underneath.
Growing strawberries in containers
Growing strawberries in containers is also great if you don’t want them to grow into the ground or you have a small space. Any container will work as long as it is free draining and has a good quality growing medium such as some peat free compost. You could also look to grow strawberries in these stacking planters which can then also be used for herbs too.
Watering and Feeding
In order to grow healthy plants and get the very best fruit from them, you will need to ensure that they are watered well. Try to avoid watering the leaves as this could cause mould to develop on the plant. Instead, water around the base of the plant and if you have drip feeders or soaker hoses available, this would be ideal.
When feeding strawberries, you will want to use a high potassium liquid feed. A tomato feed will be perfect for this which can also be used around the garden on other flowering vegetables.
Choosing your Strawberries
Strawberries can be grown from seed or bought as plants. However, from experience, it is easier to buy your strawberries as young plants from garden centres or nurseries. They come into stock in spring and can be planted as soon as purchased. There are two main strawberry types that would be good for a children’s garden:
Summer Strawberries – By far the most popular choice for a garden, these plants will produce a large amount of strawberries over a very short time (approximately 3 weeks). These are the strawberries that you would find on sale in a supermarket.
Alpine Strawberries – Unlike the summer strawberries, these are quite happy in the shade and produce smaller fruit. These can tolerate cooler conditions.
Once the strawberries are no longer making fruit, it is a good idea to remove any straw or polythene from around the strawberries. This will help prevent any diseases from developing. Be sure to remove the netting so that birds can help manage the pests around the plants.
You will also notice some shoots coming off the plants. These are called runners. Runners are developed from the main plant and when left will root into the ground and grow new strawberry plants. You can catch these with a small pot of potting compost and then once the root has establish cut it, separating it from the parent plant. Now you have a new plant – a great activity for children.