You can plant strawberries in lots of different places, in pots, window boxes or special strawberry planters, in hanging baskets where they are kept well away from slugs and snails (though they do need lots of water, I tried it once), you can use a raised bed, or if like me you are the lucky caretaker of a rare, sacred allotment plot, then you can create a strawberry bed. Here’s my technique:
Step 1: Select your site and remove all the weeds, either with a hoe, if they’re not too bad, or dig the whole bed over with a fork if it’s very weedy. Then rake and level the ground out as much as possible.
Step 2: Decide on the overall size of the bed you want (in my case, just less than 1m wide by about 4m long). Use a spade to define the edges, by digging a shallow trench around each side. The earth can be piled up in the middle of the bed to raise it slightly. Dig in some good stuff, I added some blood, fish and bonemeal. You could use some manure, or anything slightly acid, as is the preference of strawberries, such as coffee grounds or pine needles.
Step 3: Use some weed suppressing fabric to cover your bed. This will save you a lot of weeding time, and also act as a mulch to hold in the water, and once the strawberries fruit it means they won’t be sitting on damp soil where they are prone to rot, or just get covered with mud when it rains. Tuck the edges into the trench and backfill in order to hold it in place.
Step 4: Place your strawberries out on top of the fabric, so you can work out an even spacing.
Step 5: Once you are happy with their places, cut a cross into the fabric and plant the strawberry through the hole. Be sure not to cover the crown (the base of the main stem, where the new shoots are sprouting from) with earth, they should be planted at the same depth as they were in their pots.
Step 6: Water each strawberry thoroughly. Then stand back and admire your work.
They may seem a bit widely spaced, but I plan to propagate them over the next 3 years. Strawberries are very easy to propagate from the small baby ‘runners’ that they send out. However, in the first year, you should really cut most of these off in order to build up the plants energies. I might only take a few in the first year. Year 2 is when strawberry plants are at their most productive, and then you can allow them to reproduce a bit more. In year 3 strawberries are in their twilight years, and become less productive, and should therefore be replaced, after they’ve fruited, with the new kids on the block (or in the bed). So I will use the spaces in between these plants, for the newbies.
I will also be putting some chicken wire frames over the bed once they start flowering, to keep off the birds. And I may also need to put down some organic slug pellets, just around each plant, as the fabric does seem to act as a perfect hiding place for those slugs! Little devils, they can’t fool me.
As for the varieties I have planted, it’s a real mixture. Some Alice babies from my previous plants, and then some Honeoye, Hapil, Emily, and Pegasus. I will see which ones perform best (and taste good) and only take the runners from the ones I like. I’ll let you know the outcome.