Since 1953, strawberries have been long associated with Wimbledon. Whilst our sister company Edwards Sports are renowned for providing Wimbledon with the finest Tennis Nets in the World, here at William James we provide our customers with quality garden netting perfect for growing strawberries.
Here's our guide to growing the perfect strawberries:
Get the right plants
Make sure you get good plants to begin with or they will always struggle. Don't be tempted by the cut-price, brown looking specimens you often find in the garden section of DIY stores - go to a proper garden centre, or better still find your local nursery. They are generally cheaper anyway and will know their stuff so you can get handy tips from them (plus you'll be helping support a local business).
Or grow your own
If you're feeling brave, you can grow you own plants from runners - just find a friend or neighbour with some healthy looking plants and look for runners growing out of the side (they start off as a tendril or stalk which grows out from the base). When it gets to a certain length it will sprout a set of leaves and start to grow its own roots from the bottom. Carefully snip the runner away from the main plant, trim off the rest of the stalk and put it into a pot of compost, making sure that the 'crown' (the top of the brown bit the leaves sprout from) is just at the surface of the soil. Make sure it's well watered and put it in a warm, frost free place - I leave them outside as I think it makes them hardier. Not all runners will take, so do more than you need, but I get a pretty good success rate and they are free after all!
Get the ground prepared (about a month before you start planting)
Be sure to dig the ground over properly and take out all the weeds as they will steal the goodness from your plants. Dig in some compost to add nutrients and organic matter and you're ready to go.
When to plant
I normally plant in the spring but you can get away with planting as late as September.
How to plant
Lightly soak your plants to get them out of their pots without damaging them. When you plant them, make sure the 'crown' is just at the surface of the soil and don't leave any roots exposed. You can adjust the spacing to fit the room you have, but a good guide is to keep them 40-50cm apart. Some people plant them through a layer of weed suppressing membrane which seems to work really well but I use purpose built strawberry planters to save space.
Caring for your plants
Make sure you water your plants well during spring and summer (especially if it's hot) and keep them well weeded. They will benefit from being fed - a seaweed or other liquid fertilizer is fine but don't feed them while they're fruiting.
While they fruit, you need to keep the strawberries dry and off the ground to stop them rotting - you can use a handful of straw or a 'strawberry mat' for this. The birds will try to eat the strawberries before you can get to them so make sure you net them off and get something rigged up to scare them away (a plastic bottle on the end of a cane works quite well).
A plant will only last for around 3 or 4 years before the fruit becomes poor quality but you can always use the 'grow your own' approach (described above) to get replacements. Strawberries can suffer from replant disorder so if you're planning to replant in the same spot, dig out the soil and replace it.