Best Compost For Strawberries: Strawberry Plant Guide

Hands up who loves strawberries! Hmm, that’s almost everyone, then. Strawberries are one thing many of us think of when we imagine an English summer, and they’re actually very easy to grow. They love a sunny flower bed in fertile soil with good drainage, or you can grow them successfully in containers, specially designed strawberry planters or even hanging baskets if you don’t have much space.

For the best strawberries, you’ll need to water and feed them regularly, and also protect them from birds and slugs – other species find them just as delicious as we do! Here’s the Cosy Home guide to the best compost for strawberries and how to grow and nurture these delicious juicy fruits successfully.

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Choosing the right strawberry plants

There are a lot of strawberry varieties available to choose from, but they all fall into into three main types of strawberries. These are:

1) Summer-fruiting strawberries are the ones we think of as classic strawberries, the kind you can buy in the shops. They produce the largest, juiciest fruit size but only crop for a few weeks. You can get different varieties of strawberry plants that fruit from early to late summer, so you can have a bountiful harvest throughout the growing season.

2) Alpine strawberries are hardy and will grow in light shade rather than full sun, but only produce tiny fruit. These are great for garnishing dishes but are generally a bit too fiddly to gather for eating, unless it’s a quick nibble in the garden in between gardening tasks!

3) Perpetual strawberries are one of the strawberry types that have a much longer season, from early summer right through to late autumn. However, the fruits they produce tend to be smaller and the plants don’t produce many runners.

When is the best time to plant strawberries?

Photo by Janine Meuche on Unsplash

The best overall time to plant strawberries is in the autumn or early fall such as the month of September, as this provides plenty of time for the plants to become established and gives a better chance of a bumper crop the following year.

However, if you’ve missed the chance for an autumn planting, don’t panic! You can still plant strawberries in early spring, late spring or early summer and achieve some delicious homegrown fruit.

Strawberries can be grown from seed, bought as small plug plants or acquired as runners from fellow home gardeners, and can be grown in even the smallest of spaces. If you don’t have any garden space, try planting strawberries in a hanging basket, window boxes, specially designed strawberry towers (pots that are designed vertically) or in grow bags. As long as they have access to sun and are well fed and watered, strawberries can be successfully grown on a small patio, balcony or roof garden.

Preparing the ground to plant strawberries

Wherever you plan to plant your strawberries, they’ll need a weed-free area. Rake out and weed the area thoroughly, then dig in some compost to improve the soil. You can also put down a biodegradable membrane, which will help to suppress weeds and keep the fruit off the soil at harvest time. Simply cut holes in the membrane and plant the plugs of the strawberry roots through it.

If you already have a vegetable plot, do bear in mind that it’s not recommended to plant strawberries in soil that has previously been used for growing tomatoes or potatoes, as this could put the baby plants at risk of disease. Instead, choose a clear area of soil or add plenty of fresh compost to pots or containers.

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Best compost for strawberries

If you want to get the best fruit from your strawberry bed or containers, then it’s essential that you prepare the soil surface first and plant them with the best compost for strawberries.

Strawberries like fertile, well-drained soil that’s acidic and rich in organic matter. If you’ve been making your own compost over the winter, then now’s your chance to use it and it should be full of the essential nutrients that new plants need for their first year of life. Use it at the rate of around two buckets per square metre and dig it in well, so that your young plants will get the best results.

If you’re buying compost commercially, choose a good quality, peat-free, general purpose compost. For example, you could fill your garden beds with several inches of compost such as these products:

Miracle-Gro Peat-free Multi-purpose Compost 50L, £8 from B&Q

SupaGrow Peat Free Organic Garden Compost – 50L, £5 from Homebase

GoodHome Peat-free Multi-purpose Compost 100L, £12.50 from B&Q

Westland Peat-free Multi-purpose Compost 66.5L, £8 from B&Q

Gro- Sure All-Purpose Compost 100L, £12.95 from Homebase

Try and choose the best soil mix you can, especially if it’s your first time growing strawberries, and add organic materials, such as aged cow manure, around the base of the plant for an extra boost if you can.

Looking after strawberry plants

Photo by Oliver Hale on Unsplash

For good fruit production, strawberries like a high potassium content, so will appreciate a feed with any fertiliser containing fish meal, blood meal and bone or a specialist mixture for varieties of strawberries.

To produce juicy fruit, they need a constant supply of water so make sure to keep beds damp in dry conditions. Try to water the ground rather than the plant itself, as pouring water directly onto the fruit could cause it to go mouldy.

Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash

If you’re not using a biodegradable mat, then you’ll need to mulch separately once fruits start to develop. You can use a purpose-made mat, or…straw! Spread the straw mulch in a layer around the plant to keep fruit from touching the soggy soil on the ground. Spreading straw in a thick layer over the whole bed will also help to keep weeds down and encourage healthy plants in your strawberry patch.

As soon as the berries start to ripen, you’ll need to protect them from wildlife. You can either build a cage over the whole bed, or use chicken wire or bird netting over the rows. Keeping any wire staked out firmly at the bottom will help to stop wildlife becoming entangled in it, but do check regularly just in case.

After strawberry plants have fruited, they tend to produce plantlets – otherwise known as runners – which enable you to establish new plant roots from the mother plant. So the chances are that you will be able to have more plants to grow for the following year.

While growing strawberries does involve a certain amount of work, we promise it will all be worth it in the summer – just remember to order in some clotted cream!

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