A ripe red strawberry ready for picking
A true favourite, strawberries are easy to grow, even in a small space. We share advice on growing and caring for strawberries.

Helpful information

Timing: mid-spring or early autumn (for planting potted plants), early to mid–summer (harvest)

Where to do it: Outdoors

Garden space: Small garden, large garden, balcony

Sun requirements: a sunny or slightly shady spot (avoid completely shady places)

  • Growing plants engages our nurturing instincts. Strawberries are not very demanding, simply requiring a few enjoyable caring activities like watering
  • The taste of a homegrown strawberry, still warm from the sun, can bring sheer joy. Strawberries are a good source of Vitamin C and contain antioxidants
  • If you have a lot of fruit, share with friends and neighbours. Connecting with others is one way to improve our own wellbeing
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Juicy red strawberries

Strawberries are straightforward and satisfying. There are a few things to think about before you get growing.

Seeds vs plants

Often, when we grow food crops in our garden we grow from seed. This is possible with strawberries, but they typically don't produce much fruit in the first year. For this reason, many people grow strawberries from potted plants / small plants from garden centres and nurseries. These plants should give around five to six years of good fruit.

When to plant strawberries

Mid-spring or early autumn are when strawberry plants are available and good to plant.

If you plant in mid-spring, you may get some fruit that year. The fruit is likely to be better the following years, though.

Where to plant strawberries

Strawberries usually grow best and produce most fruit when they get a good amount of light. Somewhere sunny or lightly shady in the garden is best. If you have a very shady garden, you may be better enjoying the candy-like texture and taste of alpine strawberries. The size of fruit with alpine strawberries is much smaller, though.

Strawberries like free-draining soil, that won't get too waterlogged.

One of the wonderful things about strawberries is their ability to grow happily in different places. You could put them in the ground in a vegetable bed or flower border. Or, you could grow them in a raised bed, a pot on the patio, a windowsill box or even in a hanging basket.

How to plant strawberries

In general, strawberry plants need to be spaced around 30cm-60cm apart. This changes by variety - check the plant label for instructions.

When you plant your strawberry, you must leave the crown above ground. The crown is the central point of the plant that sits directly above the root ball. This is because new growth comes from here.

Water your strawberries well after planting. This will help them establish (settle into the location) and then they tend to look after themselves through to harvest time.

Small white strawberry flowers
Small white strawberry flowers

Strawberries are generally low maintenance. As they begin to flower and produce fruit, water them during dry weather spells to help the fruit ripen and grow.

They can benefit from being given a feed. A standard feed used once or twice a year may encourage further fruit.

Protecting the plants by mulching is important (a mulch is a layer of organic material). Straw is often used. This helps deter snails and slugs and helps keep the fruit dry. Strawberries that come in contact with soil are more likely to rot.

Blackbirds have a real taste for strawberries, so if you’re not keen on sharing them with feathered friends, put netting over the top of your plants.

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A bowl of strawberries and pot of strawberry jam

It's that wonderful time, your green strawberries are now turning a beautiful shade of red!

Harvesting strawberries is as simple as picking ripe ones from the plant. It's a good idea before picking fruit to check all the way around. It is very easy to pull off strawberries that are red on one side then turn out to be still opaque on the other!

If you do accidentally harvest some too soon, strawberries can ripen after picking. Try putting them in a sunny spot in the home, or next to bananas which encourage ripening.

What to do with your strawberries

Strawberries are absolutely delicious on their own, fresh from the plant. They also go brilliantly with a little cream!

If you feel like experimenting, find a host of strawberry recipes from BBC Good Food, from sweet cakes to savoury salads.

Strawberries tend to ripen at once, so you may have a 'glut' (more than you can eat!). You could:

  • Share strawberries with friends and neighbours
  • Make strawberry jam
  • Freeze strawberries so you can keep enjoying your fruit for months to come. Once unfrozen, they can go a bit mushy, so it may be best to use frozen strawberries for smoothies or as part of baking

PYO strawberry farms

Slightly disappointing harvest this year? Don't worry, you could always visit your nearest PYO strawberry farm instead. This way, you can still experience the enjoyment of fruit fresh from the plant and time in nature.

Strawberry plant leaves
Leaves from a strawberry plant

Once strawberries have finished producing fruit, they will begin to send out shoots. You can spot these shoots, as a leaf will begin growing a good few centimetres away from the main body of the plant. Just below the leaf, a new crown and root ball will emerge and attempt to bury itself into the ground.

These runners are essentially helping you grow new strawberry plants for free. You can help nature by pinning the runners into the ground. Use cloche pegs, garden wire or even hairpins to do this.

You could choose to pin the runners into small pots filled with compost. Eventually, once the roots have grown into this pot, you can cut the runner from the main plant. You now have a new, potted strawberry plant - extra for you, or one to gift!

It is generally advised not to let runners grow for the first couple of years, as they take away from fruit production. Simply cut the runners off at the crown. that said, letting one runner per plant grow in the first year probably doesn’t reduce the quantity or quality of fruit too much.

On allotments and in larger gardens, using runners it is possible to slowly migrate the strawberry patch across your space. This can reduce the risk of pests and diseases.

Once established, strawberries are half hardy perennial plants. This means, they will generally survive the winter and will keep growing for a number of years. The quality and quantity of fruit will reduce over time.

During winter, strawberries benefit from some protection from hard frost. You could put an extra layer of straw or horticultural fleece around them. They will survive a hard frost, but the plants could get damaged. This will make them slower to get growing in spring and may reduce the quantity of fruit produced.

Fun Fact

There is a lot of debate around why strawberries are called strawberries. No-one is 100% sure. One theory is that the name comes because they are often grown on a layer of straw. Another idea is that the name comes because the fruit was sometimes collected by sticking a straw into it, then pulling from the plant.

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