Sweet and Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Strawberries

Guest post by Katrina & Clayton

Strawberries known for their sweet flavour and versatility in culinary applications. Growing strawberries in Scotland can be incredibly rewarding, given the right conditions and care.

Growing Strawberries in Scotland

Strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa) thrive in Scotland’s cooler climate, as they prefer moderate temperatures and can tolerate light frosts. The key to successful strawberry cultivation lies in selecting the right varieties, providing adequate sunlight, and ensuring proper soil conditions. The primary edible part of the strawberry plant is the fruit itself, which can be eaten fresh, used in desserts, jams, or smoothies. Strawberry leaves can also be used in herbal teas for their mild flavour and potential health benefits.

Growing & Enjoying Strawberries In Our Garden

Growing & Enjoying Strawberries In Our Garden

Planting Strawberries

Timing: The best time to plant strawberries in Scotland is in early spring or late summer. Spring planting allows plants to establish before the growing season, while late summer planting ensures a good root system before winter.

Choosing Varieties: Select varieties suited to the Scottish climate, such as ‘Honeoye’ for early harvests, ‘Elsanta’ for mid-season, and ‘Florence’ for late-season strawberries. However we’ve always had great success with the Cambridge variety.  This way, you can enjoy a continuous supply of berries throughout the summer.

Site Selection: Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Strawberries need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal fruit production.

Planting Technique

Planting in rows:
Prepare the soil by removing weeds and incorporating organic matter, we are using Caledonian Green Goodness. Plant strawberries in rows, spacing them 30-45 cm apart with 75 cm between rows. Ensure the crown of the plant (where the leaves meet the roots) is at soil level. Water thoroughly after planting. If you plant in clear rows when they start to produce runners you can easily see and remove them and plant them on if that is your aim.

Planting in Baskets:
Growing strawberries in hanging baskets is a fantastic way to enjoy fresh, home-grown fruit even if you have limited space.

This is particularly suited to small gardens, balconies, patios, or areas with poor soil. Elevating the plants reduces the risk of ground-dwelling pests such as slugs and snails and makes them easier to care for and harvest without bending or kneeling. There is also a decorative element to your outdoor space with cascading foliage and bright red berries.

We use 2 different types of baskets, a dedicated felt strawberry hanging basket where you put the plants into holes down the baskets side, this gives a lot of growing room around the full outside of the basket. We also use coir lined traditional style baskets, the coir lining holds extra moisture so the soil doesn’t dry out so fast, just be aware the birds love to pull this apart for their bedding!! We have ours under nets in our raised bed frames.

Growing In Strawberry Hanging Baskets, Coir Lined Hanging Baskets, Clayton Planting Up

Growing In Strawberry Hanging Baskets, Coir Lined Hanging Baskets, Clayton Planting Up

Using strawberries as ground cover:
We grow strawberries in a variety of ways, one way in our food forest is by using them as ground cover, a permaculture technique, (which is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient). We do do this for a few reasons:

Protection Against Erosion: Strawberries form a dense mat of leaves and runners that effectively cover the soil, protecting it from wind and water erosion. This is particularly important on slopes or in areas prone to heavy rainfall.

Improved Soil Structure: The roots of strawberry plants help to bind the soil together, enhancing its structure and preventing compaction. This creates a more porous soil that allows for better water infiltration and root growth for surrounding plants.

Natural Mulch: The dense foliage of strawberry plants shades the soil, reducing the amount of light that reaches the ground. This inhibits the growth of weeds, minimising the need for manual weeding or the use of herbicides.

Growing Strawberries As Ground Cover In Our Food Forest Floor Area

Growing Strawberries As Ground Cover In Our Food Forest Floor Area

Pruning Strawberries

Pruning is essential for maintaining healthy strawberry plants and ensuring a good yield.

After Planting: Remove any flowers that appear during the first six weeks after planting to allow the plant to establish a strong root system.

During Growing Season: Regularly remove runners (long stems that produce new plants) unless you want to propagate new plants. Pinching off runners helps direct the plant’s energy towards fruit production.

Post-Harvest: After the last harvest, prune back the old leaves, leaving the young, healthy leaves intact. This helps reduce disease and prepares the plant for the next season.

Dividing Strawberries

Strawberries naturally produce runners, which can be used to propagate new plants.

Timing: The best time to divide strawberries is in late summer after the main harvest.

Method: Gently lift the parent plant and separate the runners, ensuring each has a healthy root system. Replant the runners immediately in prepared soil, spacing them appropriately.

Care for Strawberries

Watering: Strawberries need consistent moisture, especially during flowering and fruiting. Water the plants deeply once a week, ensuring the soil remains moist but not waterlogged.

Mulching: Apply a layer of straw or organic mulch around the plants to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the fruit clean.

Winter Protection: In colder regions of Scotland, protect strawberry plants in winter by covering them with straw or fleece. This prevents frost damage and helps the plants survive through to spring.

Companion Planting

Companion planting can enhance strawberry growth and deter pests. Such as

Borage: Attracts pollinators and improves strawberry flavour.

Garlic, Onions, Chives : Help repel aphids and other pests.

Lettuce: Acts as a ground cover, reducing weed growth and retaining moisture.

Due to their shallow root systems, we grow ours under our asparagus plants and our fruit bushes in our raised beds, to protect the soil around them and prevent weeds.

Growing Strawberries Under Other Plants In Our Planters

Growing Strawberries Under Other Plants In Our Planters

Optimal Soil for Strawberries

Strawberries thrive in well-drained, loamy soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Maintain soil health by adding compost annually. We are using Caledonian Green Goodness this year to mulch to retain moisture and reduce weed competition.

Growing strawberries in Scotland can be a highly rewarding endeavour with the right knowledge and care. By selecting suitable varieties, planting in the right conditions, and following proper pruning and maintenance practices, you can enjoy a great harvest of delicious strawberries year after year. Whether you’re a novice gardener or an experienced horticulturist, these tips will help you cultivate vibrant, productive strawberry plants in the Scottish climate.

Katrina & Clayton

Katrina & Clayton live with their family in East Ayrshire in Scotland and share their daily life in the garden on instagram @buildingfoodforest_scotland. They practice permaculture principles, reducing & repurposing waste whenever they can. Katrina shows how home educating in nature has helped Clayton thrive.

Clayton Completed The Grow and Learn Course with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society in 2022. This year he will be completing Level 2 Nurture Course. Clayton is 16, Autistic, Non Verbal & has been Home Educated for the last 6yrs. Both Katrina and husband Peter have studied the Permaculture Design Course PDC and PDC Pro over the last 5yrs, developing their garden from grass to an ongoing food forest.

They have featured on BBC Beechgrove Gardens, Gardeners World Magazine and write for Scotland Grows Magazine.  Katrina has a series of children’s story books out following the life of Clayton in the garden. Available at Amazon.

See more and follow Katrina & Clayton at the links below:

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