How to Grow Early Strawberries
To grow early strawberries is easy and in this blog I’ll tell you how I do it.
As with much of life forward planning is everything. If you want home grown tasty and fresh strawberries in very early spring then you need to get some planted now.
In the ground or not
Planting and growing them in the best soil in your garden will achieve good crops. But I find that it is well worth the effort of growing a few in a grow bag.
In grow bags you can really force on an early crop. That way you have luscious fruits when shop bought ones are either poor tasting imports or seriously expensive!
It is vital to plant early if you want to grow early strawberries!
Strawberries will crop much better if well-established before the onset of winter.
They will then benefit from being chilled by a few cold nights. This cold period is important and planted grow bags should be left outside to chill. After chilling they can being forced into early growth.
I usually leave my planted grow bags out until the end of the year. I find that provides long enough period of cold to do the job.
Bringing them on
I am lucky to have a medium sized unheated greenhouse and can produce early crops from there.
A glazed porch, polytunnel or cold frame will do. But if you have none of these you can still grow early crops. Just place the bags close to the base of a south or west facing wall. Here there is a favorable micro-climate that you can exploit!
A standard sized grow bag is big enough for six plants but the larger grow bags will hold eight plants comfortably.
Right planting depth
When planting, take care to plant at the correct depth.
This applies equally to planting in the garden.
Try to get the crown of the plant [the swollen base where the leaves and roots meet] half buried after the soil settles.
Deeper than this and your plants will produce lots of leaf, shallower and they tend to produce a poor crop.
Always buy new plants – they are called “runners” – as these will be grown from virus free healthy stock.
There are masses of varieties of strawberries to choose from. In this case I’d recommend that you look for the earliest croppers but also those with the best flavour.
Many varieties have been bred to have long shelf life and travel well to suit the supermarkets needs. Sometimes this is at the expense of good flavour.
I would recommend ‘Honeoye’, ‘Hapil’, ‘Cambridge Favourite’ or ‘Calypso’ if you can find them. However there are quite a few other good early varieties.
In my view there is little point in growing main-crop or late season strawberries this way. Unless that is you plant some extra bags to provide continuity of ripening.
Bear in mind that once you have forced an early crop from your strawberries it is best to transplant the plants from your containers into the garden. They will be a little exhausted and will need time to recover before being forced again.
It is always best to start with fresh healthy runners every autumn.
Have you forced strawberries to get early crops?
Which varieties worked best for you?
You might now be interested to read more about growing strawberries so here is more information this time from the Royal Horticultural Society.
If you’re interested in how to grow early strawberries you might be interested in my blog on raspberries here.
Perhaps you would like to know more about growing blueberries
If you’re gardening in North America then you’ll be sure to find this article by Happy DIY Home – A Guide to Growing Strawberries useful.