We English love our strawberries and cream...
Strawberries are incredibly easy to grow and are technically not berries.
The summer is coming and now is the time to plant them! (Yes now!)
Strawberry planters are great for several reasons - fruit is easier to see and pick - a big boon for the aged whom can't bend down and can be placed in easily accessible level surfaces like patios. They're great space savers as you're growing up not down. Once established, they're quite pretty too with a tumble down effect of fruit pouring down the sides. You can also move them about easily, so if a hard frost is due, you can move them into the greenhouse over the winter season.
In the UK you can buy strawberry planters but most people have a hard time with them because they don't set them up right to begin with and they're a real pain to water.
This instructable shows you one of the best ways to setup a strawberry planter to make feeding and watering a doddle!
Step 1: What is a strawberry?
A berry is a fleshy many seeded fruit with the seeds imbedded inside the fruit (specifically a single fleshy body)
Strawberry seeds are infact outside the fruit, therefore they cannot be classified as a berry.
As it says here "Strawberries aren't even in the berry family at all. Nor are strawberries part of the "straw" family; They were originally known as "Strewberries" because they were found Strewn among the foliage."
In most part of England you'll most commonly find them growing natively in dry stone walls, with tiny alpine berries full of flavour, but not as big and juicy as modern cultivated stock.
Most people now assume 'strawberries' are called strawberries because when grown in fields to keep the fruit fresher for longer they are surrounded by a mulch of straw which also suppresses the weeds and reflects some of the sunlight to ripen the berries. I'm sure someone will tell me if I'm wrong in the comments. This in inevitable, so knock yourselves out.
Step 2: Getting started with Strawberry planters
Strawberry planters are quite expensive - I've seen them for about f15-45 in the UK which is a bit steep considering they're a pot with holes in the side. I'm sure this takes some artistry as once the pot is thrown, angled holes are cut in the side and I suspect they're not easily transportable and a few don't make it through the firing process.
The strawberry planter helps keep the fruit off the ground, away from damp and some protection from slugs and snails, though I don't think this has ever been an issue for us.
The big issue is watering strawberry planters - whilst they've got these angled holes, as soon as the top layer of compost dries, water is almost repelled off the top. The easy solution is to provide a central watering column which will distribute the water into the pot.
We can do this with the following equipment:
Drill with bit - preferably size 6-8
Drainpipe - any will do, I used circular, but whatever you've got to hand mine was 3" diameter
Stones (assorted size from gravel to 15mm will be fine
Best to do this all on the grass so mud doesn't go all over the nice clean patio.
Step 3: Pipes!
I used a standard bit of drainpipe which I found in a skip. Remember, reduce, reuse and recycle. This is Reuse!
1st pic is me drilling the pipe - note I didn't bother with tape to ensure spiting/cracking. This pipe isn't very brittle. Plus you're not going to see it and split/cracked pipe will just give you more drainage.
2nd pic is an assortment of holes. No plan, just make some holes. It's about dispersing the water over a large internal surface area.
3rd pic shows how much spare pipe I've got.
4th pic shows me reducing the pipe length. You need to cut it roughly in line with the top of the planter.
Step 4: Stones!
Fill the bottom with 1-2" of stones. This will also dictate how high the pipe sits out of the pot. We're not trying to get the pipe flush with the top to stop soil getting in it, so don't worry!
Put the pipe in, fill with stones.
If you're unsure what happens when you fill a pipe with holes, pour in some water and watch it pour out the holes.
Step 5: Planting!
This is tricky stuff. Well, about the trickiest part of this 'ible.
Start by layering compost over the bottom stones. Fill until 1-2" from the lowest holes.
You can either push a plant into the hole (roots first), or pull the leaves through leaving the root clump behind.
2nd pic shows a small plant with bare roots which has been unceremoniously shoved into the hole.
3rd pic shows me covering the roots. You'll need to firm the compost down around the roots to ensure it doesn't just wash out the hole. You can put a hand on the other side being careful to not to damage plant stems and gently apply pressure to cake the compost up either side.
Continue filling to the next row of holes and repeat.
4th pic shows almost up to the top - stop at this point, because you can get more plants in the top of the pot but you also don't want to go up to the rim - try to aim to get the top of the plants and inch or two below the surface. This means it will catch rainwater and is easier to catch any water you spill when watering without it running off over the sides of the pot.
5th pic shows the finished article.
Fin... or is it?
Step 6: Coping with the enevitable problems.../tips
My first strawberry planter had a drainage hole. Probably because the strawberry planter people are used to stupid people filling the things up with water, the roots sit in the water stagnating and rotting and then they die.
I shoved it full of a plastic lid from our ready fried poppadom container. Works lovely.
Don't feel you have to fill up all the holes with strawberries - you could of course plant a few other plants like herbs etc - though don't choose an invasive species like mint.
Don't water it before moving it into position. It'll double in weight and these things aren't light in the first place.
Compost has enough food in it to maintain plants for the first 6-8 weeks, after that it'll need feeding. You can make free feed from rotting down nettles in water. This stinks but is a great free fertiliser. You can do the same with sea weed - just wash off excess salt first.
Otherwise pop down the road and buy a bottle of veg feed and follow the instructions.
You'll need to turn the planter every few days so that all sides of the pot get a good sunning - especially important when berries start to form.
Step 7: Produce & sourcing plants
Having already copped it for the dirty patio, I relocated to a more friendly place on the minimalist rockery.
Don't forget to turn it every few days to make sure the plants all get a good sunning!
Each plant will produce between 6-12 fruits during the summer. Depending on your cost you may turn a profit in your first year - especially if you find a planter for free somewhere.
Sourcing the plants
You can grow strawberries from seed - get them from a seed catalog though you can of course grow them from an especially tasty strawberry if you remembered to peel the seeds off before you stuffed your face. Seed catalogs give varieties which supermarkets don't stock - this may be because they're taster but have a shorter shelf life or aren't as easily transportable etc - so don't over look this option. Probably 65p-f1.75 for 100 seeds
Some catalogs sell bare root - they're great too, but get them in the ground the day they arrive. Expect to pay f5 for ten plants
Potted plants can be found on markets for about 50p-f1, in garden centres as much as f1.75.
I can't tell you what American shops are likely to sell them at - I'd double the cost above and swap the f for $ for a fair estimate, but it's probably less than that knowing that we live in rip off Britain!
You can buy a planted strawberry planter - without the drainage for about f45!
Towards the end of the season, strawberries start to send out runners - this is a long stem (bit like a tentacle really) which will at the end grow another plant. This is how strawberries spread apart from their seeds being dropped off by birds eating the non-berries and depositing the seeds through their digestive system.
Chop them off if you want more strawberries.
If you don't mind and want more plants, put the runner in a pot with compost and it will grow roots and the stem will wither and die. Runners will often keep going - I've had about eight off one single runner before now.