If you’ve never been tempted to ‘grow your own’ and the thought of a full-sized veg patch or an allotment brings you out in a cold sweat, fear not, as there are ways that could enable you to have a go at growing something on a small-scale that doesn’t involve lots of hard work. Even with the tiniest of outdoor spaces, it is possible to grow things with minimal effort.
Once you’ve picked your first ever home-grown fruit or vegetables, you’ll be bitten by the bug (not literally, we hope!) and you’ll want to expand your growing options to include more crops - we guarantee it.
In today’s blog post, we’re going to talk about growing strawberries at home, to provide a bountiful crop of Britain’s favourite fruit. With many people still furloughed or self-isolating and with children not set to return to school fully for quite some time, everyone has a little more time on their hands to have a go at something like this, and it’s a fun project to get the kids involved with too. So let’s get cracking.
Fill those jam jars with home-grown fruit
There are varieties of strawberries available nowadays to suit every environment and growing space. If you’re lucky enough to have a large garden where you can create a traditional strawberry patch, then heavy croppers such as Elsanta are a good choice to get started with.
If you have the space, you can grow a range of different varieties, from early croppers such as Christine, through the mid-season varieties such as Sonata and Cambridge Favourite and on to the late cropping strawberry varieties such as Symphony or Florence. That should give you strawberries from early Spring right through until mid-autumn or even longer. And if you’re lucky enough to have a polytunnel or greenhouse, you can always plant some there to give you a few extra weeks of growing season.
If you do grow outdoors in your garden, you may need to take precautions to prevent your previous crop being eaten by the local wildlife. You can cover crops with netting to prevent birds, squirrels or rabbits getting at them, and planting in raised beds should reduce the number of slugs that have access to your crop. It’s worth putting straw beneath the trusses to prevent the fruits lying on the soil and getting damp and muddy, and this will have the added benefit of keeping those pesky weeds at bay.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of a large garden with space to give over to growing strawberries, or other fruit and vegetables. But even if you have just a sunny patio or courtyard, there’s a strawberry variety that’s perfect for you. There are quite a few varieties that can be grown in hanging baskets and plenty that can be grown in ‘tumbling containers’.
You can buy ready-made ‘tower planters’ that allow strawberries to be planted in the top of the planter and in pockets all around the sides of the planter, and these take up almost no floor space. Alternatively, you could make your own strawberry planters, using wooden crates or pallets. Provided that they have some compost and are watered regularly, strawberries don’t need particularly deep beds of soil or any special conditions. You could even grow alpine strawberries in a window box, or on a balcony!
Making use of your crop of strawberries
Once you’ve grown your strawberries, it can be tempting to simply enjoy them with cream or ice-cream, but if you’ve planted plenty and you have a heavy crop, you could find that you have more than you can possibly get through for dessert. At this point, it’s time to think about how to preserve your juicy bounty for the months ahead. First off, we recommend freezing some if you have the freezer space. These can be quickly defrosted and used to jazz up a breakfast of fresh berries, porridge oats and Greek yoghurt, for example.
You can also make strawberry jam, and we’ve recently blogged about that very topic, giving you our favourite simple recipe for the best strawberry jam. Try dehydrating strawberries too, either in a dehydrator, or by placing them on trays in the oven, and leaving them on a very low heat until they are completely dried. Once dried in this way, you can store them in jam jars and use them as tasty treats or add them to breakfast cereals or yoghurt. Another great idea is to make a strawberry pouring sauce, that you can drizzle over ice-cream or serve on pancakes. And if you still have some strawberries left over, you could always make strawberry wine.
We hope we’ve inspired you to have a go with this easy-to-grow fruit. With a little investment in time and plants now, you could soon be filling lots of jam jars with your own delicious strawberry jam. If you’re in need of a jam jar or two for this season, check out our extensive range. We have a jam jar to suit every project!