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     How to grow Strawberries                                                         

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Strawberries are herbaceous plants that can be grown in the ground, or in containers.  There are three distinct types of strawberry plant:  summer fruiting, perpetual-fruiting, and alpine.  The strawberries we will cover in this article are the summer fruiting ones.
 Where to site the strawberry plants
Grow in a sunny, warm site.  Make sure you soil is well-drained, and if planting in the ground, do not grow in the same site as potatoes were grown previously, as they may pick up a virus from the spuds.
 Bedding for the fruit
With growing strawberries, you need to keep the fruits off the soil, so planting in pots is a good idea.  Use a good multi-purpose compost, and put a layer of stones on the top of the soil, so when watering the soil is not splashed onto the fruits.  If you plant your strawberries in the ground, use straw, or strawberry mats to protect the fruits.
 The three year life cycle
Strawberry plants have a 3 year cycle…. the first year you get a small crop…the second year you get a large crop, and possibly the third year, but after three years, they lose their oomph…. so you need to replace your plants, and to take runners during the first year to make sure you have a second year crop all the time.  When strawberries are growing well, they throw out tendrils, which grow miniature plants on the end, and they are the runners.  When they get to a size of 3 or 4 leaves, then cut off the runner, and plant it in a pot of good multi-purpose compost, and keep well-watered.  When you take the runners in the first year, do not let the runner plant crop.  Just let it sit, and produce leaves.  They are called maiden plants…. if flowers look like opening, take them off.  Don't forget to label and date your runners. Remove surplus runners, and make sure you keep your plants well weeded if growing them in the ground.  When watering, do not wet the fruits, as they will develop botrytis, so use a watering can, and gently water near the crowns.  Do not use a hosepipe, as it will spray the fruits, and disease will follow.
 Protecting your crop from pests

Once the fruits start to develop, and turn red, you will need to protect from marauding birds, as they notice the red colour.  Netting is good, but you need to make a cage, because if you just drape the net over the fruit, the birds can get to them.  Constructing a frame, and pinning the netting to the frame works, but if you have a greenhouse, taking the plants into the greenhouse will be even better.  They will love a feed, too.  Any good plant food will do, but tomato feed is the best.

After they have finished fruiting, you can take them out of the greenhouse, and leave them out in the winter.  For some reason, if strawberries get a good hard frost on their crowns, they will fruit better.  If you grow them in terracotta pots, be careful the frost doesn't shatter them.  But strawberries are tough plants, and will suffer transplanting, and moving about from broken pots to new ones.

You may find that the leaves of your plants look dead or dying.  Do not worry, as they do that, and you only have to take the dead ones off the plant.  During the winter, leave them on, as the plant is dormant, and it wont hurt it.  When you notice new growth in the spring, take the dead leaves off your plant, and make sure it is well watered, and remember to keep moss, and weeds off your plants.

You can also grow strawberries in grow-bags, but make sure you keep them evenly watered, and protected from birds, and slugs.  Grow-bags tend to dry out quickly, so you need to check often and make sure they stay moist.

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