Strawberries are an ideal polytunnel crop that anyone can grow. They are a popular plant to grow in a polytunnel and are perfect for novice gardeners and young children as well as the more experienced. Strawberries are a great crop for making the most of the space in your polytunnel. They can, of course, be grown directly in the soil but can also work well in containers, vertical garden set ups and hanging baskets.
The first thing to think about when it comes to growing strawberries in your polytunnel is which type of strawberry and which variety or varieties you would like to grow. There are many different choices. There are the large, hybrid garden strawberry varieties that we are most used to seeing in our supermarkets and gardens. There are also alpine strawberries and wild strawberries, which offer different things. All can be very worthwhile additions to your edible garden. Most strawberries are red in colour, though white ones are also available.
Order strawberry plants in the late summer so that they can be planted in the early autumn. It is possible to grow strawberries from seed although since strawberry plants are usually so widely and cheaply available this is not usually worth the effort. Once you have a few plants, most strawberries will send out runners that will provide you will plenty more plants over the coming years, so that it will be easy to increase your stock year on year.
Strawberries are not too fussy. Provide them with sun, shelter, water and well-drained, fertile soil and they will be happy. If you are growing your strawberries in the ground in your polytunnel, however, do not plant them where potatoes or tomatoes have been grown in the previous year as these plants are al prone to the plant disease, verticillium wilt.
You can bring on your crop and encourage a slightly earlier harvest by growing them under cover in a polytunnel or under a cloche. A heated polytunnel will bring the harvest forward even more. Make sure though, that the temperature does not get too high as this can prevent flowering.
Water well and once the fruits have begun to form, take care not to water from directly overhead and try to keep fruits and foliage dry – at least making sure that they do not remain wet over night. Place straw or newspaper/cardboard around your strawberry plants to keep fruits off the soil and stop them from rotting. Look out for pests who like to eat your fruits as much as you do! Keep the polytunnel well ventilated to allow for insect pollination but if necessary, net your crop against birds and other creatures who will eat all the berries before you get a look in.
Summer strawberries will crop for a short time in July or August. Perpetual strawberries will produce small batches of fruit between early summer and early autumn. Strawberries are ready when they are fully coloured. It is best to pick them during the warmest part of the day as this is when the taste is at its best. Eat as soon as possible for the best flavour, or freeze or preserve them for later use.