Woodland Strawberries are about the smallest fruits you will find. But don’t let their diminutive size fool you. These oblong berries, each about the size of a small almond, pack a remarkable amount of flavour, a burst of true, scrumptious Strawberry that puts the taste of many bigger berries to shame. You won’t find woodland Strawberries at the grocery store for the simple reason that they don’t keep. They should be picked when deep red and ripe, and eaten right away.
The European Woodland Strawberry is the old fashioned wild strawberry from European woodlands, it was widely grown in gardens prior to the introduction of commercial strawberry cultivars. Called 'Fraises des Bois' meaning literally, Strawberries of the Forest, the vigorous compact plants produce few runners and give a good yield of small, intensely sweet little berries.
The Woodland Strawberry is an easy landscape plant that stays compact, it gives a nice touch in cottage gardens and is a good groundcover. The plants are also suitable for rock gardens, path edgings, pots, and window boxes. Choose a position in full sunshine, they may also be grown in containers, towers and even hanging baskets.
"Surely God could have created a fruit better than the strawberry, but equally surely, He didn't."
Prepare the site:
Strawberries do not like wet roots, preferring a well-drained site with a preferably slightly acid, medium loam. The very best-tasting fruits are grown in full sunshine and while an open sunny site will produce the highest yields, a spot of shade won’t be too harmful, particularly for woodland varieties. Avoid frost pockets so that early flowering varieties aren’t damaged, any early flowers can be protected overnight with fleece.
Improve soil by digging in lots of organic matter before planting – compost or well-rotted manure is ideal. Turning it in well so the roots do not actually touch the manure. Fertilise in spring, a general-purpose organic fertiliser will give your new plants an extra boost.
To avoid disease build-up, grow strawberries in a different plot every three years. Don’t plant them where tomatoes, potatoes or chrysanthemums recently grew, because these plants are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a disease that is easily passed on to strawberries.
Strawberries have small root systems so they are good candidates for hanging baskets and containers. As well being attractive, the fruit isn't laying on the ground to rot and there is less chance that slugs will find them. Locate where the plant gets at least six hours of direct sunlight and turn it regularly so all the fruits are exposed to some sun.
Grow one plant per 5cm (2in) pot, so a 20cm (8in) container will hold up to four plants. Use a good multipurpose soil mix: water frequently in the summer. Feed every couple of weeks during the summer months; a formulation for tomatoes works well.
Sow in Autumn or Spring at a maximum of 5°C (41°F), using a well drained compost.
Plant out in spring or in early autumn. If in spring, de-blossom the plants in the first season to enable their roots to establish. Crowns should be at soil level, 40cm (16in) apart in the row with 1m (3ft) between the rows. Many gardeners grow strawberries through black polythene to keep the fruit off the soil. This also suppresses weeds, conserves water and stops soil splashing on the fruit. Otherwise, tuck straw or stones under the developing trusses.
Set the plants about 50cm (20cm) apart in each direction, using a string line as a guide to give neat, straight rows. The crown of the plant, where the leaves emerge, should sit at soil level. This is easiest with potted strawberries, which can be planted at the same depth they were at in their pots.
Strawberries can be planted into containers much closer together but will need dividing up and replanting after one season to keep them healthy. Use an multi-purpose potting soil and make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom.
Water the plants regularly as they establish and during dry spells. When watering, do not wet the fruits as diseases such as botrytis will follow. Do not use a hosepipe as it will spray the fruits, use a watering can and gently water near the crowns.
Container-grown strawberries are likely to need watering more often as the potting soil can quickly dry out in warm weather.
Strawberries put a lot of effort into swelling their fruits, so top up soil fertility before plants resume growth each spring by tickling in a general-purpose organic fertiliser to replace lost nutrients. Container strawberries will need feeding as often as once a week from the moment they come into flower. Use a liquid fertiliser that’s high in potassium, such as a store-bought tomato feed or homemade comfrey feed.
Tuck a mulch of straw in and around plants from early summer, before the fruits develop. This will help to keep them blemish free, while at the same time slowing weed growth and loss of soil moisture. Plants should be mulched in the winter
Harvest your strawberries when they are fully ripe all over. If you can, pick them on a sunny afternoon, when their flavour will be more concentrated. You can store them in the refrigerator, but this comes at the cost of taste, so leave them at a cool room temperature if possible.
The flowers are also edible and, although small, they add a mild, strawberry flavour if sprinkled on salads or when used as a garnish for drinks and desserts.
After the final harvest, tuck any spare runners into the row to fill in gaps or replace old plants. Remove any unwanted runners. Cut back the remaining foliage to about 10cm (4in) above the crown to allow the new leaves to come through. Water thoroughly and feed with a multi-purpose fertiliser.
Strawberry plants have a three 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. Strawberries can be propagated in late summer, but no later than the first week of September, by sinking 9cm (3.5in) pots of cuttings compost into the beds and inserting individual runners into them. Sever the new young plants from the parent plant when rooted.
Strawberries are good companion plants for Lettuce, Onion and Spinach.
Strawberries can be used as a natural dye and give wonderful shades of pink.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 300 Seeds Common Name Wild Strawberry, European Woodland Strawberry Other Language Names IR - Sú talún fiáin Family Rosaceae Genus Fragaria Species vesca Cultivar European Woodland Strawberry Synonym 'Fraises des Bois' meaning Strawberries of the Forest Hardiness Hardy Perennial Height 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) Spread 22 to 30cm (9 to 12in) Position Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Well-drained/light, Moist Time to Sow Sow in Autumn or Spring at a maximum of 5°C (41°F) Time to Harvest June till frosts