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Growing Strawberries on Trestles or Tables

We can often learn from the commercial growers. They have to grow decent crops with minimum labour to keep in business. This reader is asking about growing strawberries off the ground to avoid some of the problems of growing strawberries in the ground.

Strawberries in Hanging Basket

Strawberries in Hanging Basket

Hi John, I really look forward to your emails and advice. My plot is very free draining and this year because of recent heavy rain a good crop of strawberries got very badly splashed with the soil, causing quite a few to rot and the rest needing a lot of washing, also I now find it difficult to pick them (old bones and aching joints) so I was wondering if you knew of any methods of growing them off the ground similar to the way the commercial growers do. I am quite handy at turning old pallets’ into troughs and planters.
Thank you Terry

Hi Terry – Good to hear from you.

Strawberries are delicious and we’re not the only ones who love them. The slugs love them and the birds love them so, whilst not a difficult crop to grow, they’re a difficult crop to get.

Old Method of Growing Strawberries

The old method of putting straw under the plants (I wonder if that’s where the name comes from) would protect the berries from soil splashes and rot. At the end of the year when the foliage had died off leaving dry dead leaves, the straw was set on fire. This cleared the plant tops off and killed the pests. It didn’t stop the birds though. See: How to Grow Strawberries – A Brief Guide to Growing Strawberries

Commercial Methods of Growing Strawberries

So the commercial growers moved onto growing on waist-high, long trestle tables. The ground pests, primarily slugs, were kept off them. Crop management – cutting off the runners and harvesting – was far easier. No bending down and bad backs!

That still didn’t stop the birds though but because most commercial growers were growing in polytunnels, they weren’t a problem. Incidentally, strawberries really do well in a polytunnel or greenhouse. The extra warmth makes a huge difference.

Polytunnel Growing Strawberries

I grow all my strawberries in the polytunnel now. Some in a strawberry barrel, some through weed matting in the border but best of all is growing strawberries in hanging baskets. The baskets are more trouble than growing waist-high but they’re making great use of space. I can still grow as normal in the borders under the baskets.

Back to growing strawberries on trestles.

The Trough Method.

Pick up or build troughs around a foot wide and 8 inches deep (or deeper). Fill with good compost. I like to add perlite to lighten it and help the roots spread. Plant quite closely, 6 inches apart placing the plants to the sides so the fruits will overhang the sides. A drip line can be run up the centre of the troughs. If this is tank-fed, they can be fed through this with liquid feed. Either a commercial tomato feed or homemade such as comfrey tea.

Be aware of weight when building the trestles – wet compost will weigh around 60 kg per yard run.

The Grow Bag Method

Strawberries are easy to grow in grow bags which can be laid on the trestle table. You can fit around 10 plants per bag. You’ll need to feed and water which can be tricky with grow bags. Using something like a Speed Feed Grow Bag Irrigator  you can quickly water and feed the bags.

I’d say the grow bag method is the easiest and will give a clean crop but I’m not keen on having to start from scratch each year. Even if you propagate your own plants, you’ll still need fresh bags.

Protection

It strikes me that it should be easy to construct trestles with hoops or a frame on. This could be covered with polythene or netting to provide a bird-proof, warm growing environment.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
One comment on “Growing Strawberries on Trestles or Tables
  1. Rowland Wells says:

    We grow our strawberries in polypropylene woven groundcover breathable material that keeps the plants clean and makes picking a cleaner option although we do get the odd slug they’re not a problem.

    And from planting some three years ago we have had very good pickings and we are still eating strawberries from the freezer but having said that we decided to make a new strawberry bed as the original bed of strawberries were getting tired using the same format as before but this time in a raised bed but I don’t think we will see good crop of strawberries till next season.

    On trestle tables we visited a PYO strawberry grower who had both trestle and strawberries on the ground in grow bags both where fed and watered by an automatic system and last year they couldn’t grow enough the place was packed every day and people did seem to favour the trestle system more than the floor picking both crops were grown outdoors not in poly tunnels

    as i understand they are going for more trestle growing this season but I fear strawberry grown outdoors may suffer from the present wet weather unless the weather changes

    anyway a good topic to ponder on when one can’t get on the allotment because its lashing down with rain

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