Wild strawberry – simple to grow, tasty and plays a very useful role. There is every reason to grow it in your patch.
A teaspoon of soil contains a billion living things. These microbes are interacting with each other and with the plants nearby to shift nutrients around and breakdown organic matter. So the health of your soil and so of the plants you grow is linked to the health of this soil community.
80% of these handy little critters live in the top couple of centimetres of the soil. That’s one reason we advocate the following three things for all gardens:
Don’t use synthetic chemicals, which destroy elements of this complex web
Use a no-dig method of gardening so as to not repeatedly disturb the soil and destroy the valuable networks and soil structure that these microbes create and use.
Keep the soil covered, to retain moisture, create more organic matter and reduce erosion. That creates better conditions for these tiny soil assistants to thrive.
A fantastic and natural way to keep the soil covered is to encourage a mat of low-growing, rambling plants. The roots and dead leaves provide organic matter to the soil, the fresh leaves create a living mulch that covers the soil and if you choose the right plants, you can get a crop too.
Introducing the wild strawberry
Name: wild strawberry, alpine strawberry, woodland strawberry
Officially: Fragaria vesca
Likes: Shady spots and fertile soil, but a very unfussy plant
Provides: Ground cover and fruit
This low-growing, hardy, simple little plant will happily ramble along covering the soil nicely. It spreads by putting out runners (just make sure you source a variety that puts out runners, which most do). And it produces an abundance of sweet, mini strawberries from late spring to early autumn. It grows happily in shade too.
In mild conditions it retains at least some greenery through winter. If you give it lots of attention and care and thin the flowers to just a few, you’ll get bigger fruit. But we don’t suggest you bother.
Instead, just let it be free, rambling as it wishes wherever you are happy for it to be, creating brilliant ground cover and providing plenty of tasty little treats to nibble on as you enjoy your garden.
Should you get a real bounty of fruit we are told it makes amazing jam. But we’ve always nibbled too many on our patch to find out.
By Neil Kingsnorth