Tips

Strawberry fields forever

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If you can only grow one fruit in your garden, let it be a strawberry. Strawberries must be one of the most loved fruits in the world and, because they’ll grow in a small space, even a courtyard garden can feature a few strawberry plants.

They’re quick, too. If you plant strawberries in April, there’s a good chance that they’ll produce fruit before the end of the year. And, as with any other plant, pre-preparing the soil will pay dividends in better plant health and production further down the track. Do this by digging in good organic compost and some natural fertiliser (blood and bone or Dynamic Lifter).

There are some excellent modern strawberry varieties and it’s helpful to plant a few different types if you have the space. This will maximise pollination of the flowers.

Strawberries are decorative enough to be used as a border along a garden bed – there are even some with bright pink flowers – but the plants can quickly become untidy. If you want them to stay looking good, they’ll need regular feeding and trimming. Tidying starts right at planting time when it’s recommended to remove tatty old leaves and trim straggly roots.

Packaged strawberries, which are certified free of virus disease, are usually available in winter. Otherwise, you can cadge some healthy rooted runners off friends. Runners are the sideway-growing shoots that the plants produce. In the early years, remove runners as soon as they appear because they take a lot of energy away from the plant. It’s only in about the third year that you should let them form and develop roots. By this stage the mother plant will be getting tired and it’s best to replace her with these vigorous offspring. Don’t bury the plants too deeply. The crown of the plant – the junction of roots and leaves – should be at ground level.

Strawberries are named after the straw that was used as to mulch them in earlier times. You don’t have to use straw these days (although there’s no reason why you shouldn’t) but they do appreciate some type of mulch. You can also use other mulches like leaf mould, dry grass clippings or weed mat. The idea is to stop weed competition but, better still, to keep the fruit off the ground so it’s less likely to rot.

Feed growing strawberries regularly with soluble Thrive. When the first flowers appear, promote good production by switching to Thrive Flower & Fruit.

Strawberries do very well in pots. Use a good quality potting mix (like Yates Premium). There are even special strawberry pots that have a number of planting sections. If space is at a premium, strawberries can be grown in hanging baskets or the versatile Yates Vertical Garden Bags.

Watch out for aphids and mites spoiling the leaves. Yates Nature’s Way Natrasoap will help with their control. Slugs often attack the ripe fruit, so sprinkle a few Blitzem pellets and pick fruit before it softens.

Birds are the number one strawberry pest. It might even be necessary to construct a cage over the bed to protect the strawberries and keep birds at bay.


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