Strawberries are probably the most popular fruit in the world with their sweet juicy berries that are a good source of both vitamin B and C. They are easy to grow in garden beds, pots and hanging baskets making them perfect for even the smallest garden or balcony.
Strawberries are also a great way to get kids interested in gardening as they can reap the benefits of their toils in a few short months. If any manage to make it back to the kitchen try coating them in chocolate – yum!
How To Grow Strawberries
Plants can be purchased as bare-rooted crowns in autumn and winter or as potted plants usually during the warmer months. If accepting plants or runners from friends be sure the plants are virus free before introducing them into your garden.
Choose a site in full sun with fertile, free-draining soil. Strawberries perform much better if well fed so dig in a generous amount of animal manure and compost and if possible let it rest for a week or two before planting. They also like their soil to be on the acidic side so you should test the pH. Adding the above organic materials will help acidify soil but depending on your pH reading you may also need to add sulphur.
Plant so that the strawberry crown sits just above ground level to provide good drainage and prevent crown rot. Mulch around the plants with straw or sugar cane mulch to reduce disease transfer and keep fruit clean as it develops.
Plants will flower during the warmer months of the year with fruit being ready to pick 3-6 weeks after that. Most varieties will produce multiple crops a year provided they are well fed and watered.
You may also see strawberry seed available and this will be for the alpine strawberry which produce small but extremely flavoursome berries. Sow seed in autumn or spring.
Feed plants every 2-3 months with animal manure, compost or a Certified Organic pelletised organic fertiliser. In addition we recommend applying a solution of eco-seaweed and eco-aminogro every 2-3 weeks to keep plants vigorous, healthy and FRUITING.
Ongoing Strawberry Maintenance
Water plants early in the day so that leaves and fruit dry off quickly to help deter fungal diseases developing. Remove any dead or tatty leaves to improve airflow and again reduce disease problems.
Established plants will produce runners and these should be removed regularly to encourage energy to go into fruit production. Only keep runners if you wish to propagate new plants.
Strawberry plants often loose vigour after 2-3 years and you will find that the fruiting reduces. Sometimes this is because of the variety you are growing but often it is due to viral infections which are very common in strawberries. When this happens buy replacement virus-free plants and prepare a new strawberry patch in a different part of the garden.
However if the plants are just tired (and not virus infected) then dig up clumps in winter, remove all old leaves and split the crowns. Select a new site, add manure and compost to the bed and then replant only the strongest crowns. Another option is to leave the runners on the plants in late summer and let them take root. They can then be cut from the mother plant and transplanted into a new strawberry patch where they will quickly develop into crowns.
Pest and Disease Problems for Strawberries
Unfortunately we’re not the only ones who love strawberries. They are a favourite of many creatures including caterpillars, birds, possums, snails, aphids, mites, whitefly and more! Inspect plants regularly and pick off the larger pests while netting may be required for the birds and animals.
There are also a range of fungal diseases which attack strawberries, including powdery mildew. Keeping plants clear of dead leaves and rotting fruit is the first important step in minimising these problems.
Use the following sprays for organic controls:
- eco-oil for aphids, mites and whitefly as well as to attract beneficial predatory insects like ladybeetles
- eco-fungicide for powdery mildew control and other diseases
- eco-neem will control caterpillars but isn’t yet approved in Australia for use on edible plants. Overseas it is approved and you can spray and harvest the same day. Go figure!
Strawberries are also susceptible to a range of viruses which can cause stunted growth, crinkled leaves, misshapen fruit and reduced vigour. Infected plants cannot be “fixed” so the focus is on prevention. Here are our prevention tips:
- Do not plant strawberries where tomatoes or potatoes have previously been growing for 2-3 year as they can share the same viruses
- Rotate the strawberry patch location every few years using fresh virus-free plants
- Control aphids regularly with eco-oil as they transmit viruses
While this all might sound a bit daunting there is an easy way to keep your plants happy and healthy and it’s our “secret recipe” spray. Mix the following products together:
eco-seaweed + eco-aminogro + eco-oil + eco-fungicide
Spray plants every 2 weeks with this solution to promote vigour and feed plants while controlling the common pest and disease problems. Be sure to make a fresh batch of spray each time. It really is that easy!