Growing Strawberries

Sow seeds now in pots, beds or baskets for a winter harvest of juicy bite-sized fruits

Growing Strawberries

Spring and autumn are the seasons for raising strawberries. Image: Getty Images 

From the Rosaceaeor rose family, strawberries are part of the genus Fragaria. They probably got their name from the early British practice of laying straw under the berries to keep them off the ground. 

Wild strawberries grow in woodland clearings and thrive on the acidic qualities of tree humus. 

After centuries of breeding in Europe and America, the main types grown now are commonly called garden and alpine strawberries. 

Spring and autumn are the seasons for raising strawberries. They fruit throughout summer and winter, and grow in most climates.

For a crop in about 16 weeks, grow strawberries from seed now or buy and plant runners for fast fruit.

Sprawling herbaceous plants, strawberries are grown in rows with at least 300mm between plants.

A single row of about 20 plants will keep the average family supplied during the growing season.

Grow in pots

If you don’t have space for a garden bed, grow strawberries in containers. 

There are lots of varieties that can be grown in the ground or pots and baskets, including specially bred plants that don’t produce runners. 

To grow several plants together without overcrowding, use a custom container called a pocket pot. Also used for herbs, it has cavities with openings that allow the strawberries to spill down the sides of the pot.

To make a DIY pocket pot, use a stack of graduated terracotta pots. 

Add potting mix and push the plants through the openings from the inside until the pot is full. 

Put the pot in a lightly shaded position and water regularly, but don’t wet the leaves. 

TIP Young plants dry out fast so don’t leave them in the sun before planting.   
 

Propagating the plants 

To make more strawberries from healthy parent plants, don’t remove the runners that are produced during the growing season. 

Instead encourage the runners to root by pegging them into the soil with U-shaped wire pegs then lift and replant. 

SELECT the best young runners or modified shoots.

LIFT the shoots carefully with a trowel and detach them by cutting the runners on either side with secateurs, keeping as much soil as possible around the roots.

PLANT the shoots into a prepared bed or pot immediately. 

Choosing a variety 

Red Gauntlet 

  • Large red berries 
  • Suits cooler climates
  • Summer cropper
  • Prolific fruiter
red gauntlet strawberries, growing strawberries, handyman magazine,
Red Gauntlet strawberries produce large red berries and suit cooler climates. Image: Thinkstock 

Alpine 

  • Good for pots 
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Produces small red, yellow or white berries 
alpine strawberries, growing strawberries, handyman magazine,
Alpine strawberries are ideal for pots and produce small red, yellow or white berries. Image: Thinkstock 
 

Roman 

  • Aromatic red berries 
  • Light pink flowers
  • Bears fruit first season 
  • Full sun to part shade 
roman strawberries, growing strawberries, handyman magazine,
Roman strawberries produce aromatic red berries and bear fruit in the first season. Image: Thinkstock 
 

Tarpan 

  • Small sweet berries
  • Red flowers
  • Bears fruit first season
  • Full sun to part shade 
tarpan berries, handyman magazine, growing strawberries,
Tarpan strawberries are small and sweet and produce red flowers. Image: Thinkstock 

In the garden

Start a strawberry patch from seed or transplant 100mm potted plants, costing about $4 each.

Buy only certified virus-free plants and rotate the beds each year to help stop the spread of soil-borne diseases. Choose disease-resistant varieties for your local area, if available.

Replace plants every few years when they are no longer productive, and make new plants from runners during summer. 

To prepare soil for planting, dig it over to remove weeds and improve with well-rotted compost. 

SOW seeds thinly in trays, cover lightly with potting mix and keep moist. Seedlings should emerge in two to three weeks. Transplant when large enough to handle into beds or pots in a full sun position with good airflow. 

PLANT strawberries in rows with the crowns, or swollen stem bases, just above the soil surface. Dig a hole in well-drained soil and spread out the roots then cover them with soil and pack it down. In heavy soil improve the drainage by mixing in sand, coarse organic matter or garden compost. 

WATER in well and keep the soil moist, don’t let it dry out or get soggy. Give fruiting plants regular water.

MULCH with straw or use weedmat, cutting slits for the plants. This helps to keep the fruit clean, suppress weeds and retain moisture.

HARVEST fruit when fully coloured and firm, cutting the stalks with secateurs. 

Leave berries on the vine to ripen fully. Hard fruit is still underripe, while soft fruit is overripe. 

TIP Pick regularly for more berries.

How to plant a bed of strawberries

Dig over a bed where strawberries haven’t grown before, adding well-rotted compost. TIP Rake in a dressing of general fertiliser just before planting.

Step 1. Mark the planting holes 

 

Mark the planting holes every 400mm in rows 750mm apart using string and canes. Dig the holes and position the plants, making sure the crown is level with the ground.

step 1. mark the planting holes,


Step 2. Firm the soil 

  Firm the soil by hand and water well. Mulch to stop the soil drying out and keep the berries clean. Remove runners regularly to keep the parent plant thriving. 

step 2. firm the soil


Dealing with pests and diseases 

Birds 

Ripe berries are eaten by birds, possums and dogs. Weighted cheesecloth or plastic works for birds, but to protect growing fruit and allow pollination use a crop cage or wire net to keep it safe.

Snails and slugs 

The leaves and fruit are a favourite of these nocturnal pests, who leave a slimy trail in their wake. Lay traps and baits, and use plastic weedmat so they have no mulch to hide in. Use copper tape on pots.

Botrytis 

Also called grey mould, this fungal disease can attack all parts of the plant. Common in humid conditions it causes fuzzy growth and brown, soggy fruit. Remove and destroy affected fruit and leaves. 

Caterpillars

Leaves with chewed or ragged holes are a sign of caterpillars. They don’t affect the fruit, so to benefit from butterflies in the garden just remove by hand and cover fruiting plants with mesh.

Aphids 

These small, sap-sucking insects feed on leaves, spread diseases and attract sooty mould. Pick off by hand, spray infestations with an organic insecticide, or release natural predators such as ladybirds. 

Powdery mildew 

This fungus shows as a white-grey powder on the leaves and the fruit. Spray with a solution of one part full-cream milk to 10 parts water or use a fungicide. Grow plants in full sun with good airflow.

 

 
 

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Growing Strawberries

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