One of my favourite things to do in the garden in early summer is to wander over to the strawberry patch and pick the biggest, ripest strawberry I can find and scoff it whole while sitting in contemplation with the sun on my back. There is nothing as delicious as a warm, ripe strawberry and they’re so good for you as well – packed full of Vitamin C and anti-oxidants.
Strawberries are an herbaceous perennial and their Latin name is Fragaria x ananassa. Modern Strawberries have been developed from woodland plants so that immediately gives you a clue about their preferred growing conditions. Strawberries are rewarding and easy to grow in the garden or a container – just follow our 7 simple steps and you’ll soon be having lots of yum in your tum!
Situation – Strawberries like a warm position but because of their woodland heritage they do best with protection from the hot afternoon sun. I cover my patch with bird netting which protects the fruit as well as giving the plants a little shade. Plant in late autumn and space about 40cm apart. Do not grow in the same bed as Tomatoes and Potatoes as Strawberries are susceptible to disease transference from these crops.
Soil – Strawberries prefer a nice fertile soil full of organic matter. They will happily grow in potting mix with a little compost added.
Water – Strawberries do not like to be water-logged but like an even amount of water. It is important they do not dry out in summer and autumn. Avoid wetting the fruit when you are watering as this may cause rot.
Feeding – I give my Strawberries a dressing of slow release, balanced fertiliser in spring. After that I put some mulch around the plants AKA crowns for the developing fruit to rest upon. Use straw if you wish to be traditional or any clean material such as bark, wood chips or shredded leaves. The mulch mimics woodland conditions. Thereafter I liquid feed every time I remember which is usually every 2 weeks or so until the end of harvesting.
Cultivation – Regularly tidy up any old discoloured leaves and stems and keep the plants/crowns weed free. Replace plants/ crowns every 3 years or so.
Pruning - Around February you will notice runners (long stems) will emerge from the plants with new little plants/crowns on the end of them. Remove these the first year. In year 2 or 3 healthy looking crowns on these runners can be cut off and used as replacement plants – yes plants for free – it’s that easy!
Harvesting – Pick the fruit when it is fully coloured as that is when you will get the best flavour. Cut off with the stem in tact rather than just pulling the fruit off. Store in a cool spot (not the fridge) and consume or process ASAP.
Wairere Top Tip – Plant Nasturtiums amongst your Strawberries for natural insect control.
Wairere Nursery 826 Gordonton Road, R D 1, Hamilton Ph: (07) 824 3430 Email: Open 7 days 8:30am-5pm