What am I planting now? Quite a lot actually but now is the time to plant your strawberries.
By Penny Ossowski
Strawberries - The ideal fruit that we can all grow at home, a fruit that can be grown in any type of home – in a small pot, a large pot, a hanging pot, a polystyrene box, a garden bed or even in a bag of potting mix. Home grown strawberries are simple to grow, have more flavour than store bought ones and have no dangerous chemicals on them or in the soil where they are grown.
This need not be an expensive exercise but first get your growing area ready. For those planting in a garden bed, select a sunny well drained spot, dig the soil and
enrich it with plenty of compost, lots of broken down animal manure, some blood and bone and rock minerals then mulch until ready to use. If your garden bed is not suitable or you live in a unit or are renting, a self watering hanging pot could suit you or a polystyrene box or a terracotta strawberry pot or just buy a bag of good quality potting mix into which you can plant directly. The soil mix in these containers should have added compost, well rotted manure and some blood and bone and rock minerals. If you are going to plant in a bag of potting mix set up some sort of flat surface, up off the ground to lay it on, then cut 4 or 6 holes into which the strawberries can be planted and don’t forget several smaller holes in the bottom to allow excess moisture to drain. Strawberries prefer a slightly acid soil with a pH of 5.25 to 6.0.
In late summer, strawberry plants send out runners and most people grow their strawberries from these. If you need some, check with a friend, neighbour or BOGI Buddy who has strawberries and they will be sure to share some with you. When you plant them make sure the crown (top of the roots) of the little strawberry plant on the runner is at soil level not below or they will rot. Space them about 30cm apart. After planting, water them well, I usually water them with a weak seaweed solution. Many nurseries have potted strawberries for sale in late summer and early autumn. Strawberry crowns (the leafless central base of the plant) can be bought in winter from some nurseries, produce stores or similar. After planting and watering in cover the soil around them with a layer of mulch, this will keep the soil moist, protect their roots which are close to the surface and later keep their fruits off the ground. Commercial growers cover their soil with black plastic, but avoid using this as it can overheat the soil, damaging roots and micro organisms needed for a healthy ecosystem.
Strawberries like to be grown with borage, marigolds, bush beans, lettuce, onion, peas and spinach but dislike being near cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, thyme, rosemary and mint.
Strawberry plants have a relatively short lifespan (3 to 5 years). To achieve maximum production and lessen the chance of disease it is best to establish a new strawberry bed every few years and not re-plant in the same area for 3 to 5 years.
If you want to get your children involved in gardening strawberries are the ideal plant to get them started. They will really enjoy picking and eating their own strawberries and if they get enough sharing them with the family.
Before planting out runners they can be pegged down to the ground or into pots until they have rooted then cut from the mother plant.
Eden Seeds has Alpine Strawberry varieties to purchase online. Choose from sweet White or Red Strawberry varieties.