Strawberries

Strawberries thrive in a cool and temperate climate so they are the perfect fruit to plant this summer.

The secret to great strawberries is unfortunately not one thing but instead a labour of love. They
need water, fertiliser, space and replacement every few years.

NB different varieties grow to different sizes.

PLANTING
Strawberries grow as crowns which develop from the seeds located on the outside of a strawberry. But growth from seed is unreliable and it's best to purchase seedlings from your local nursery. The other option is to buy or barter "runners" from other growers. A strawberry plant sends off horizontal shoots which develop into new plants. These can be cut off and planted, so you will have a continuously regenerating supply.

It's important not to plant them too shallow or too deep. You want the crown of the strawberry to be above soil level but no risk of the root system becoming exposed. Mulch well with straw so keep moisture in the soil but also prevent fruit from rotting from contact with the soil.

Space strawberries 30cm apart in nutritious soil improved with compost and manure.

They need at least 6 hours of sunlight but full sun is the best position.

PLANTING TIME
In a cool climate, plant strawberries between September and November which means you want to get them in the ground asap. Strawberries don't do well in extreme heat and soon they will risk becoming stressed when transplanted.

HARVEST
When red and ripe they are ready to eat. The more you harvest the more they will fruit so make sure you pick fruit when ripe.

FERTILISER
Strawberries need potassium to fruit so get that banana water ready. But like most fruiting planting, fruit develop from a flower so make sure that you water with seaweed fertiliser or aquarium water weekly to boost phosphorous and flowering.

Watering is key. They need plenty of water. Boost watering if the plant starts to wilt.

COMPANION PLANTING
Strawberries have lots of plant friends including peas and snow peas, radishes, onions, lettuce, chives and spinach.

CROP ROTATION
Strawberries are a fruit plant. They however are a perennial plant which means they regrow every year after winter from the same crown. This means you don't do traditional crop rotation with them.

However, strawberry plants are only in their prime for 3 - 4 years. After this, it is best to compost older plants and replace them with runners. To incorporate crop rotation you can cut off these runners and plant them in beds where you have harvested root vegetables. Make sure you keep track of the age of plants so you know which ones need to be replaced.

CONTAINER PLANTING
Starwberries grow really well in containers. But I always recommend self watering pots and water crystals when growing in containers as they dry out quickly. Make sure you down crowd your strawberries. One every 30cm