Fresh strawberries for dessert, or jam-making on the weekend?
These are the tough choices facing the home strawberry grower.
Words: Sandra Ross Images: Sandra Ross and Shutterstock
Strawberries. Photo - Georgina198/shutterstock.com
Every October, we start to harvest strawberries every second day from our four large terracotta pots (pictured). It goes to show you don’t need a lot of space to grow these delicious berries. We planted four strawberry plants along the edge of each pot. With a selection of varieties, careful attention to watering and feeding, you can also have a bountiful supply of strawberries.
Strawberries in pots need full sun, good drainage and top-quality potting mix. Where winters are very cold, mulch them with straw to protect roots. We’ve experimented with strawberries in pots, raised timber sleeper beds and water tank garden beds.
Our potted strawberries did well. We were able to protect them from birds and lizards with wire mesh. Raised beds and Vegepods also work well, especially if bending is an issue.
Vege pods are especially good for school kitchen gardens.A shade cloth dome mesh cover keeps them protected from birds, lizards and snails. The inbuilt wicking system helps maintain perfect soil moisture level, where the plants draw water from below the soil not from a top watering system. The large size pod is mounted on a stand making it the perfect height for children.
June is a good month to plant strawberries. Before planting, add pelletised manure to the potting mix well. We use Gyganic. Plant the crown of each plant – the swollen stem base – near the soil surface, ensuring it is not buried too deep. Space crowns at least 30cm apart.
June is a good month to plant strawberries. Photo - Sandra Ross
The best way to prolong your harvest is to plant a range of varieties, so you can pick from October to May. If you're starting from scratch, buy seed or certified disease-free stock. We planted two varieties from Tesselaar, ‘Melba’ and ‘Tioga’. Both did well with good fruit production and sweetened as the summer progressed. The Diggers Club sell an English Heirloom variety, ‘Cambridge Rival’ which they claim is their tastiest strawberry with a harvest from November to January. ‘Temptation’ is late-fruiting variety, producing fruit well into autumn, long after summer varieties have finished. This non-running strawberry is perfect for pots. ‘Joy’ is a good variety for a warm climate, sweet tasting, low acidity and available online from Green Harvest.
You cannot overfeed strawberries! We alternate weekly foliar seaweed spray (eco-aminogrow) with homemade comfrey tea and worm wee. We also use Gyganic, an organic based fertiliser that has been boosted with fast-acting nutrients; this help promote healthy growth and vigorous fruiting. Water regularly and mulch well to prevent the shallow roots from drying out.
Over summer, strawberry plants send out runners from the original mother plant. These runners or modified shoots can be used to propagate new plants. If you don’t need new plants, cut the runners off. Regular removal of the runners will reduce overcrowding and conserve energy for the mother plant to keep producing fruit.
After fruiting has finished, tidy up the bushes by giving them a hard prune down to 10cm. After three years, mother plants become unproductive. Pull them out and replace with runners.
Pests & Diseases
This fungus affects the fruit and can quickly spread. To help prevent grey mould, give strawberries full sunshine, and plenty of space to avoid crowding and reduced air circulation. Don’t water late in the day as wet leaves can encourage fungal problems.
Thrips, mites, and other sap-sucking insects:
These pests can cause plants to stunt or produce poor quality fruit. Treat with an organic insecticide.
Birds and lizards:
Use wire hoops or cages to support a fine-gauge bird net.
About this articleDate: 28 May 2021 Author: Words: Sandra Ross Images: Sandra Ross and Shutterstock
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