Since the beginning of September, I have been feeding our strawberries with Yates Thrive Strawberry and Berry Fruit Liquid Plant Food every week. They’re looking very healthy and many of the plants have developed flowers. Today, when I was walking around the garden, I even noticed some green berries that had developed. It won’t be long before I have to cover the patch with bird netting!
We grow strawberries every year and really look forward to harvesting them in early summer. This year, I decided to devote even more room to growing strawberries. Normally, we have just a row or two, but I created four rows in the area we usually use to grow potatoes. To prepare the soil, Felia (the wwoofer who was staying with us at the time) and I worked in lots of compost and sheep pellets. As I needed lots of plants to fill the space and individually potted plants from the garden centre can get expensive when you’re buying so many, I purchased quite a few bare-rooted plants from a commercial strawberry grower in Katikati back in May. They are all “Camarosa”. These plants occupy three of the four rows. The other row contains runners from my plants from last season, mixture of “Camarosa” and “Pajaro”. Awapuni also gave me a complimentary bundle of “Ventana” strawberry plants to apologise for a mix-up with an order, so I used these plants to fill any gaps in the patch. I have never grown this variety before, so it will be interesting to see how these plants perform, not that I’ll probably be able to tell them apart from the others as I forgot to label them!
Once the plants were planted in the patch, I mulched around them with pea straw which I found on special at the Warehouse. I read somewhere that commercial strawberry growers use black plastic and make holes to plant the strawberries, but I was concerned that the strawberries might get burnt on very hot days. Next year, I might use black plastic for one row as an experiment. I do use black plastic for planting melons, with very good results as it increases the soil temperature considerably. I know it’s not great for the soil, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to succeed in the garden.
The key to growing great strawberries is lots of sunshine, water and regular feeding. Don’t forget that birds also love strawberries, so make sure you cover plants with some netting to prevent them from being eaten before you can pick them! Obviously, pick berries as soon as they have ripened to encourage further fruiting and avoid being beaten to it by the birds!
After the strawberries stop producing fruit (for me, this is usually after Christmas), you will notice that the plants produce runners, which are new strawberry plants that are connected to the parent plant. Let these develop and by autumn, when you’re starting to think about tidying the patch for the following season, you will have new, free strawberry plants! All you have to do is snip them off from the parent plant. Normally strawberry plants lose their vigour after their second season, so it might be worth investing in some new plants to complete your patch if you don’t have enough runners and your parent plants are past their prime.