Last winter, Awapuni Nurseries kindly sent me a bundle of plants, including 50 Camarosa and 50 Ventana strawberry plants. We had our best strawberry season ever. I don’t think we have ever harvested as many strawberries in a season. They cropped from October until the end of January. I want to share my top tips for growing strawberries successfully.
It pays to source high quality plants if you want a good crop of strawberries. Around May/June, Awapuni stock bare-rooted strawberry plants on their website. The advantage to buying strawberry plants bare-rooted is that they are more economical than purchasing individual potted plants found at garden centres. If you have a large garden and are wanting to grow a lot of strawberries like we did, then Awapuni’s Mega Bundles of strawberries are perfect for you. Last year, Camarosa and Ventana came in Mega Bundles of 50 and 100 plants, which is more economical than buying standard bundles and definitely cheaper than purchasing lots of potted plants from the garden centre.
Strawberries tend to crop well for three years. After that, they lose their vigour, so it’s best to replace them with fresh plants. A commercial grower told me that strawberry plants tend to be the most productive in their second year.
Preparing the area
Strawberries do best in full sun, as all berries need quite a bit of sun in order to ripen. I mixed compost and sheep pellets into the area beforehand and dug the bed over.
I always plant my strawberries in double rows of 25 plants within a tunnel hoop frame which I set up at the time of planting so I ensure I don’t exceed the parameters. This is later used to drape bird netting over the plants once the berries start to ripen. So each row contains 50 strawberry plants.
Prior to planting, I like to mix a little strawberry fertiliser into each hole. Last year, I happened to have a Dalton’s slow release fertiliser for strawberries on hand which I picked up on clearance at the Warehouse. This year, I don’t have that product, but I do have quite a bit of tomato fertiliser which is suitable for fruiting plants, so I will use that instead.
When planting your strawberries, ensure that the crown isn’t covered otherwise it will rot.
I like to snip off any dead leaves while I put in each plant.
Once you have finished planting, water the plants well.
I like to mulch our strawberry plants with pea straw to help keep the weeds down and add nitrogen to the soil. I have been doing this for many years with great success. Some strawberry growers swear by using black polythene. I tried this once but reverted back to pea straw as a mulch as I preferred it more.
Maintaining the strawberry bed
As the weather warms up in spring, the key thing is to keep weeds down as they compete with the plants for nutrients.
Once the plants start to flower, I like to liquid feed the area weekly with a water soluble plant food specialized for growing berries. This will encourage further flowers and fruiting.
Once berries start to ripen, cover them with netting to protect them from birds.
Harvest berries daily as they ripen to ensure that birds don’t get them and they don’t rot. Regular picking will also encourage further fruiting.
Towards the end of the season, your plants will start to produce runners, or baby plants which are attached to the parent plant. Peg the end down in the soil so that it develops roots and forms a new plant which can later be separated from the parent plant and planted elsewhere.
Ideas for using strawberries
There are so many different ways strawberries can be used. They are delicious eaten fresh and added to smoothies. We had so many last year that for the first time we actually froze some free flow, for using in smoothies later on.
There is nothing like a Christmas pavlova decorated with strawberries fresh from the garden. They are also delicious dipped in chocolate.