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STRAWBERRY GROWING INFORMATION
© Frances Michaels
BOTANICAL NAME: Fragaria x ananassa
Rosaceae, the rose family
For the home gardener, being able to harvest bowlfuls of fresh, juicy, organic strawberries early
in the morning for breakfast is a great motivator but keep in mind if there are kids involved, very
few may actually make it back to the kitchen. Growing your own strawberries is easy to achieve
with the right approach.
We tend to think of strawberries as perennials but in fact they only produce for 2 to 3 years.
Commercially the entire plant is replaced every year because the plants are most productive in the 1st
year and the runners are time consuming to deal with.
In subtropical areas March - April is the best planting time. In cooler areas the recommended planting
time is late winter or early spring. Make sure the strawberry crowns (tops of the roots) are at soil
level or they will rot. Water well regularly after planting. Do not allow the plants to dry out before
new roots are established.
Plant the runners 35 cm apart in a staggered fashion with 35 cm between rows.
Choose an open, sunny position for the strawberry bed as good airflow will reduce fungal problems such
as grey mould. Raised beds are best: the drainage is improved; the raised sides act as a barrier to
crawling invaders such as slugs and snails; also it is a little bit easier to pick the fruit, weed and
Consider the size and shape of the beds before planting, as birds are just as keen on strawberries as we
are and you may need to net the strawberry bed. It is easier to do this if you have matched the size of
your bed to available netting. Using a series of hoops or a frame to hold the net well above the plants
keeps the air flow open. Just covering the plants without a support often leads to more fungal problems
in humid weather.
Strawberries prefer a well-drained soil, rich in humus. About a month before planting dig in lots of
organic matter, compost, animal manure or blood and bone.
Keep the beds well mulched, to control weeds and keep the fruit clean. Pine needles have often been
used as this mulch is acid and strawberries prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 - 6.0. Avoid
soil that has previously grown other berries or members of the tomato family (Solanaceae) to reduce the
danger of viral diseases.
Strawberries require plenty of water but hate wet leaves so laying drip irrigation or 'leaky pipe' is well
worth the time and effort. Try not to use overhead watering. A fortnightly spray with seaweed fertiliser
improves the vigour of the plants.
Runner removal is an important part of strawberry bed maintenance. The runners, if left, tend to overcrowd
the bed so that in the 2nd
year the original strawberry bed is too crowded to be very productive
at all. It takes time to do this annual clean-up and replenishment of the strawberry beds but it will reward
you with a large crop. It is common to see strawberry beds left to become overcrowded in the garden with 2
or 3 years worth of runners fighting for space, but these beds produce very few strawberries. The original
planting should have been certified virus-free stock and it is worth starting again with fresh virus-free
stock 4 to 7 years down the track. If you have the space, then plan for 3 beds over time with crop rotation
being practiced to reduce disease problems.
Prepare the bed and plant certified virus-free runners. These will be highly productive but will also produce
runners; pinch off the early runners to improve fruit production. After fruiting has finished these runners
should all be removed along with any old or diseased leaves. Make sure the crown of the plant has not become
buried by the mulch. The plants should be fed with compost and fresh mulch applied. They will then crop again
the following year but not as heavily.
If there is room in the garden, Bed 2 should be planted with the largest and healthiest runners from Bed 1.
This will be more productive than Bed 1 when they crop the following season.
Repeat the process again in following years. It is time after cropping twice to remove Bed 1 altogether
as it will be exhausted; a 3rd
crop is not usually worthwhile in terms of return. It is best to
remove the plants and compost them. For disease control, practice crop rotation and do not plant strawberries
again in this bed for a few years. Bed 3 can be created with the runners from Bed 1 or 2 in this season.
This method of growing strawberries will give you abundant crops of strawberries from your initial purchase.
PEST AND DISEASE PROBLEMS
Insect pests include thrips, two-spotted mite, caterpillars, curl grubs and Rutherglen bugs. Slugs and snails
can also seriously affect the crop so place snail traps in the bed. The sides of raised beds can be sprayed
with a snail and slug repellent such as
to prevent access or
protected with Copper Tape
birds the main choices are
Bird Scare Flash Tape
Fungal problems such as grey mould and black spot are common in humid weather; regular use of a
seaweed spray will help.