Name: strawberry (Fragaria sp.).
Plant type: perennial.
Height: 10–20cm. A low-growing groundcover, some strawberries spread by runners (producing another plant off a long shoot), so always plant at least 30–35cm apart.
Foliage: leaves appear in groups of three (trifoliate) and are rounded with sweet scalloped edges.
Climate: all climatic zones, even though they dislike frost. Easily protected from frost by covering with a thin layer of straw when frosts are expected.
Soil: well-drained soil enriched with compost and manure. Avoid planting in a soil previously planted with tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes or other berries, as these could harbour viruses that will impact strawberry growth.
Position: full sun.
Flowering and fruiting: small white flowers are followed by fruit from late spring, through summer and into autumn (depending on variety). Expect around 500g of strawberries per plant.
Feeding: feed with a flowering and fruiting fertiliser in autumn and spring. In areas of high humidity or throughout summer, apply a seaweed-based liquid solution every 2–3 weeks to improve resistance to fungal attack.
Watering: regular watering is essential, especially during root development (at planting and in early spring). Drip irrigation is ideal, but if watering by hand, try to avoid wetting the foliage.
Strawberries are not actually a berry – they are an aggregate fruit, one that is inside out, displaying its “seeds” (called achene) on the outside. Most are red, but you can also get yellow and white strawberries, which add interest to the garden, and to your fruit salad!
There are many types of strawberry. To extend your harvest, try to plant a mix of luscious large summer strawberries as well as reliable late-spring and autumn bearing strawberries, such as alpine or wild strawberries, and ever-bearing selections.
A strawberry plant is the perfect edible groundcover, especially in orchards. Planting it as groundcover is also the best way to get a crop large enough to provide for a family of four. Most families need around 20–30 plants for a decent harvest. With more plants, you can look at preserving your own berries, and even making jam.
In pots, towers and baskets, strawberries are a convenient snack, a great table centrepiece and a wonderful introduction to growing edible plants, especially for kids!
In gardens, plant your strawberry in full sun in a well-prepared soil enriched with compost and manure. Raised beds are ideal, as they provide good drainage. Make a hole the same size as your pot or, if growing from a punnet, a little larger than your seedlings so there is enough room for the roots.
Remove the plant from the container and place in the hole. Gently firm the soil down around the roots, leaving the leaves and the crown (the top of the roots) exposed. Water gently and apply a layer of sugarcane mulch. This will help reduce weeds, improve soil moisture and keep your developing fruit clean.
Plant at least 30cm apart to allow room to grow and adequate airflow between the plants (this helps prevent fungal problems).
In pots, select a premium potting mix with the Australian Standards tick of approval. Fruit or vegetable potting mixes are ideal, as they will provide everything your strawberry needs to get growing. Read our step-by-step guide on planting strawberries in pots. This method is the same for hanging baskets, bags and strawberry towers. Always water plants well and follow the safety precautions on the packet of potting mix.
Most strawberry plants send out runners – new plants at the end of a long shoot. These should be removed to prevent overcrowding. These runners can be planted in new pots and given to friends as gifts or used to replenish your own strawberry beds every couple of years. See “How to propagate” below.
Water your strawberry plant regularly, especially when in pots or during its first few months in the garden. Avoid overhead watering, as strawberries dislike having wet foliage, which can cause fungal problems. A simple irrigation system of drippers or a weeping hose connected to a timer is easy to install, and the perfect way to water your strawberries regularly.
Apply a seaweed-based solution at planting and every 2–3 weeks to keep plants healthy and more resistant to pests and diseases.
Apply a slow-release fertiliser designed for fruit in early autumn and spring.
Always buy virus-free stock and avoid planting in a soil where the nightshade family (such as tomatoes, eggplants, chillies and potatoes) have been grown. These plants share the same viruses, and can affect the health of your strawberry.
In humid areas, damp soils and areas where leaves are wet and plants are overcrowded, a strawberry can develop fungal problems such as grey mould and black spot. To prevent this from occurring, regularly apply seaweed solutions, avoid overhead watering and allow enough space between the plants.
Aphids, mites and caterpillars can be treated with organic sprays, while snails and slugs can be eradicated with pet-friendly snail pellets, snail and slug traps, or by using copper tape around pots or planters.
Net your plants after flowering to prevent birds devouring all of your delicious ripening berries.
Strawberries are easily propagated by removing the runners. Simply take a pair of sharp secateurs and wipe the blades with tea tree oil – this will clean the blades and prevent the transfer of diseases between plants. Cut the runner off, remove the long shoot and plant as you did the original potted seedling. Replace strawberry plants every couple of years to ensure a good, continual crop.
How to grow passionfruit: a very attractive, often tropical-looking, vigorous climber that bears masses of unusual, colourful flowers and delicious fruits.
How to grow cherries: sweet or sour, cherries are a popular summer treat around the world.
How to grow apricot: apricot is a hardy tree that grows well in most climates, though hot, dry summers will generate the best fruit.
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