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Growing Strawberries in South Australia

Introducing Strawberries

A classic, all time favourite fruit which is easy to grow in even the smallest of home gardens or urban spaces. Growing them yourself is incredibly rewarding, and home grown strawberries are guaranteed to have far more flavour than the mass produced berries on shelves in supermarkets. They will grow happily in a variety of containers, runners and planters, horizontally, vertically, or even upside down from hanging baskets.

Classic Mistakes

Strawberry plants are prone to getting viral and fungal diseases, so allowing your strawberries to become over crowded, or the beds to be filled with dead leaves and weeds will make the them more susceptible to these diseases.

Sunlight

Grow in: Partial Shade - Full Sun

As strawberries are actually a cool climate crop, so you may need to set up some shade cloth to protect your plants from the intense summer sun.

Soil Preparation

Strawberries prefer acid soils, but will grow in a variety of conditions. Dig in compost and manure; then add rock dust and potash. Avoid high nitrogen rich fertilisers, and areas which have previously been used to grow beans, peas and other legumes, or any other berries. For planting, dig out a bed, put down some chicken manure, with several handfuls of blood and bone, then compost and finish with the original soil in a mound about 15cm high. Plant crowns on top of the mounds.

Sowing Seed

Sow seed: June-August
Sowing depth: Twice the height of the seed.

Chill the seeds in the freezer for 2-4 weeks before planting.

Growing strawberries from seed is not for the impatient gardener, as most plants grown from seed will only bear fruit a year after planting (or 5 months in the case of Alpine strawberries). Its usually quicker and easier to grow strawberries from crowns or runners.

Planting

Plant seedlings: May-July

Plant as early as you can to give them time to become established before spring arrives.

Plant the crown at ground level and make sure all the roots are covered.

Propagation

Propagating strawberry plants is easy and can be incredibly rewarding. You can use one of 3 methods:

1.Once more crowns begin to grow from the base of the plant, separate them carefully and then replant where you want them.

2.Propagate from runner. This is the safest and easiest method of propagating strawberry plants. Simply guide one of the runners from an established plant into a neighbouring pot or container with nutritious soil and wait for it to establish a strong root system. The runner will eventually dry up and break off, and you will be free to move the pot to its new home.

3. Grow new plants from seeds.

Care

Remove runners and dead leaves during fruiting season to increase fruit production. Take the plants out of the ground every year, replant in a new bed, and use runners to propagate new plants.

Watering

Drip irrigating works wonderfully for strawberries. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly, but avoid over watering, as this can make the fruit rot and attract snails. When the bulk of the harvest is nearly ripe, avoid heavy soaking to increase the flavour. Watering too much during this phase might mean bigger fruit, but a decrease in flavour.

Feeding

Fertilise in autumn with compost and worm castings if available. Apply liquid seaweed fortnightly- it protects the leaves from frosts and some pests, and sweetens fruits. Feed with liquid potash when flowers appear to sweeten fruit.

Mulching

Plastic mulch, with holes perforated for the plants is an option. This will help to control weeds and keeps the plants warm, but it can also impact soil health negatively, and does not biodegrade. The natural alternative is clean straw mulch, which can be added closely around the plants. Pine needle mulch around the plants is also beneficial, as it increases soil acidity.

Harvesting

Harvest: July-December

You can expect to pick the first fruit 20-35 days after the flowers appear. Wait until the fruit is shiny and deep red and then pick them by cutting the stem. Once picked, they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 -5 days.

What to Plant Now

What to do about Aphids?

Viral infestations can be caused by aphids. Use soap sprays, or manually remove the aphids.

What to do about Birds?

Net plants as soon as fruit starts forming.

What to do about Possums?

Net plants as soon as fruit starts forming.

What to do about Snails and slugs?

Lay down grit, like eggshells or silica sand or create barriers around your plants. Remove any slugs or snails that you see.

What to do about Fungus?

Fungal infections are many and varied, remove damaged leaves and weeds, and spray with copper spray in autumn. You will need to replace plants every two to three years and rotate planting sites to keep plants healthy.
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