Saturday, 2 July 2011

Strawberries for Summer

Strawberry runner planted in June from older plant

Who doesn't love fresh strawberries? Home grown organic strawberries are a taste sensation, so I'm making the effort to grow them properly this year, not just pop them under the apple tree and hope for the best (ie hope the chooks don't eat them before I do). Strawberries are best planted in June and July, so that they establish and fruit earlier. They need a rich well drained soil so this year I'm putting them into a bed inside the veg patch so Miss Scarlett and company don't get a feast! Although strawberries are reputed to grow well in hanging baskets or pots I personally have not had much luck with the method. My strawberries seem to grow best where they are left to themselves under the apple, or the wild strawberries, tiny and sweet which ramble throughout the garden. I think this is becasue strawberries like cool roots, and these parts of the garden are cooler in summer - which is why pots don't work for me, the roots get too hot.
Wild Strawberries
In June I transplanted several runners from older plants. At this time of year they come as runners in bags packed into damp sawdust or peat moss. These will establish far more effectively than those bought in pots and planted in spring. I planted a second batch this weekend, which should fruit in January. My previous planting should fruit in December. Strawberry plants, although perennial, need to be replaced every couple of years. I leave one or two older ones to go to runners, thereby getting some new plants for free, and then pull up the old plant when the runners have established. The plant that begins to send out long shoots that put down roots (the runner) will do so at the expense of fruit, so only allow a couple of older plants to do this. If I had the room I would probably have three strawberry beds to rotate, but since I don't I'll have to make do with one.
Bare root runners
The strawberries, as they begin to fruit, will need to be protected from birds with netting or wire ( I remember my Dad making making hinged cages with lids to grow the strawberries under when I was little). Keep that in mind when choosing a position to plant in, as well as thinking about how easy it will be to slip extra straw or mulch underneath to prevent the fruit sitting on the ground and rotting as they ripen.
Scarlett, the Strawberry Bandit
So what are you waiting for? Plant those strawberries!

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