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Growing Strawberries In Your Home Garden

Apart from supplying runners to commercial growers, Sweets Strawberry Runners also encourages the home gardener to grow your own if it suits your lifestyle. Understandably most people have a hobby and some love to have their own gardens. Therefore the aim here is to provide the home gardener with as much basic but useful information as possible on how to start your own strawberry patch.

Strawberry Plants

The botanical name of strawberries is Fragaria x Ananassa, from the family of Roses (Rosaceae). Strawberries are short-lived herbaceous perennials, meaning plants can produce for 2-3 years.  However, commercially strawberries are grown for one season and replanted each year to maintain variety purity and yield levels. Runners are supplied as leaf-on or leaf–off by runner suppliers. Usually leaf-on runners are used by Queensland Growers for autumn planting. Leaf-off is normally used by growers located in the cooler areas where frost is a high risk.

Planting Strawberries

Basic considerations to make before planting,

Soil Preparation

Soil must be prepared well in advance with all required soil amendments.  To get accurate soil amendments you may need to test your soil by getting a soil analysis. This will give you an accurate picture of what nutrient is required in your soil.  If you are using manure, use mature well composted green or animal manure. Mix well into the soil in advance before planting your strawberry plants. Strawberries perform well in raised beds. Beds can be mulched well before planting.

Mulching

Straw is traditional mulch for strawberries.  However any other mulch may be used provided there is no risk of pest and diseases infecting the plants. Mulch keeps soil moisture in the ground and also keeps soil temperature cool in hot conditions. In colder climates mulching will help prevent injury to the crowns. Mulch will also help to give you clean berries rather than soiled berries.

Planting

Strawberries can be planted at 30 cm – 45 cm apart for fruit production.  Plant spacing depends on your micro-climatic conditions and variety that you wish to plant as some varieties have larger canopies than others, for example Sugarbaby canopy is larger than Lowanna. Plants planted too close together may not have enough aeration and become prone to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew or mould. Planting holes must be wet before planting. During Spring/Summer planting do not use black plastic when forming your garden beds as it raises the soil temperature. Optimal fruit production requires cool soil.

When planting roots must be placed into the soil and covered well while the crown must be sitting on top of the ground level and not buried into the soil. Rows of plants can be 30 cm apart within bed and can be up to 4 rows of plants per bed depending on your ease of reach.

After a week or so you may find the leaves may die back. Do not be alarmed as small new leaves will appear from the crown. This is not a disease, but the plant taking all the nutrients from the leaves to establish well and produce the best fruit possible.

Watering

Strawberries need plenty of water for good fruit production. However, overwatering may cause too much water to sit in the soil, which may lead to loss of nutrients or cause mould on fruit. 1” – 2” of water per week is needed for juicy fruit and is especially important while the fruit is forming, from early bloom to the end of harvest. Trickle irrigation is a commonly used method of watering once plants are established to avoid disease such as powdery mildew.

Plant Availability

Runners are only available from Sweets Strawberry Runners from April to September each year.

Fertilising Strawberries

Start with a rich organic soil. Adequate compost and organic manure should give the plants a good start. However, strawberries need good nutrients to produce continuous good fruit. Fertilisers can be used to add nutrients to the soil. Complete or balanced fertilisers (NPK +trace elements) are good source of nutrients. After planting, fertiliser may be broadcasted and watered into the soil or mixed in water and watered onto the soil around plants. It is important to add the correct amount of fertiliser as there is a risk of burning the plants when applying too much fertiliser. Calcium and potassium are important for good fruit production.

General Maintenance

Maintaining your garden is a must as there are so many pests, diseases, weeds and other undesirables that can be of nuisance to your strawberry plants. Good thick mulch normally reduces incidence of weeds, however any weeds growing along the rows or beds need to be cleared, as they harbour pests and diseases.

It is best to carefully remove any runners that grow from the plants. New runners growing from the plants compete with fruit for the available nutrients. The aim is to produce the best berries that you and your family will enjoy.

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