The berry, berry easiest fruit to grow

BERRY DELIGHTFUL: There's nothing quite like sweet, juicy strawberries fresh from the garden. Plant now to enjoy later in the year.
BERRY DELIGHTFUL: There's nothing quite like sweet, juicy strawberries fresh from the garden. Plant now to enjoy later in the year.

Strawberries have evolved from miniature wild varieties to the larger, juicier berries of today, and the sweetest and most flavoursome are those grown in the home garden.

So, if you don’t have a strawberry bed, now is the perfect time to plant one, and you too can experience the pleasure of feasting on freshly-picked, delicious fruits. 

Prior to 1943 strawberries grew strongly and cropped well in Australia until an outbreak of two virus diseases, one from America, the other from Europe, almost annihilated the strawberry industry.   

To prevent such a disaster happening again, the Victorian Department of Agriculture introduced the Certified Strawberry Runner Scheme under which healthy, virus-free plants were produced and made available to commercial producers and home gardeners. 

Today, when we purchase strawberries from nurseries either as runners or potted plants, they are labeled as certified free of virus diseases.   

Now, having purchased your virus-free strawberries it’s time to plant them.  

First of all prepare the bed with plenty of well-rotted compost and organic matter. A position that gets full sun, has good air circulation and is well-drained is vital. Raised beds may be a consideration.        

If runners are purchased they usually have a lot of fibrous roots attached. 

These can be cut back to make planting easier as they won’t be bent up in a heap on top of the ground. When planting use a garden trowel.  

Plant at spacings of 35 centimetres apart and 40 to 45 centimetres between rows with the top of the crown at ground level making sure the growing point is not covered by soil.  

Strawberries prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0 so if you can mulch, use pine needles.  

Avoid overhead watering.  

When flowering begins apply a liquid fertiliser every three weeks for a bountiful crop.   

Don’t plant strawberries in a bed that has previously grown tomatoes or potatoes as they may be susceptible to verticilium wilt disease which could be in the soil.

Strawberry plants can be grown in a small space - even a courtyard garden can feature a few plants in pots or hanging baskets. 

Varieties I have seen in local nurseries include ‘Temptation’, a large, early-fruiting sweet berry and ‘Sweetness’ which is very sweet and low in acid; ‘Pink’ is a medium-size fruit with pretty pink flowers; ‘Delight’ is a strong growing plant with medium-sized fruit and then there are the flavoursome  ‘Bubbleberry’, ‘Pineberry’ and ‘Strasberry’.  

There is also a white strawberry.  If you can get ‘Red Gauntlet’, a very old Scottish variety,  it’s well worth growing because it’s a continuous cropper that bears firm, juicy fruit from October until autumn.  

‘Tioga’ is another firm favourite but there are many more varieties to choose from.  

With careful planning using different varieties you can extend the availability of fresh berries over an longer period. 

DIARY

June 20: The Australian Plant Society meets at the Max Fry Hall on Gorge Rd, Trevallyn, Launceston at 7.30pm. Speaker for the evening is Dr Greg Jordon with the topic -  “Protaceae – a Gondwanan genus”. Visit www.apstasnorth.org

June 21: The Launceston Horticultural Society meets at the Windmill Hill Hall, High Street, Launceston at 8pm. 

June 22:  The Launceston Orchid Society will meet at the Newnham Uniting Church Hall, George Town Road, Launceston at 7pm.

Daily: The Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, Romaine, Burnie open 9am to 5pm.