Home-grown strawberries are the best being fresh, juicy and full of flavour, and if you don't have a strawberry bed, now is the time to plant one.
The modern strawberry is believed to have developed from crossing two American wild species Fragaria vesca and Fragaria grandifolia.
From these crosses hybridisers have developed larger and more juicy varieties which best suit our climates and soils.
Strawberries are quite tolerant in their soil needs, but prefer a rich top soil with plenty of humus.
Strawberries will, however, do quite well in sandy soils provided plenty of humus is added but they dislike heavy, shallow clays which dry out in summer.
They are acidic soil lovers so need a soil pH between 6 and 6.5. A more acidic soil can be improved with the addition of lime.
Do not plant in soil that has previously grown potatoes or tomatoes as verticillium wilt disease may be present in the soil.
One of the most successful ways of guaranteeing a good crop of strawberries is bed preparation before planting them as this bed has to sustain the plants for at least three to four years.
The bed should ideally be dug over in late summer with as much organic matter incorporated into it as possible.
A month prior to planting, spread two good handfuls of a complete fertiliser over the bed and lightly rake in.
If drainage is a problem plant in raised beds about 15 to 20cms high.
Purchase virus-free runners and plant in a zig-zag formation with about 40cms between each plant.
Remove any old leaves and trim long roots lightly.
Spread the roots out so they are not bunched together and place on a raised mound in the centre of the planting hole.
The runners should not be planted too deep.
The crowns should not be planted below ground level otherwise rot will set in, nor should they be planted too high so that the roots dry out.
Press the soil around each runner after planting and water gently to consolidate the soil around the root area.
Strawberries soak up vast amounts of water to produce a good crop so water deeply to at least 30cms below the soil surface.
A guide as to how much and when to apply water is to examine the soil at the 20cm depth in the vicinity of the roots.
A drip irrigation system that doesn't wet the foliage or fruit would be ideal.
A mulch of straw will retain moisture, help prevent fungal problems, suppress weeds and keep the fruit clean.
A fortnightly feed of a water-soluble fertiliser is recommended, but not one high in nitrogen because the plants will produce leaves at the expense of berries.
Plants will usually bear productive crops for three years then it's time to replace them with new runners.
Strawberries make pretty border and along pathway plantings and look attractive growing among herbs and flowers. Trailing varieties are suited for hanging baskets.
An unusual feature of strawberries is that they have their seeds embedded in the outside skin instead of being contained inside the fruit.
June 7, 8, 9, 10: Bonsai Exhibition, Masonic Lodge Hall, King Street, Scottsdale 9am - 4pm. Light refreshments.
June 18: Australian Native Plant Society, Max Fry Hall, Gorge Road, Launceston, 7.30pm. Mick and Helen Statham to speak on Flora & Fauna of Iceland and Scottish Outer Islands.
June 18: APSTAS NW meet at St Paul's Church Hall, 15 Thomas Street, East Devonport, 7.30pm
June 19: Launceston Horticultural Society, Windmill Hill Hall, High Street, 8pm. Shane Newett the giant pumpkin breeder.