If you love strawberries, maybe you could try growing strawberries in your own garden or in a pot. Growing strawberries is perfect for people with small gardens because they don't take up much space but they produce a great harvest. Besides, home-grown strawberries taste so much better than those bought from the shop!
So why not give it a go and grow your own strawberries.
Growing Strawberries - Site Selection
Although strawberries will tolerate some shade, they do best in full sunshine. So make sure you grow your strawberries in the appropriate place. Because strawberries tend to suffer from diseases which can remain in the soil, it is best not to grow strawberries in the same bed that they have been grown in recently. Also avoid beds which have previously grown capsicums or tomatoes as these vegetables may leave a fungus in the soil which will damage the strawberry plants.
Another good way to grow strawberries is as a border around other gardens.
For more information, see vegetable garden design.
Picture credit: kittyela on morguefile.
Strawberry Garden Bed Preparation
Thorough preparation of the garden bed for growing strawberries is recommended since the strawberries will be growing in the same place for three or four years. All weeds should be removed (especially perennial grasses) and the soil dug to a depth of 8 to 10 inches (20-25cm). Because growing strawberries requires a rich soil, it is a good idea to add blood and bone fertilizer and compost or well-decayed animal manure to the garden beds. If the soil pH is below 5.5 (acidic), you will need to add some lime. Strawberries also like good drainage, so on poorly drained soils, you will need use a raised garden bed. On all but the very best drained soils, mound up the soil to at least 8 inches high (20 cm).
Other places for growing strawberries
Even if you have very little room in your garden, don't worry - strawberries will grow well in barrels, pots, tubs or boxes.
Growing Strawberries - Choosing Plants
Special varieties of strawberries have been developed for subtropical areas and those places with warmer winters. So make sure you choose a variety suitable for your location. Your local nursery should be able to advise and supply you with the right varieties. In cool climates, you can grow strawberries under a glass or plastic shelter to protect the flowers from frost and so reap an earlier harvest than otherwise possible.
To avoid the strawberry plants drying out during planting, soak them first in water. After removing the plant from the pot, spread the roots out well and plant in your prepared bed so that the soil level is at the base of the crown. Set out the strawberry plants in rows 20 to 24 inches (50-60cm) apart and with about 10 inches (25cm) between plants. Press the soil down firmly around the base of the plant.
Now water your strawberry plants thoroughly so that the soil settles around the roots.
Mulch the plants (eg. with sugar cane mulch or straw) to prevent moisture loss, suppress weed growth and to keep the berries off the soil which could otherwise cause the fruit to rot. Straw is preferable to hay as hay can contain lots of grass seeds. Bear in mind that snails love to hide in damp straw, so you will have to be vigilant in your control of these hungry pests. It is advisable to remove and replace your straw mulch every two years because it can harbor snails and other insects. Don't dig it into the soil as it may deplete the amount of nitrogen in soil. Many commercial growers use black plastic as their mulch when growing strawberries. If you choose to use black plastic, make sure that any water applied can get to the plants roots.
Because strawberries only last about 3 to 4 years, a good plan is to replace 1/3 or 1/4 of your strawberry plants each year so that you can get a continuous crop.
Care of your Strawberries
When the first flowers show, it is a good idea to topdress your strawberry bed with some well composed chook manure.
In Spring, remulch the garden bed.
Remove any runners as soon as they appear in mid-summer to keep the strawberry plant flowering. Pick the fruit as soon as it is ripe. Steady harvesting will encourage the plants to yield more strawberries for your enjoyment.
In Winter, thin out the strawberries and remove any dead or dying leaves which may otherwise carry diseases. Apply manure or blood and bone and work this in between the rows.