- Strawberries grown organically in your own backyard not only have an amazing taste, but they fruit for a longer season than commercially-grown ones. Strawberries grown commercially are also usually sprayed heavily, so it’s good to avoid that.
- There are Day Short varieties which are strawberries that fruit prolifically early in the season like Camarosa, Tioga and Pajaro, and Day Neutral varieties which means they will set fruit regardless of how long or short the days are from spring through to autumn – examples are Seascape, Temptation and Yolo.
- When the worst of the frosts are over in your area, it’s time to get your strawberry plants in the ground. Strawberry plants need the cool winter chill to set them off to flower, but they need the warmth of the sunshine to produce sweet, juicy fruit.
- Strawberries like an acidic soil of pH5.5 to 6.5. Regions with high rainfall are going to have soils that are more acidic than drier regions. Clay soils are also more acidic than sandy, free-draining soils.
- You can add acidity to your soil with:
– coffee grounds, which also add carbon
– peat moss, which helps with moisture retention as well
– elemental sulphur
– pine needles, which are a good mulch and deter slugs and snails
- Don’t apply a nitrogen fertiliser to strawberry plants when they’re first planted because we want the energy of the plant to go into establishing strong, healthy roots, not the leaves which nitrogen promotes.
- What we do is dig a trench where you’re going to plant your strawberries, place animal manure (chicken poo, sheep pellets, horse or cow poo) into the trench and then mound the soil over the manure. It’s not until the plant is several weeks old and the roots of the plant reach down to the animal manure, that they get a nitrogen boost, exactly when leaf growth is needed on the plant.
- If you don’t grow your strawberries in a raised bed, make sure you hill the soil up so there’s no chance of the bed becoming water-logged.
- Once you’ve covered your trench, hill the row up again into a mound and plant your strawberries into this.
- But before you do, make a bath with a couple of capfuls of liquid seaweed, and soak your plants in this solution for 5 minutes or so. This gives the plants a good start. Nip out any flowers that are appearing so that your plants concentrate on root growth.
- As a general rule, you’ll need 5 plants for every person in your household. Plant about 25 cms apart to ensure good air movement in your bed which reduces the likelihood of fungal diseases developing.
- Make sure you plant the crown above the soil level. If it gets covered in soil, the flowers will rot.
- After planting, apply volcanic rock dust around each plant. This is a fertiliser high in phosphorus which helps with root growth. When the plants start to flower, apply more volcanic rock dust which has a high potassium content as well. Volcanic rock dust is not high in nitrogen, but by the time the plants need nitrogen, their roots will be down to the animal manure.
- Pour the seaweed solution you soaked the plants in over the bed.
- Rob then places handfuls of pine needles in the lower parts of the mound. This acts as a mulch and helps with moisture retention, as well providing acidity.
- Then he adds lucerne chaff (you can use any kind of mulch) more directly around the plants. This is because you don’t want the strawberries sitting on soil, as that will cause them to rot prematurely.
- Water it all in well.
- It’s a good idea to put your hoops and netting up at this stage. Birds and animals will love foraging in this bed, which is something you really don’t want.
- Strawberry plants can last for 2-3 years. If you have plants from last season or the one before you can chop back old leaves and any runners now. Feed them up with animal manure to stimulate leaf growth and when the plants start to set flowers, change the fertiliser to a high potassium one like Natures Organic Fertiliser to encourage fruit production. If your plants are suffering from botrytis or black spot, you can apply a sulphur solution once a week to get rid of it.
Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes