by Wally Richards
New seasons strawberry plants are now available in garden centres.
The nurseries that grow the plants lift them after the autumn rains have moistened the soil sufficiently, then they are distributed to the garden centres.
I find that the sooner you can get your new strawberry plants into their new beds the better results you have in the first season.
Like all things planted, it is root establishment that is so important. When planting, place about a teaspoon of Unlocking Your Soil in the planting hole with a pinch of BioPhos for each strawberry plant.
Gardeners with existing beds of strawberries will likely have a number of runners that have rooted in nicely; these can be used for new season plants..
If the existing strawberry bed is not congested with old and new plants and there is ample room still for all the plants to grow and produce, then you can get away with not lifting the runners or only lifting those that are too close to existing plants.
Strawberries are easy to grow and can be grown in open ground or containers.
In open ground the most practical way is to make a bed with wood surrounds 16 to 20 cm tall and have a hinged frame over the bed that has either plastic bird netting or wire netting over the lid. The whole frame needs to only sit on the soil so it can be moved if required.
If using tanalised timber for the surround, then after cutting to size, paint all the wood with a couple of coats of acrylic paint to prevent chemicals leeching into the soil.
Strawberries can be grown in troughs about 16 to 20 cm wide and similar depth then as long as required. I like to hang these off the top rail of a fence.
Special strawberry planters made from clay or plastic are not very good and your results are likely to be poor. (They are the types where plants are placed in holes around the container as well as on top.)
Polystyrene boxes with holes in the bottom are also ideal containers for good crops if they have a rooting depth of 15cm or more.
The growing medium should be a good compost such as Daltons or Oderings to which you can add untreated sawdust and a little clean top soil or vermicast (worm casts from a worm farm.) A mix of about 75% compost, 20% sawdust and 5% vermicast is good value.
Mix the above in a wheelbarrow then place a layer of the mix 5 cm deep in the base of the trough or container.
Now sprinkle a layer of chicken manure, some potash, BioPhos, Unlocking Your Soil and Ocean Solids. Horse manure is also very good. If you do not have chicken manure available use sheep manure pellets and blood & bone.
Cover with more compost mix to a depth suitable for planting your new strawberry plants.
A similar process can be applied to a open bed with a frame, though the frame height may need to be taller than previously suggested.
Ensure that the soil at the base of the frame is free of most weeds and then place a layer or two of cardboard over the soil. This will help prevent weeds from coming up in the bed, then fill as suggested.
There are a number of different varieties of strawberry plants available to the home gardener, sometimes the older varieties such as Tioga and Redgaunlet (both are hard to come by now replaced with the newer varieties such as Chandler, Pajaro and Seascape.
Different varieties will do better or worse in different climates so choose the ones most suited to your area of the country.
Strawberry types include:
Strawberry Baby Pink™ Producing stunning beautiful pink flowers followed by small to medium red fruit with sweet traditional flavour. Large bunches of berries ripening over a long period.
Habitat — Compact, strong growing strawberry. Size – Give these small to medium plants close spacing.
Pollination – Self-fertilisation. Unknown if short day, neutral or long day type.
Strawberry Camarosa; Large to very large medium dark red fruit. Firm medium red flesh with excellent flavour. Conical shape.
High resistance to wet weather. Habit – Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Vigorous growth habit.Size – Give these vigorous plants wide spacing.
Pollination – Self-fertile. Short day type – flowers are initiated by short day lengths.
Harvest — Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering, depending on climate, with light crops in early summer, followed by a main crop in December–January. The yield is very good.
Strawberry Chandler; Small to very large medium red fruit. Firm light red flesh with very good flavour. Conical shape. High resistance to wet weather.
Habitat — Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Multi-crowned growth habit.
Size – Give these multi crowned plants medium spacing. Pollination – Self-fertile. Short day type – flowers are initiated by short day lengths.
Harvest – Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer followed by a main crop in December – January. Yield is very good.
Strawberry Sundae™ Large red fruit with excellent flavour. Firm red flesh in an oval shape.
Habitat — Suitable for Northern and Central districts. Vigorous growth habit. Size — Give these vigorous plants wide spacing.
Pollination -= Self-fertilisation. Short day type — flowers are initiated by short day lengths.
Harvest – Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer followed by a main crop in December – January. Yield is average.
Strawberry Supreme™ Very large bright red fruit. Very firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Conical shape. Good resistance to wet weather. Habitat — Suitable for Northern and Central districts.
Moderately strong growth habit. Size — give these small to medium sized plants close spacing. Pollination — Self-fertile. Short day type — flowers are initiated by short day lengths.
Harvest — Fruit ripen 20-35 days from flowering depending on climate, with light crops in early summer followed by a main crop in December – January. The yield is very good.
Strawberry Temptation™ Medium bright red shiny fruit with excellent flavour. Pale firm flesh.
Habit – Compact strong growing strawberry. Tough and resilient in relation to pest and diseases.
Size – Give these medium plants close spacing.
Pollination — self-fertilisation. Only NZ-bred Day Neutral strawberry which means they will set fruit regardless of how long or short the days are making this an ideal fruiter national wide.
They will extend the North Island season. Harvest — Consistent high yields of berries ripening over a long period from October to March.
To enhance your strawberries and increase the crop yields by 200 to 400%, drench the bed with Mycorrcin after planting and repeat again in a couple of months time.
Spray the plants with Mycorrcin every two weeks till the end of season. Make up in a trigger sprayer — it keeps so leave it by strawberry bed and spray as required. MBL can be added to the spray.
For bigger berries you may like to try Wallys Secret Strawberry Food.