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For sensational summer strawberries start now

For sensational summer strawberries start now

It might seem ridiculous to be thinking about Christmas already, but if you want the freshest, juiciest homegrown strawberries this coming festive season, it’s time to start planning.

Awapuni gardening guru, Tod Palenski, says in most parts of the country you can start planting strawberries from June, but if you’re in the cooler southern regions, you may need to wait until August.”

Wherever you live, Tod says strawberries are very easy to grow with some careful planning. The first step is to decide where you’re going to plant them.

“Strawberries grow best in sunny situations with well-drained soil,”he says.

“It’s also important not to plant them where tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum or aubergine have recently been grown to avoid the fungal disease verticillium rot.”

Once you’ve decided on a spot, you’ll need to prepare the soil. If you can, start preparing at least month before planting. This allows the fertilier to break down into the soil and incorporate as much organic matter as possible.

“As with all plants, soil preparation is important. Strawberries prefer a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.2, which is slightly acid, so you shouldn’t need any lime.

“You can enrich the strawberry bed by digging in potash, composted vegetable matter to provide a boost of food for the plants as they grow and fowl manure to reduce the pH.”

The next step is to select your plants. Tod recommends choosing seedlings with healthy, light-colored roots and large crowns (the top of the root).

“Awapuni’s traditional value seedlings are a great choice because they have been grown outdoors, rather than in greenhouses. This makes them more hardy for planting at home.”

Tod says strawberries should be planted in rows that are 60 cm wide and 100cm apart.
Make sure the holes for each seedling are large enough to slightly spread the roots out, and deep enough to bring the soil half way up the crown. Pack the soil firmly around the plants and then give them a good watering.

“If you’re planting in a wet area, mound the soil around the bottom of the plant. This helps with drainage and means you don’t get water pooling at the base.”

Once planted it’s important to keep them well watered at all times.

“The more moisture they get the juicier the fruit will be,” says Tod.

To retain water, he recommends covering the soil with newspaper or a weed mat. This will also keep weeds out.

“In spring, when the plants start to bear fruit you can also put some straw on top of the newspaper or mat. This will act as mulch and the fruit will sit on top of the straw and be less likely to rot from contact with the soil.”

Tod also advises adding more potash in spring to encourage sturdier plants which are more disease resistant.

“If birds are a problem you can keep them away from the fruit by covering the plants with netting just before fruiting begins, so you get to eat the strawberries yourself.”

Whether you dip them in chocolate, slice them into salads or just eat them by the handful, your summer strawberries will taste a lot sweeter if you grow them yourself.

ENDS

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