Berry nice - Easy Peasy Strawberries.
It’s impossible to match the taste of home-grown strawberries versus supermarket bought ones. The flavour and sweetness just doesn’t compare. If you desire growing your own scrumptious berries this season now is the time to get your plants in. Garden centres are stocked up with healthy new season plants ready to be planted.
Strawberries do not require a lot of space to thrive and are the quickest and easiest berry to grow making them ideal for the new gardener. Whether they spill out of strawberry towers, tumble from hanging baskets, troughs and containers or share a spot in the flower or vegetable garden, they will reward you with fresh berries for months on end if you treat them well.
Winter may not seem like the most inviting time to be in the garden but research shows that strawberry plants that get enough hours in the ground at chilling temperatures well before flowering will have an increased vigour and produce a higher number of berries over the season. So get your gloves and hats on and venture outdoors.
To ensure you get a good crop of berries each year remember that in the first season runners should be removed so that the plant’s energies go into producing fruit rather than foliage. In the second season plants can be left to form runners that are removed and re-planted for the next season’s fruiting. Strawberries can be left in the garden for three seasons before planting new plants. Fruiting will not be as abundant as in the first season. A rule of thumb is plant 5 strawberries for every member of the family, this should ensure you have enough berries for all to enjoy all season.
For gardens that have limited space, Strawberries can easily be grown in containers, hanging baskets or towers. All that is needed is Strawberry mix, a container and fresh new season’s strawberry plants. Strawberry potting mix is new from Tui Products this season, it’s packed with all the goodies strawberries need to flourish over the season, no need to buy bags and bags of other additives to ensure good berries any more. The mix is a balanced mix of fine bark and peat and is specially formulated with essential nutrients and saturaid to ensure strawberries have the best possible start this season. The initial fertiliser encourages fast establishment and healthy plant growth after transplanting, while the slow release fertiliser sustains that growth and the added potassium promotes fruit and flower development.
Growing strawberries in the garden is simple. Choose a sunny well drained position. Cultivate the soil to a depth of 30cm and blend in strawberry fertilizer, pelletised pea straw, saturaid and Strawberry mix. Next make mounds for the strawberries to be planted on. Mounding improves drainage, increases air circulation around plants preventing the spread of disease and gives shallow soils more depth. Black polythene can be used to cover the mound before planting. Plant 15cm apart on the top of the mounds. A layer of pea straw around the plants will act as a mulch to suppress weeds and conserve water as well as keeping the fruit healthy and clean. Strawberries like most plants perform better when fertiliser is added. Add Tui Strawberry food every few weeks to ensure stronger, healthier plants, because this fertilizer is high in potassium it will also enhance the flavour and juiciness of the berries.
Berries will start to appear in spring and start to ripen over a period of weeks. Birds are fond of the ripening berries and need to be deterred from enjoying your crop before you do. Cover with bird netting or chicken wire once berries are formed. Make sure its bird proof. A neat trick to deter birds is to paint a few stones red and lay them just outside your netting. Make sure that in size and shape they resemble strawberries. The birds will soon swoop down to peck them and get a real shock instead of a treat. Soon the birds will give up and leave your luscious fruits alone. It is fun watching them pick up the stones and shaking their heads when they peck down, sometimes do a little dance, perhaps in frustration - a strawberry haka perhaps?
Enjoy your berries this season and for a bit of fun why not challenge the people you work with or family members to see who can grow the earliest, tastiest or most strawberries, may the best berry win!