Author: Pagan Pretorius The strawberry remains one of the most popular garden fruits and is relatively easy to grow. With limited space, gardeners can grow them vertically, in strawberry gutters, pots or unique strawberry pots, or even in hanging baskets. This allows them to produce a large amount of fruit from a minimal area. We have put together some guidelines on what environment you will need and how you can successfully grow and harvest strawberries in your backyard.
The best time to plant strawberries is early to mid-autumn, while early spring is the best time to sow strawberries.

Strawberry Growing Requirements:
  • A minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day
  • Soil with good drainage and high humus content
  • Water regularly
  • Mulch with a minimum thickness of 10 cm. Straw has traditionally been used as mulch to protect the fruit from dirt, damage, and fungal disease by keeping it off the ground. Mulch suppresses weeds and maintains soil moisture. Grass clippings, pine needles, leaves, and newspaper strips can also be used instead of straw.
  • Between August and November is the best time to transplant strawberry plants.
  • September is the optimal time to sow the seeds and transplant them in the following three months.

Sowing Strawberries by seed:
Seeds are best sown in spring, so make sure you sow by September or no later than the end of October. Tiny seeds can easily get lost or blow away in the wind and dry out quickly if not taken care of or watered regularly.

Prepare seed trays by filling them with a germination mix or coir or peat. One vital gardening tip is that regular potting soil is usually too dense for seedlings. Sow one seed per cavity, then barely cover the seed or don't cover it. You'll then need to keep the roots moist—but not soaked—and never let them dry. A suitable method is to put the seed tray inside a plastic bag to retain moisture during germination. Water regularly with a spray bottle, keeping the area moist but not soggy. Replant at eight weeks following the below guide.
To prepare your garden beds for your strawberries:
Dig a layer of compost, bonemeal and organic 2:3:2 fertiliser into the soil in late summer. Strawberries prefer slightly acidic soil, which can be rectified by adding a small amount of acidic compost to your soil at the preparation stage.

It's time to get your strawberry plants ready for planting! March and April are the perfect months to plant them, about 30cm apart. Make sure the roots are buried, and the crowns sit on top of the soil when you plant them. Pack down the soil and apply mulch and water thoroughly.

Watering and fertilising your strawberries:
It's essential to water your strawberry plants 2-3 times per week in the morning. Watering the leaves can lead to fungal disease, so it's best to avoid getting water on them. Once the fruit starts to ripen, cut back on watering, but ensure the soil never dries out. Fertilise in autumn and spring with an organic 3:1:5 granular fertiliser. Always make sure there is a thick layer of mulch around the plants.

To ensure bountiful strawberry crops.
The strawberry plants will send out runners, bare stalks with a leaf cluster at the end, from which roots will form. During the first two years, cut the runners from the mother plants to concentrate the plant's energies on fruit production. In the third year, choose the two strongest runners from each mother plant in autumn. To propagate your plantlets, gently press them into the soil with a U-shaped bent garden wire or hairpin close to the leaf cluster. Only cut runners from the mother plants when actively growing new leaves (after about one month), which indicates they have established a healthy root system. Transplant the new plants into new beds or containers or use them to replace diseased plants in the original bed.

Strawberry plants should be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. They will produce fruit the first year, and you can expect a bountiful harvest for several years after planting. After three years, lift and transplant the plants into new beds to ensure a continuous crop.

Good companions for strawberries include borage (flowers will attract bees for pollination), spring onions, spinach, and lettuce.
Aversions: Gladioli, Brassicas, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme

Strawberries are a delicious, nutritious fruit that can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, or in jams and pies. They are easy to grow and make a great addition to any garden.

Trailblazing Partners - Issue 6


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Issue 6 - Cultivation