Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Strawberry Sensations

Strawberries. Those wonderful sweet, juicy, red berries that we just don't seem to get enough of... especially with kids around! Ok, so I know I'm not describing supermarket bought strawberries, but that's why I bring you this post today. A home grown strawberry will win your heart and save your pocket. You'll never want to spend money on a shop strawberry again.

Here at Martin Farm it is time to plant out strawberries. Old plants have recently sent out new shoots and avid gardeners have pulled them out and potted them up for lucky buyers like you and I.

When I see someone at Bunnings looking at those horrid little rootbound pots of strawberries for $3.50 or more, I lean in and tell them to go to their local flea markets or carboot markets, whatever you want to call them.
At these markets you will most certainly find at least one gardener who grows and sells strawberries. In most cases they are organic gardeners who don't spray their plants with toxins. This means the plants have come from stock that has naturally built up a resistance to pests and diseases. I ususally ask just to check.

The added bonus is that most people sell them for just $2 a pot and if you get there early enough you can occasionally find a few pots with two strawberry crowns. I like to bargain them and offer something like $10 for six pots, that's half the price I would pay at Bunnings and I get much healthier plants with a higher chance of surviving transplant and providing better fruits.

So how many plants DO you need? That really depends on how many people you are providing for, how much you love strawberries and what you want to do with them.
I like to make jams and strawberry jam is a simple beautiful recipe that uses up lots of strawberries. One kilogram of strawberries makes around four jars of jam. I want to freeze some when I grow enough, to use for baking.
Then there's the simple pleasure of picking a fresh berry and chowing down on it while garden foraging. This is something H likes to do A LOT.
The general opinion is that 20 plants will provide plenty of fruit for a small family. This leads me to the conclusion that I will need at least 60 plants just for us!

Strawberries like good rich soil, I planted mine into well rotted cow manure. You can also use well cooked compost or worm castings. They like to be fed a weak seaweed treatment every two to four weeks until around flowering season, this is when you back off and only provide water.
If you provide too much nutrients, specifically nitrogen at this stage you will get very leafy plants and no flowers. No flowers mean no fruit. No fruit means no strawberry jam! What fruits you may get will bruise easily with too much nitrogen.

To see a guide for depth of transplanting look here.

A good deep mulch is vital to moisture retainment of the soil and to keep weeds at bay. I like to use straw as it's cheap and provides nutrients back to the soil after it has broken down. If growing in pots I like to use stripped newspaper as it mats up when wet providing a no flying mulch.You can also use grass clippings, wood shavings, sawdust or compost.

There are many things that grow well with strawberries, these include lettuce, sage and spinach.
Pyrethrum daisies will keep many pests away with its aroma. Borage is a wonderful herb that when planted close by help strawberry plants fight disease and encourage large tasty berries. I have chosen to plant Borage in my patch this year and Pyrethrum close by.

If birds are a problem for your fruits you can try building a scarecrow with the kids with old CD's and tinsel hanging from his arms. The sunlight reflecting from these will scare the birds away for a time. This practise is used on fruit trees to avoid the use of netting. The other options are to place a small cage of bird wire over the plants or a toy snake in the berry patch.

Now for that yummy strawberry jam I was telling you about....have a look at EAM's Facebook page.

1 comment:

  1. Where I live there are some wonderful strawberry farms that sell at wonderful prices cheaper than supermarkets and are organic, they pick all day everyday and that taste is fantastic! Cant wait for their season to begin again and as a bonus they sell cheap crowns to the public as well!!!