Grow Your Own Strawberries

Growing your own food is great, you know where it has come from and what has gone into it, even if it is a little bit of sweat, blood and tears. Strawberries are one of my favourite things to grow because they are so easy and I am sure they always taste better because I grew them.  

I actually didn’t buy my strawberries but trimmed some runners off my Mum’s strawberries after a Sunday Lunch in the garden. I chucked them in a carrier bag and into the car they went. Of course, I forgot about them by the time I got home and two days later I found them very limp and not looking too good. I chucked them on the flower bed in a hurry to go out and finally watered them a couple of days later. The poor things really didn’t get a good start and I had very little hope for them, given the lack of love they had received. Well, those tough little things grew and grew. I had a wonderful harvest from them for a couple of years until I moved. This is just testament to how easy they really are to grow.  

Strawberries are a well-loved fruit by many, and with so many different ways to prepare them or enjoy as a part of a balanced diet, they are definitely something worth growing! They are full of antioxidants, vitamins and fibre. Not to mention they are absolutely delicious! 

how to grow strawberries

Getting Started  

Strawberries, can be grown from seed it takes about a year before they produce fruit good enough to eat. So, purchasing plants or taking runners is the quickest way to get a fruit crop.  

TOP TIP: About 20–30 plants provide enough fruit for a family.  

Strawberries are ground-hugging, herbaceous plants, about 15cm high and spreading into a clump 50–100cm wide. Prior to planting, dig over the soil to remove weeds and any large clumps, and add in plenty of compost or animal manure.  
Position your plants about 30cm apart, in full sun. Strawberries do best in well-drained soil, so plant them into soil that has been mounded up slightly. The crown of the plant, which is the swollen stem base, must be left at the surface of the soil and not buried too deep.  

Strawberry pots are also great, they prevent the strawberries from touching the ground and spoiling. I have even seen people plant strawberries in their hanging baskets, genius way of keeping them out of the way of garden critters.  

 strawberries

Care and Maintenance  

Water well, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry summers.  

TOP TIP: Surrounding each plant with a layer of straw mulch will stop the fruit from spoiling by touching the soil.  

  
To feed your mini berry farm, sprinkle a small handful of complete fertilisers (such as tomato food, which is high in potash) around each plant as it comes into first flower, and water well.  

Harvesting  

The berries are best picked when three-quarters red. What does three quarters red look like? Basically, you are looking for strawberries that aren’t completely ripe but almost there. It may take some trial and error to learn when your perfect moment to harvest is, but don’t worry, practice makes perfect! When harvesting, ensure that you are cutting the stem just above the fruit, this will help to prevent bruising from occurring.  

The fruit ripens quickly so you will want to be checking on a daily basis for ripe fruit. This will also help to ensure you are first in the queue because many common garden critters love strawberries and will happily steal your berries. Make sure you remove any fruit that has gone bad or been half eaten as soon as you spot it. This will help to prevent it from ruining the rest of your crop.  

strawberry-harvest

Recap  

  • Before planting, dig over the soil, adding an organic compost or manure.  
  • They like to be in full sun, 30cm apart and in well-drained soil.  
  • Water well, especially in young plants.  
  • Placing straw around them, prevents the fruits from touching the soil & spoiling.  
  • As they flower you can use a complete fertiliser (such as tomato food).  
  • Harvest when the fruit is ¾ red, using scissors to prevent bruising the fruit.  
  • Keep your eyes peeled as they ripen quickly and you have to beat the other garden residents to them.  

Hopefully you will all be harvesting your own sweet strawberries in no time at all.  

Happy Growing!  

When to Plant*:  

Seeds: Indoors Jun, Jul, Aug and store bought plant, outdoors May, Jun, July  

Where to Plant:  

Sunny, well-drained soil  

Soil PH:  

5.0-6.0 is best  

Watering:  

Keep moist  

Harvest:  

From seed-1 year, from store bought plant-11 weeks.  

Compatible:  

Best in a bed on their own  

Incompatible:  

If using rotation beds avoid putting where you have previously grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant to avoid disease.  

*Based on Temperate Australian Climate  

Strawberry Facts  

  • Strawberry plants decline in quality so need replanting after a couple of years.  
  • The average strawberry has 200 seeds.  
  • They are a member of the rose family.  
  • The red “berry” is actually an enlarged flower stem not the fruit. The little yellow “seeds” covering the outside of the surface of the strawberry are really small, single seed fruits called achenes.  
  • In France, Strawberries were thought to be an aphrodisiac. A soup made of strawberries, thinned sour cream, borage, & powdered sugar was served to newlyweds.  

fruit-salad

Cooking with Strawberries  

It's no secret strawberries are extremely popular in desserts, cocktails and in breakfast choices. Here are some ideas on how to use your strawberries when you're successful in harvesting them!  

  • Smoothie: A great breakfast option for someone on the go. Strawberries mix well with bananas, blueberries, mango and almost any other fruit! Add them into your morning smoothie and blend well for a healthy sweet treat.  
  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries: This is a must have classic dessert! Chocolate covered strawberries are a great dessert option for the times you may be entertaining and want to offer a light but decadent dessert for your guests. Simply melt some milk or dark chocolate and dip your strawberries in. Alternatively, you can drizzle the chocolate over the top. Once well-covered in chocolate, allow your strawberries to cool in the fridge until chocolate has hardened.  
  • Fruit Salad: Looking for the perfect dish to bring to a BBQ or Christmas Day lunch? Fruit salad is the way to go! Slice your strawberries in half, ensuring you have removed the leafy part. Add additional fruit varieties of your choice, some popular options include rock melon, mango, kiwi fruit, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries. Ensure that all of your fruit is roughly the same size (approximately two-centimetre chunks). In a separate bowl, prepare 1/4 cup of orange juice, 2 tablespoons of honey and the zest of one lemon. Mix well and drizzle over the top of your fruit salad, toss gently to cover the fruit.  
  • Overnight Oats: You may have noticed the overnight oats craze is back! If you aren’t familiar with this recipe, you’re in luck. Take your favourite mason jar or glass lunch box and pour 1 cup of rolled oats, 1 cup of your choice of milk and if you want a more filling breakfast, 1 to 2 teaspoons of chia seeds. Put your jar or container in the fridge overnight and voila! Breakfast is ready the next morning. Complete by topping with fresh strawberries and some yoghurt if you desire.  

N.B. This article has been written for Australian gardens. If you're reading this from around the world, we do hope you've found it a useful stepping stone for your own further research. 

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