From mem­o­rable be­gin­nings

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Tino Carnevale

WHEN I was a very young lad my grand­mother gave me one of the best gifts I have ever re­ceived, a straw­berry plant and a small part of her gar­den bed to grow it in.

It was the fi rst plant I had ever tried to grow and with her guid­ance it was the fi rst plant I had suc­cess with.

From that won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence sprung a per­sonal love af­fair with things that grow.

I don’t want to be the type of person who tells kids that uni­corns aren’t real but tech­ni­cally straw­ber­ries aren’t re­ally berries at all but en­larged sta­mens.

To get the very best out of your crop se­lect an open, full- sun po­si­tion, they will grow in shade but it will af­fect the amount, size and fl avour of the fruit.

In say­ing this, the alpine straw­berry is a dif­fer­ent species that is grown from seed and prefers part shade.

All straw­ber­ries like a slightly acidic freedrain­ing fer­tile soil.

As these plants are a peren­nial crop that will pro­duce in the bed for years it is im­por­tant to pre­pare the soil with this in mind.

This just means cul­ti­vat­ing as deeply as pos­si­ble and adding co­pi­ous amounts of or­ganic mat­ter in the form of rot­ted ma­nures and com­post.

I like to mound up soil so the bed is slightly raised. This helps the soil drain which pre­vents the plants from rot­ting in wet con­di­tions.

Now that the bed is ready to plant, the monumental task of se­lect­ing what va­ri­eties you want to grow be­gins.

Red Gaunt­let is a pop­u­lar choice as it is dis­ease re­sis­tant and re­li­able, although in my opinion it can lack fl avour.

Other va­ri­eties such as Lowanna and Tioga have long crop­ping pe­ri­ods and pro­duce good amounts of fruit.

The Ja­panese va­ri­eties such as Hokawase and Kunowase have great fl avoured fruit but to my mind and mouth noth­ing beats the fl avour of the old Cam­bridge Ri­val.

There are many va­ri­eties of the com­mon straw­berry with more be­ing re­leased ev­ery year, and my rule when se­lect­ing straw­berry va­ri­eties is the more the mer­rier.

This way you will have over­lap­ping har­vest pe­ri­ods and more con­sis­tent crops – as they say, va­ri­ety is the spice of life.

Once your plants are in it’s a good idea to mulch them and, as their name sug­gests, straw is a great ma­te­rial for this.

I like to fi rst add a thin layer of pine nee­dles around the plants and then add the straw, the pine nee­dles are a great cheap way of help­ing to acid­i­fy­ing the ground.

I have found drip ir­ri­ga­tion to be the best way to ir­ri­gate your straw­ber­ries as wa­ter­ing over the plants will pro­mote fun­gal in­fes­ta­tions and can cause the fruit to rot.

If you are hand wa­ter­ing al­ways re­mem­ber to wa­ter to the side of the plant never over the top.

I feed the plants through­out the grow­ing sea­son with a 50- 50 mix of blood and bone and sul­phate of potash ap­plied at a rate of a hand­ful ev­ery square me­tre.

Liq­uid tomato feeds are a great pick- me- up for plants that need a quick fi x.

Straw­ber­ries are ex­tremely ef­fec­tive and at­trac­tive border plants and they can be grown in pretty much any con­tainer so they are great for gar­den­ers with lim­ited space.

They are per­fect in pots, tubs and troughs but make sure you use a good pot­ting mix.

I like to add a bit of coir fi bre as it helps with the wa­ter- hold­ing abil­ity of the mix and it is slightly acidic, which the plants love.

I have even planted them into hes­sian sacks fi lled with pot­ting mix with holes cut in the sides and old gut­ter­ing which can be hung from fences or walls or even di­rectly into straw bales.

If you want an easy- togrow, high- yield plant that will ap­peal to kids as well as sea­soned gar­den­ers, you can not go past the straw­berry.

Some­times it’s easy to for­get what a real straw­berry tastes like, but when you grow your own there’s no need for fancy recipes or ad­di­tional in­gre­di­ents.

You can go back to eat­ing them straight from the bush, the way it should be.

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