Bring on the berry best of sum­mer

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

If you want lots of sweet juicy berries for sum­mer, plant straw­ber­ries now. Buy packs of six plants from your gar­den cen­tre or check your own plants for run­ners that have rooted. These may be lifted, cut from the par­ent and re­planted. It’s a good idea to re­move run­ners from par­ent plants any­way as these com­pete with fruit pro­duc­tion. You may also grow straw­ber­ries by seed but no-one tends to bother. Most straw­berry plants these days are hy­brids which means the plants they pro­duce from seed won’t look or taste any­thing like the par­ent plant. The ex­cep­tion is the alpine straw­berry. Ev­ery­thing about these plants re­sem­bles the straw­ber­ries we buy in gar­den cen­tres, though the fruit is some­what smaller and ei­ther red or white (less at­trac­tive to birds). Alpine straw­ber­ries are also ever­bear­ing. They fruit most of the year, par­tic­u­larly in warm, frost­free ar­eas. Alpine straw­ber­ries do not pro­duce run­ners but do grow true from seed. Check cat­a­logues or on Trade Me. Seedlings are also

If you want straw­ber­ries for sum­mer, now is the time to plant them. avail­able at gar­den cen­tres from time to time. You only need one or two plants be­cause once you have them, they of­ten self-seed. Or you can di­vide and re­set plants in spring. Seeds from alpine straw­ber­ries need a cold pe­riod to break down the chem­i­cal ger­mi­na­tion in­hibitors inside the seeds. That means you can ei­ther sow your seed in the gar­den in au­tumn where they will go through the nec­es­sary cold pe­riod over win­ter or sow in spring af­ter a four-week chill­ing pe­riod in the freezer. If sow­ing out­doors in au­tumn, it might be best to sow in con­tain­ers, as plants may get lost among other plants or weeds, or in­ad­ver­tently weeded out when still young. While alpine straw­ber­ries grow in sun or par­tial shade, com­mon straw­ber­ries are best grown in full sun. Al­though some va­ri­eties are sim­ply sweeter than other va­ri­eties, the more sun (and the more com­post for that mat­ter), the sweeter the fruit. Soil should be free-drain­ing with loads of or­ganic mat­ter dug in. Com­post, well-rot­ted ma­nure, leaf mould and worm cast­ings are all ben­e­fi­cial. If your soil is prone to wa­ter­log­ging, plant on mounds, in raised beds or in con­tain­ers. I of­ten grow my straw­ber­ries in hang­ing bas­kets. Use a good qual­ity pot­ting mix with a lit­tle com­post and slow-re­lease fer­tiliser added. Cover your soil with some sort of mulch, like straw, bark, pine nee­dles, even news­pa­per, to help sup­press weeds and to keep the fruit from touch­ing the soil and rot­ting. If your berries be­gin to rot, you may find your­self with a pro­lif­er­a­tion of slaters. Feed plants oc­ca­sion­ally with a tomato fer­tiliser and make sure you wa­ter well, es­pe­cially dur­ing fruit de­vel­op­ment.

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