NZ Gar­dener crop trial: Straw­ber­ries

Lynda Hal­li­nan seeks out the se­crets to straw­berry suc­cess and taste tests pop­u­lar va­ri­eties grown in her trial beds.

NZ Gardener - - Contents - PHO­TOS: SALLY TAGG

Lynda Hal­li­nan on how to grow big­ger, bet­ter, sweeter and more juicy fruit!

If you've strug­gled in the past, take h teoa rgtr. oYwo ub'rige, nfaott baelorn­riee. s

We all know that grow­ing your own fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles is good for your health, but it’s not nec­es­sar­ily so good for your ego. I’m re­minded of this when I stop to buy pun­nets of ‘Ca­marosa’ straw­ber­ries at our lo­cal berry farm. De­spite shar­ing a fairly sim­i­lar cli­mate, the fruit sold at Cleve­don Straw­ber­ries puts mine to shame and, what’s worse, their berries taste bet­ter too!

Three years ago, Kevin and Diana Gal­lagher, with neigh­bour Den­nis Dare, ploughed up a sunny slope and planted 80,000 straw­berry plants on mounds run­ning down the hill.

Lo­ca­tion is ev­ery­thing, Diana says. Their straw­berry farm faces north and basks in all-day sun. But even so, there’s one spot, “in the top right hand cor­ner of the slope”, where the soil rou­tinely dries out and the thirsty berries grow slightly de­formed. And that’s the thing with straw­ber­ries: they can be tem­per­a­men­tal at times.

Just as some spots are more suit­able than oth­ers, some years are bet­ter than oth­ers for fruit for­ma­tion and ripen­ing, and the weather doesn’t al­ways play ball. Too much sun and they come on too quick; not enough and they stay white in­stead of red.

Straw­ber­ries also need a sup­ply of wa­ter to swell up, but not so much that the flesh splits and dis­in­te­grates. Rain or over­head wa­ter­ing on fully ripe fruit is a recipe for dis­as­ter, not to men­tion mildew and mould growth.

On the plus side, straw­ber­ries are among the fastest fruit crops to bear, flow­er­ing a few months af­ter plant­ing.

It helps to know that most mod­ern straw­berry cul­ti­vars are clas­si­fied as ei­ther short-day or day-neu­tral. The for­mer start pro­duc­ing flower buds when the days are short, giv­ing early spring crops, while the lat­ter group re­peat-flow­ers through­out spring and sum­mer, pro­vided the weather is warm. There­fore, short-day va­ri­eties should be planted by mid­win­ter, for spring crops, whereas day-neu­tral va­ri­eties can still be planted now.

You can grow straw­ber­ries in pots, troughs, bas­kets, spout­ing and beds, but make sure you can cover them with net­ting once the fruit ripens or the birds will steal every sin­gle berry.

Berries on left are ‘Ca­marosa’ berries from my Hunua gar­den. Berries on right are ‘Ca­marosa’ berries grown com­mer­cially up the road at Cleve­don Straw­ber­ries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.