The price is ripe

The Advertiser - - WEEKEND EXTRA - YOUR GUIDE - PICK YOUR STRAW­BER­RIES

WHY pay $5 for your weekly small pack of su­per­mar­ket straw­ber­ries when, with a lit­tle ef­fort, you can pick a con­stant sup­ply of sweet, ripe berries fresh from your own gar­den.

Straw­ber­ries are ideal for home­gar­den pro­duc­tion, par­tic­u­larly when there is lit­tle room avail­able for tra­di­tional fruit trees.

All you need is a sunny location. And where space for a nor­mal gar­den bed is lim­ited, con­sider grow­ing them in one of those small, easy-to-as­sem­ble, raised gar­den beds.

Straw­berry plants also grow read­ily in large planter boxes or con­tain­ers and, with a lit­tle ex­tra at­ten­tion, hang­ing bas­kets.

The rea­son these grow­ing ar­eas are so suit­able is closely linked to the straw­ber­ries’ need to be grown in soil (or pot­ting mix) where sur­plus wa­ter drains freely from around the plant’s roots and is re­placed by a con­stant sup­ply of air.

Straw­ber­ries thrive in South Aus­tralia largely be­cause the cli­mate is cool enough in win­ter to ini­ti­ate flowering, but dry enough through the grow­ing sea­son to keep fun­gal dis­eases to a min­i­mum.

Once well-es­tab­lished, the plants pro­duce a thick ground cover-like layer of leaves that are formed around a cen­tral crown.

This helps pro­tect an ex­ten­sive layer of fi­brous roots lo­cated close to the sur­face.

While the plants pro­duce most of their growth dur­ing win­ter and early spring, these sur­face roots are eas­ily stressed by high tem­per­a­tures dur­ing sum­mer.

To keep your plants in top con­di­tion, two im­por­tant el­e­ments are needed – or­ganic mat­ter and mulch.

PLAN FOR A FRUIT­FUL SPRING OR­GANIC MAT­TER

Or­ganic mat­ter plays an es­sen­tial role in re­tain­ing soil mois­ture. How­ever, as it breaks down it also pro­vides plants with a con­stant sup­ply of slow-re­lease nu­tri­ents.

In­cor­po­rate large quan­ti­ties of or­ganic ma­te­rial into the soil (or pot­ting mix) be­fore plant­ing. Ide­ally this should be a blend of qual­ity com­post and aged an­i­mal ma­nure or chicken ma­nure pel­lets. Avoid us­ing ma­te­ri­als con­tain­ing very high ni­tro­gen con­tent, as the plants are likely to pro­duce leaves at the ex­pense of flow­ers and fruit.

MULCHING

Mulching pro­vides straw­berry plants with a num­ber of im­por­tant ben­e­fits, such as:

1. Weed con­trol. Be­cause of their sur­face root sys­tem, straw­berry plants are very sus­cep­ti­ble to com­pe­ti­tion from weeds – par­tic­u­larly dur­ing win­ter when weeds of­ten grow faster;

2. Soil mois­ture and warmth. Dur­ing late win­ter

Most straw­berry va­ri­eties pro­duce their main crop dur­ing spring and early sum­mer. Some also pro­duce a small crop in au­tumn.

How­ever, the lat­est va­ri­eties, known as “Ever­bear­ing” are ideal for home gar­den­ers as they pro­duce their fruits in waves right through­out the grow­ing sea­son (with the ex­cep­tion of ex­tremely hot weather dur­ing sum­mer).

Fruit size also varies con­sid­er­ably with many of the newer va­ri­eties (clas­si­fied as large) al­most twice the size of tra­di­tional medium-sized fruits.

TRA­DI­TIONAL SIZE

Red Gaunt­let: A long-time favourite. Sweet fruits over a long sea­son.

Pink: Rel­a­tively new. Very sweet, high yield­ing. Bub­ble­berry: An old heir­loom va­ri­ety, high yield­ing with dis­tinc­tive bub­blegum flavour.

LARGE SIZE

Schizam: Very large and flavour­some, deep red skin with con­i­cal shape.

Sumo: Very large and high yield­ing with de­li­cious fruit. Tioga: An older va­ri­ety. High yield­ing, sweet taste.

EVER­BEAR­ING

Alinta: Very pop­u­lar Aus­tralian va­ri­ety. Ex­cel­lent flavour, glossy berries.

Hokowase: Medium-size, up­right red fruits, acid free flavour.

NB. Be­cause of the cur­rent in­ter­est in gar­den­ing, avail­abil­ity of straw­berry plants in some gar­den out­lets is likely to be lim­ited.

and early spring, mulching helps re­tain warmth in the soil, re­sult­ing in ear­lier fruit set and larger berry size. Dur­ing late spring and sum­mer, mulching helps re­tain valu­able soil mois­ture.

3. Cleaner fruit. A layer of clean or­ganic mat­ter spread un­der the plants’ leaves pre­vents ma­tur­ing fruits close to the ground from be­ing soiled by soil.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.