Bursting with sweetness, Strawberries are a summer favourite and an essential topping on pavlova. Grow Strawberries in rich soil with plenty of water and nutrients. Alpine varieties produce smaller, highly fragrant crops and make an excellent groundcover.
Binomial name: Fragaria sp.
Life Cycle: Perennial
Strawberries can also be grown from runners, the year-old roots and rhizomes of plants that are dug up and sold bare-rooted (without soil). To learn how to grow strawberries from runners, click here.
When to Sow Strawberry Seeds
Strawberries can be grown year-round in most climates. Avoid planting in extremely hot or cold weather which can affect germination and growth. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to sow strawberries in your climate.
Low humidity with most rainfall in winter; hot dry summers and cold winters. Some regions will experience frosts and snow. Includes coastal areas of south-eastern Australia and alpine areas of Victoria, NSW and Tasmania.
Strawberry plants are best grown in full sun. Choose a location that will receive at least 6 hours of full sun each day.
Strawberry plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting.
Strawberry plants can be grown in containers. If possible choose a variety that’s recommended for container growing. Use a good quality potting mix and make sure your container is large enough for mature plants; a minimum of 10 litres is recommended for strawberries. During the growing season, keep in mind that container grown plants may need additional fertiliser to encourage healthy growth.
How to Sow Strawberry Seeds
Strawberry seeds do not require any treatment (eg soaking, stratification) before sowing.
Strawberry seeds grow best when they are raised in trays or other containers and transplanted to the garden once established.
Fill trays, punnets or jiffy pots with a good quality seed-raising mix, or use soil starter pellets.
Sow seeds 3mm deep.
Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
Seeds should germinate in around 14-56 days at a soil temperature of 15-18°C.
Transplant seedlings to the garden once they have their first true leaves and are large enough to handle (usually 5-10cm tall).
Plant out, spacing plants 15-30cm apart, with rows 30-40cm apart.
Tip: Strawberry seeds are quite small. Handle them carefully to avoid them blowing away or being washed away. Mix seeds with sand or fine potting mix prior to sowing or use a seed dispenser, damp toothpick or tweezers to help space them evenly. Press lightly into the surface after sowing so that the seeds make good contact with the soil. Take extra care to make sure seeds and seedlings don’t dry out. Read more about sowing small seeds here.
How to Grow Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants need regular watering during the growing season. Do not let soil dry out; keep soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here.
If soil was well prepared no extra fertiliser should be necessary. In poor soil or to give your plants an extra boost, application of a balanced fertiliser or one formulated for fruit and vegetables can be beneficial:
Apply slow release fertiliser at the recommended rate when transplanting or when seedlings are 5-10cm tall.
Apply liquid fertiliser at the recommended rate and frequency while plants are fruiting or flowering.
Tip: mulch under ripening fruit with straw or sugar cane to help prevent rot.
How to Harvest Strawberries
Strawberries should be ready to harvest in approximately 140-160 days.
Starwberries are ready to harvest when they are fully coloured and fragrant. Harvest fruit by cutting with snips/secateurs or by twisting to separate from the stem. Harvest regularly to encourage more fruit. Strawberries are best eaten soon after they are harvested. Strawberries can be stored short term in a container in the fridge. For longer term storage, strawberries can be frozen or made into preserves.
Common Problems when Growing Strawberries
Like all plants, strawberry is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing strawberry plants:
Aphids are small (2-4mm long) sap-sucking insects that congregate on the new shoots or the undersides of leaves. They can cause leaves to wilt or become discoloured, and also excrete honeydew which can attract ants and other insect pests. To manage aphids, remove them by spraying with a garden hose, apply a soap or alcohol spray, or encourage predatory insects to your garden. Read more about aphids here.
Armyworms, cutworms and other caterpillars can all eat the inside of fruit, making it inedible. Young caterpillars burrow into soft fruit, leaving just a small telltale hole on the fruit’s skin. Monitor fruit and remove any caterpillars you see. If necessary use insect exclusion netting or fruit bags to physically protect the fruit, or spray with Dipel.
Downy mildew is a fungal disease that causes yellow to grey-brown patches on leaves, especially the undersides. Water plants at soil level (not on the leaves), remove and destroy affected leaves and do not overcrowd plants to ensure adequate air flow. If problems persist, spray with a homemade milk spray or fungicide.
Possums, birds and other animals can ruin a large percentage of your harvest overnight. Physically exclude pests by using netting or cages, or try spraying plants with a pungent homemade spray made from garlic, fish oil or mustard.
Slugs and snails are molluscs that feed on tender leaves and shoots, mostly at night, leaving slimy trails behind them. Control them by removing their hiding places, keeping free range poultry, collecting them by torchlight or by placing traps. Read more about slugs and snails here.
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