Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow. This is one fruit that’s happy to grow anywhere be it the ground in the vegetable garden, a pot on the patio or a hanging basket in a sunny location.
A nutritional powerhouse fruit, rich in Vitamin C, it’s ideal to add in your breakfast cereal or for dessert with yoghurt. Once you have experienced the superior taste of freshly picked home grown strawberries you will realise the superiority to the supermarket bought.
Strawberries prefer well draining soil such as a sandy loam but they can be grown on heavier soils as long as coarse sand or pumice have been worked into it to increase the drainage.
The ideal soil is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Strawberries are hungry feeders, so plenty of organic matter (compost or manure) needs to be included in the potting mix or garden soil. Also add a generous sprinkle of bone meal.
Strawberries love the sun so select a site in the garden, or a place on the patio, that sees plenty of sun. They also need to be kept well watered at all times of the year, even through the seasonally dry periods to prevent the crop from drying out.
To assist with retaining moisture in the soil mulch the surface well using straw, hay, or other organic matter.
During the cold months of July and August, especially if you live in the Nairobi area and suffer the grey skies, the plants will stop producing fruit. During this period the leaves will likely look tired, its time to prune them in preparation for the sunny weather.
As soon as the weather warms up fresh leaves will appear and flowering will restart. At this time runners should also appear from each plant from which new plants will appear at the tip of the runner.
When these have produced roots they can be detached from the parent plant to either increase the stock or replace any that have been lost during the year.
The area around the strawberry plants should be kept weed free at all times as they compete for light and nutrients. Remove the weeds using your hands as opposed to a panga as it could damage and cut the roots.
During the fruiting period, and to encourage continuous fruiting, apply a potassium rich fertiliser once a month. This can be done organically by making a comfrey “tea”.
This “tea” is easy to make by placing several comfrey leaves in a covered container that has a small hole in the bottom though which drips the “tea” from the decomposing comfrey leaves, into a collecting container. The comfrey “tea” is diluted using one part comfrey “tea” to 15 parts of water.
The fruits of strawberries should be harvested when the whole fruit is completely red. Fruits that are still white near the stalk are immature and should be left until fully ripened when they will contain maximum sugar content, flavour and size.
The fruit should be picked with a small section of the stem and the cap attached as this assists with maintaining freshness. The caps and stem are removed at the time of eating.
Unfortunately strawberries like many fruits and vegetables attract an array of pests and diseases. Slugs and snails enjoy the ripe fruit, as well as fruit eating birds.
The slugs and snails can be collected by hand and destroyed. As for the birds netting, and not shade netting which will cut out a certain about of sunlight, is the best option. The netting should be supported at least a metre or so above the plants.
Spider mites can also be a problem in the dry weather but frequent watering should keep them away. When applying mulch be sure to keep it slightly clear of the crown of the plant as covering the crown may lead to rot and loss of the plant.
Enjoy eating your freshly picked strawberries! (By Business Daily)
Plants Galore Garden Centre