Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spring Plantings and Garden Experiments 1: Strawberries

This Spring I have planted some new things, some old things with new improved varieties and some impulse buys. From 'resistant' tomatoes, to strawberries of multiple varieties, to two varieties of eggplant, to blackjack zucchini in odd sized containers, to corn, yes corn, the Spring garden was under way before I left for Adelaide. Housesitter B was primed with instructions about these new plantings and how to water them effectively. She was a great housesitter last time so I am sure she will be great this time too. Over the next few posts I will run through, in detail, each of these new planting and see what I have chosen, the conditions it is being grown in and rate its chances. I'll also ask for your tips, trick and to tell me if the method is madness or just might work. Today I will start with the tamest of them all, strawberries.

When I first began to garden I grew strawberries. Two Lowanna strawberries in a pot, no thinning of the runners and no idea. They produced well, were very tasty but got overcrowded and eventually were overrun by spider mites. I didn't plant strawberries for a while and contented myself with the slightly insipid but mega-cheap punnets from the markets. I longed for the taste of a proper strawberry, or really I just realised that I like snacking when I am out in the garden (who doesn't!!!???!!!) By luck my good friend Ms G gave me four bare-rooted strawberries she had left over from her bulk purchase, 2 hokowase and 2 kurowase. After planting them and caring for them I had ... 1 kurowase left. My ineptitude, or simply a lack of good drainage had killed off the other three. Remember if you are planting strawberries and there are repeated winter downpours, try and dry your soaked seedlings out somewhat, by any means possible.

I decided that the single remaining strawberry in that pot looked lopsided and lonely, it needed a friend. So I toddled off to the nursery to buy a companion. Problem was they didn't have any that I wanted and the few that they did have looked emaciated and more brown than green. Kind of like the ones I had already killed at home. Stopping at another nursery on the way home I found the same problem - although I did come across these little wild strawberries.

For me wild strawberries are as different to normal strawberries as caramel is to chocolate. Both are great, but very different. Others don't share this view but I am sticking to it. Strawberries are great, don't get me wrong, but they are ubiquitous. You find them everywhere and despite the many varieties they are all quite similar. Biggish, juicy, red and yum (except for the yellow strawberries, oh I wish I had those.) Wild strawberries are a whole other kettle of berry. They are tiny and I never find them in shops. I used to find them in my Aunt's garden and had to restrain myself from picking them all before she got any. The taste is a little tarter, stronger, but truly amazing. Wild strawberries to me were the diamonds of the berry world. So instead of buying a single strawberry I bought a punnet of these wild ones and planted them in various other pots in the garden (my Aunt later told me off for spending $2.49 on wild strawberry plants when they grow like weeds in her garden!)

Don't worry, they have since been mulched so stand a better chance of surviving the Australian Summer.

But this still didn't solve the problem of the half empty pot. One day I wanted to go for a walk, a long walk, a healthy walk, a 10km walk in fact, to Bunnings. I wanted a pot, a giant pot, for the lemon tree. Well I did walk, and it was healthy, but I didn't find a pot. They were completely potless at the shop. But I did purchase two new strawberries - a Hokowase and a Lowanna. Hokowase went in with the kurowase, and the lowana got a pot of its own.

So from no strawberries to several pots full of different varieties. I'd like a few more so I could get a good harvest but I currently lack the space. So far the oldest one, the kurowase has flowered and made one little fruit. (the flower is pictured at the top of this post.) I hope it doesn't ripen before I get back (otherwise Housesitter B is welcome to eat it.) The hokowase is also flowering, so fruit shouldn't be too far behind. Hokowase are supposed to be low acid while Lowana was bred to withstand typical Australian conditions (even though technically there are many different climate conditions in Australia but I digress.) The wild strawberries haven't grown much but they are there to tantilise my taste buds.

Do you have a particular favourite when it comes to strawberries? How do you go planting them in pots? Any tips? Are spider mites simply inevitable when you plant these things? While my garden is complete with strawberries my Mum has none. I did find a lovely strawberry pot behind her shed and I am heading off this morning to put it to use. While it is a bit late to plant them, I've never really taken notice of timing stipulations, so in my view she should have some yummy strawberries come Christmas.


Funkbunny said...

I've had semi success with strawberries. they like slightly acid soil, can tolerate shade and need to be kept damp (being woodland fruit). Spider mites I know well (I had them all over my beans last year) and the only thing that worked was spraying them with naturasoap. Good luck with the strawbs!

Ivynettle said...

I tried growing strawberries on the balcony for the first time this year. I had four varieties, two newish pink-flowered ones (which didn't grow well AT ALL), an old ever-bearing variety, and a forest strawberry. The last two are still alive and flowering, but I'm not sure I'll get any more fruit before it gets cold.
Spider mites were a problem for me, too. My balcony faces south, and it just got too hot there. I've since moved them back to a north window, where they're doing much better, but I keep forgetting to water them.

Hm, been meaning to post about my strawberries, too...

Cygnetian said...

I've only been growing strawberries since last year. I tried growing them in those upside down planters (really cheap ones though) but they dried out too much. Pots are better. I have Lowanna, Tioga, Red Gauntlet and Sweethearts, but don't know which is which at the moment because the tags got mixed up during transplanting. Just ate the first one of the year this morning and it was very sweet and lovely.
One tip I've heard (& subsequently read) is to mulch them with pine needles, which have helpful terpenes in them for the strawberries. I have been doing this since about a month ago and my strawberries are looking very healthy. :)