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StrawberryGrowing your own organic strawberries is all the rage these days and right now is the perfect time to make a start. Perfect for cultivating in clay pots, wooden vegetable/fruit cartons or directly in the ground, young plants, or ‘runners’ as they are called, are available in nurseries now and are relatively inexpensive.

The ideal growing medium is 20% river sand (not saline sea sand), 20% organic compost, 20% old, well rotted organic manure and 40% sweet earth; drainage must be good.

If cultivating in the ground, then select a site in full sun – although plants will need to be moved into the shade once the hot weather arrives – and plant the runners 12 inches apart in rows, also 12 inches apart.

Growing strawberries in raised beds is very beneficial if your garden soil has a tendency to water log. Such raised beds only need to be three or four inches above actual ground level as strawberries are shallow rooted plants.

In terms of pots, ones made of clay are the best as they both retain moisture and help keep roots cool; one runner per ten inch pot is ideal.

When planting the runners, take care to ensure that the crown, the centre of the plant, is just level with the soil and not below it, otherwise the plant will rot and die.
Strawberries need plenty of water throughout the growing season and especially during the flowering and fruiting stage which, in the plains, is from mid-January through to the end of April.

A mulch of straw around the plants helps retain moisture thus reducing watering requirements and assists in preventing ripening fruit from coming into contact with the soil which may spoil it.

After fruiting, the plants will send out new runners with baby plants on them: allow these to develop a root system of their own before snipping them off and potting them up to increase stocks.

Strawberry plants are most productive during their first three years; they should be replaced after this.

– B Khan

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 1, 2012.

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