Up, up and away!
Strawberries suffer from a multitude of pests and diseases. When grown in the ground, nearly half my crop is damaged by botrytis or other fungal disease the other half gets eaten by slugs, beetles, skinks, birds... I had to find another way. Fortunately, I already have a fully netted berry house, used mainly for blueberries. Since the beds were full, I decided to try suspending suitably modified recycled PVC pipe horizontally below the roof. Apart from a few scary moments using an angle grinder to turn the pipe into a trough, this was relatively easy. Make sure you drill adequate drainage holes along the base.
The long troughs were capped at either end and suspended using metal strap and light chain. I filled them after hanging them up, for obvious reasons, with a mix of equal parts perlite, well-composted manure and premium potting mix. This blend holds water quite well, but to be safe, its a good idea to add extra water crystals. Even with these, I find it best to water frequently. The plants have a restricted root-run, so I also give them regular liquid feeds.
Im happy to report that this method has been a resounding success, with excellent crops of quality fruit and all for me! I used Torrey, the old favourite, but have also tried a few newer varieties in pots. The stand-out for me was Hokowase, a deliciously sweet, fragrant fruit on a strong plant. I will be harvesting runners from this variety to replace the ones in the troughs next year. This is not to denigrate the fruits of Torrey, which are also very tasty if given a few extra days on the plant to ripen fully. The key is to wait until they turn true crimson in colour and soften slightly. Happy strawberry eating!
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