Prune your way to strawberry heaven

I cannot think of anything more delicious than a bowl of freshly picked strawberries and cream and or ice-cream, Yum!

A couple of years ago (when I was very young) I was buying fertiliser, or something for the garden at E.J. Eggins, a produce store in Lismore at the time, when I overheard an elderly farmer telling a companion about growing strawberries. One of his tips was that when the fruit had set, to nip off all but the very smallest crown leaves. This then allows the plant to put all of its energy into the fruit.

When I arrived home I immediately went out and did exactly that. Being very pregnant at the time, I could only reach part of the way across the garden bed. When hubby arrived home, he really went to town. When the fruit ripened, the pruned plants yielded much bigger delicious berries. I have continued this practice ever since - try it!

Strawberries do not enjoy overly wet conditions, but should not be allowed to dry out too much. A good soaking once a week is generally sufficient. I find when watering anything (garden beds, pots, anything at all) I get much better results by watering for a few minutes, then leaving a short time, then re- watering. This seems to help the water to penetrate better. Keep plenty of mulch under the fruit and around the plants to keep the fruit clean. Do not let too many runners develop before late summer. Nip them off. They reduce the fruit cropping. When fruit is beginning to wane, let a few runners develop for next year's replacements, discarding any that may have strawberry virus.

When planting out new stock, trim off most of the leaves and about a third of the longer roots. If you do have a problem with brown spots on leaves, this is probably a fungus. Try spraying with Mancozeb or Zineb after picking off affected leaves.

I find May is the best time to plant strawberries. They are such a pretty plant and look good anywhere, even among the flower border, in pots or containers. But now is the time to prune.

Lismore Garden Club meets every second Thursday of the month, at 1pm at the Lismore Workers Club.

For further information phone Dorothy on 66214100.

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