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Australian Grow Guide: Strawberries

In this guide, I explore the best ways to grow strawberries in Australia, from deciding when to plant them to caring for your plants and harvesting your fruit.

I’ve grown strawberries for many years and in a variety of different ways – in a dedicated garden bed in the ground, in hanging pots along the edge of a verandah, and in standing pots just outside the back door.

Surprisingly, what I’ve found is that I got the best yields of yummy fruit from the strawberries I grew in the ground. And, I have a theory on why this is the case which I’ll share with you a little later.

But, first let’s look at all the basics that you need to know about growing your own juicy, plump strawberries at home.

When to plant strawberries in Australia

Ideally, you want to plant strawberries in late autumn or early winter (May to June) while the plants are dormant. You can generally purchase bare-rooted strawberries at this time.

planting strawberries 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

Strawberries do grow better in the more temperate regions of the country and I have never personally grown them in warmer regions. However, according to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, it is possible to grow them anywhere in Queensland but they grow the best in warm coastal areas of South East Queensland.

The reason for this is that strawberries are fairly thirsty plants and will easily wilt in the heat if they’re not given enough water. From personal experience, this also seems to have an effect on fruit production.

How to plant strawberries

planting strawberries | Fruit & Vegetables

As mentioned, it’s best to buy bare-rooted plants, either from your local nursery or online. Before planting, you want to prepare the soil in your vegetable garden by removing any weeds and digging in lots of organic matter such as compost. 

Strawberries are heavy feeders and will appreciate the extra nutrients that the compost will provide. You could also add some composted animal manure or something like blood and bone.

It’s important to choose a sunny location for your strawberries if you want a good harvest.

Although strawberries need plenty of moisture, they also need good drainage. I once spent some time picking strawberries near Shepparton, Victoria and these were grown in raised mounds. So, consider creating rows of raised sections in your garden bed if you’re planning to grow your strawberries in the ground.

strawberries 2 | Fruit & Vegetables

As strawberries like to spread, you should give them a little space by planting them around 30 cm apart. Bear in mind, that you’ll need around 20 to 30 plants to keep your family fed on strawberries throughout the warmer months.

When planting your bare-rooted strawberries, make sure that the crown of each plant is just above the soil level. The crown is the swollen base in the centre of the plant.

Once you have all your strawberries planted, give them a good soaking of water. Another thing I would recommend is to add a layer of straw or sugar cane mulch over the soil and around the base of the plants.

This serves a number of purposes. It helps the soil to retain some moisture and stops any soil-borne pathogens from splashing up onto the plants. As the plants grow and start fruiting, the straw also helps to keep the ripening fruit off the ground and it’s more difficult for snails and slugs to get to your fruit.

How to care for strawberries

As mentioned, strawberries need to be kept watered, especially if the days throughout summer are dry. Your plants will quickly wilt if the soil is dry and their roots can’t find any moisture.

The other thing you want to remember is to keep your strawberries well-fed. You can use a commercial fertiliser designed for other fruiting plants such as tomatoes or use my favourite plant food – Dynamic Lifter. Ideally, you want to select a fertiliser that has good amounts of potassium as this is what encourages fruiting.

strawberries | Fruit & Vegetables

Once your plants are well established, they’ll start to send out runners. You’ll notice these as long stems with a bunch of leaves a long way from the original plant. If allowed to remain, these runners will take up all the plant’s energy and it will stop producing fruit.

Therefore, what you want to do is cut these off near the base of the original plant. Now, you have two options. You can either toss the runners in the compost or use them to produce new plants. If planted in the ground or in pots, roots will start to form from the base of the leaf cluster.

How long do strawberries take to grow?

If you plant bare-rooted strawberries in your garden, they should start producing flowers in spring and you can expect the first fruits to appear around November.

strawberries 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

With good care and plenty of water and fertiliser, your plants should continue to fruit right through the summer and into March.

You’ll probably find that you’ll get a scant harvest in the first year of planting but this will increase the following year and the year after that.

During their fourth year, fruit production will start to decline and this is a good time to replace your plants with new ones. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve collected the runners and planted them into pots.

When to harvest strawberries

Strawberries should be harvested when the berries are almost fully red.

harvesting strawberries | Fruit & Vegetables

At this stage, you don’t want to leave them on the plant as they can become overripe very quickly or they’ll be snapped up by birds or eaten by insects.

How to harvest strawberries

To avoid damaging the delicate berries, use a pair of scissors or garden snips to cut them off the plant once they’re ripe enough.

Pests and diseases

Unfortunately, strawberries are not totally pest or disease free which is why many people prefer to grow them in pots or off the ground. Here are just some to look out for.

Fruit thieves

There are many living things around your garden that will enjoy your lovely plump strawberries. These include birds, possums, slugs, and snails. You might even find that your dog will take a liking to the strawberries if he or she discovers them growing.

You can deter snails and slugs by using pet and wildlife-safe slug pellets such as Multiguard Snail and Slug Killer. I’ve used this product for years and it’s the only one I’m comfortable using because it does a good job and doesn’t pose a danger to my dog or the local wildlife.

To keep birds and possums (and dogs) away from your fruit, the only thing that you can do is cover the plants with bird netting. 

Fungal diseases

There are certain fungal diseases like botrytis and powder mildew that can affect your strawberry plants. The best way to combat these diseases is to buy fungus-resistant plants that are freely available.

However, if you do notice some mould on your plants, remove the worst affected ones and treat the entire strawberry patch with a registered fungicide.

6 companion plants for strawberries

There are numerous companion plants that grow well with strawberries. These include:

  • Bush beans
  • Borage
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Silverbeet
  • Onions

Growing strawberries in pots

strawberries in pot | Fruit & Vegetables

While I love the idea of growing strawberries in pots and hanging baskets, this hasn’t worked all that well for me and I’ll explain why. 

You see, I’m primarily a weekend gardener and don’t spend a lot of time in the garden during the week. The problem with growing anything in pots is that the soil dries out very quickly and strawberries, especially, do not like to dry out. 

Therefore, I often ended up with wilted plants before I realised that they needed watering. Ultimately, this placed the plants under stress and thus, their fruit production was reduced.

Now, in saying that, there are many benefits of growing these scrumptious berries in pots as it keeps them off the ground and away from fruit thieves such as slugs and snails.

So, if you have the time and desire to water your plants multiple times a day during hot weather or can set up an automatic watering system, by all means, give this a try. You will definitely have more success than I did if you keep the plants well-watered at all times.

FAQ

Are strawberries easy to grow?

As long as you keep your plants well-watered and well-fed, strawberries are extremely easy to grow.

Do strawberries like full sun?

Strawberries do need full sun to produce lots of fruit.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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