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Strawberries - summer

I say it every year - it's crazy to be thinking about summer strawberries in the middle of winter. But if you want to stun the rellies with homegrown juicy sensations this Christmas, then you need to plant now (June/July).

The only exception to this rule is if you live down south - then you might need to wait until August when the soil is a little warmer.

Strawberries grow just about anywhere - your garden bed, old containers, or even in a cut off bit of drainpipe. As long as they can see the sun, and your garden or pot is well drained, you can expect great growing results.

As with all plants, soil preparation is important. Strawberries prefer a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.2, which is slightly acid, so you shouldn't need any lime.

You can enrich the strawberry bed by digging in potash and composted vegetable matter to provide a boost of food for the plants as they grow, and fowl manure to reduce the pH.

Planting in a pot? Use a top quality potting mix and for an extra boost of goodness apply a liquid fertiliser to the mix.

Grab some of Awapuni Nurseries' Traditional Value strawberry seedlings when you're down at your local supermarket, Warehouse or Bunnings store. Alternatively, head to our online shop and have your seedlings delivered direct to your door.

Each bundle has around four plants, which should produce between 60 -100 strawberries come Christmas. When your seedlings arrive, they may have last season's leaves on it. These will die off and, when the plant is ready, it will shoot out new healthy and strong leaves from the centre of the plant. If you like, you can cut all the leaves off at about 3cm above the central heart of the plant.

Before planting raise your garden bed by mounding the soil. This will encourage circulation, drainage and can add depth to shallow soil.

Plant your seedlings around the edges of your garden or pots to encourage the strawberries to hang over the sides and prevent the fruit from touching the ground and rotting.

Strawberries should be planted in rows that are 60 cm wide and 100cm apart.

Dig a hole 10cm deep and place the seedling inside. A deep hole is required to give the roots plenty of room to spread out and grow but be careful not to bury the plant. Pack the soil firmly around each seedling.

Once planted it's important to keep them well watered at all times.

When the weather starts to warm up during spring it's a good idea to surround the seedlings with peastraw or newspaper to help keep away weeds and retain water. The more moisture they get the juicier the fruit will be.

Place netting or wire over you plants when they begin to produce fruit. This will block out birds and ensure you get to eat the strawberries yourself.

In spring, add another dose of general fertiliser to your strawberries to encourage sturdier plants that are more disease resistant heading in to the warmer months.

Then sit back and wait till Christmas to enjoy the sweet sensation of your own hard work.

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