Australia is known around the world for its stunning and diverse scenery. But with all that diversity comes a range of distinct climatic zones ranging in temperatures, rainfall, and other environmental factors. Thankfully, when it comes to growing sweet and delicious treats, many varieties of strawberries can thrive in regions across the country.
To a new gardener or a novice, a strawberry is just a strawberry. However, experienced backyard growers and gardeners know that small but important differences separate these sweet fruits from each other.
The differences in the structure, shape and size between the varieties mean Australia’s gardeners have plenty of diversity to choose from and can choose what to plant and when.
Types of Strawberries to Grow in Australia
Our home gardening experts recommend these varieties to anyone who wants to try their hand at growing strawberries at home:
- Albion: Originally bred by the University of California, this is the most common strawberry variety that produces tasty fruit throughout Australia.
- San Andreas: San Andreas strawberries also have their origins in California and are famed for their bright red colour and high-yield crops with minimal care.
- Juliette: Juliette is locally bred and was developed by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries strawberry breeding program for ideal flavour.
- Red Rhapsody: As the name suggests, this variety features blood-red flesh and is a smaller yet extremely flavorful addition to the strawberry growing list.
- Sundrench: This popular strawberry cultivar produces large, juicy, firm fruits that adapt well to Australia’s harsher climates and environments.
- Suncoat Delight: Suncoast Delight results from selective breeding to create a compact plant with moderate yield and superior durability against pests and disease.
No matter which variety you choose for your backyard strawberry patch, there is one thing you will need to become a pro at fertilising. Our garden gurus have compiled everything you need to know about growing and fertilising strawberry plants. So read on and see how you can get the most out of your next crop!
Why are fertilisers important for strawberry growth?
To get the best harvest and strawberry plants that offer the biggest and juiciest fruit, you must provide the proper balance of nutrients. These plants need rich soil and a lot of nutrients to produce a bumper crop. Supplementing with a high-quality fertiliser is essential for any strawberry harvest to succeed!
What to look for in a fertiliser for strawberries
When choosing a fertiliser for your strawberries, consider the three numbers on the fertiliser- N-P-K. These stand for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Each one is important for plant growth, and depending on the season of growth, you may need to choose a fertiliser with a different number formulation.
New plantings can benefit from a higher nitrogen level as this improves leafy green growth.
Year-round use of Phosphorus can help improve root growth and health for a healthier plant.
Higher levels of Potassium can benefit plants during flower and fruit production.
What is the best fertiliser for strawberries in Australia?
Fertiliser choice can vary during the season as strawberry plants grow and mature. Still, a balanced fertiliser such as a 15-15-15 can provide general nutritional support for your strawberry crop all season long.
Any slow-release organic plant fertiliser
Of all the types of fertilisers for strawberries, a slow-release organic option is generally considered the best., The slow-release formulation ensures even feeding for longer periods. At the same time, the organic composition is safe for plants that will later be eaten.
Seasol Seaweed Extract
A series of trials and studies have shown that strawberry plants respond well to seaweed extracts, such as Seasol products, with an estimated 38% higher root growth and an 8% increase in fruit production.
Yates Dynamic Lifter
A general nutrient boost is always good for strawberry crops, and working in a couple of applications of a dynamic lifter, such as those from Yates, can improve fruit production and overall plant health significantly.
Yates Blood and Bone
Blood and bone meal is a great option because it is totally safe for use on food crops and is a quick and reliable option for a longer-term nutrient boost to your soil while also working to maintain and balance soil pH levels.
Fertilisation techniques to ensure a bountiful harvest
The fertiliser application timing depends on your strawberry plants’ specific growth stages. Here’s a general guideline our plant experts recommend for homegrown strawberry crops:
- Initial planting: Add a slow-release fertiliser to the soil according to the packaging dosage and guidelines for an initial feeding boost.
- Growing season: In the spring through summer, regularly use a liquid fertiliser during watering to maintain optimal nutrient levels for growth.
- Late Summer/early Autumn: As the temperatures drop, apply a slow-release fertiliser to finish any remaining fruiting growth before dormancy sets in.
Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Maintaining the right application rates and methods will ensure enough fertiliser is used at any time.
Timing your fertilisation
Day-neutral strawberries grow all season and produce berries from late June to mid-fall. These strawberries continue producing new flowers as old ones turn into berries, so there is a much larger and more drawn-out season for berry harvesting.
On the flip side of the coin, fruits of the June-bearing strawberries should be removed from new plants to encourage healthy plant growth first. After this point, the plants can produce fruit normally, with a 3-5 week harvest window being the most common.
To minimise the risk of nutrient leaching or runoff, growers should use controlled-release or slow-release fertilisers. These water-soluble fertilisers can be added to the water used for irrigation in a process known as fertigation. Essentially, it is a combination of fertilising and irrigating. Both are done simultaneously to maximise nutrient absorption and reduce waste.
Strawberry planting and fertilisation methods
Three basic methods exist for planting strawberries in Australian home gardens. These are common in commercial productions and can be scaled and adapted for smaller home gardens and backyard spaces.
The three planting methods commonly used for strawberries are:
Matted row method
The most popular method of growing strawberries is called the matted-row system. To accomplish this set-up, plant your strawberries 45 to 75 centimetres apart. Plant them in rows that are spaced around 1 metre apart. Offshoot runners and new plants are allowed to grow into the space between the rows and grow into mats of plants that produce fruit.
With this method, you can apply a slow-release fertiliser when doing the initial planting and then use a soluble or liquid fertiliser regularly as the plants grow and produce fruit.
The hill system is perfect for strawberry varieties that do not produce a lot of runners and have a more bush-like growth habit. You must place plants 30 to 40 centimetres apart in double or triple-wide rows mounded off the ground. Aisles between the rows should be 0.4 to 0.6 metres wide, and the few runners produced should be removed to keep plants neatly contained.
With this method, slow-release fertiliser is used at the initial planting. Then, regular water-soluble fertilisers and additives should encourage good fruiting.
Because strawberries, in general, are shallow-root plants, they do well in pots and can be grown in many types of containers. Ensure your container is at least 20 centimetres deep and 25 to 30 centimetres in diameter.
You will want a large pot for 2 to 4 mature strawberry plants.
With this method, you will need to add slow-release fertiliser to the soil regularly as the watering needs of container crops speed up the leaching process of the fertiliser and soil.
Expert advice on choosing the right planting method
- Strawberries need a balance of nutrients to grow properly. Consider the growing season to ensure you use the best fertiliser for your crop’s current growth cycle.
- It is impossible to improve a strawberry harvest by removing extra runners. Hence, each berry gets the maximum nutrients possible, and the plant doesn’t compete with itself.
- Maintaining the right pH is essential for healthy plant growth. For most strawberry varieties in Australia, you will want soil with a slightly acidic level of 5.3 to 6.5.
- Too much nitrogen can raise acidity and negatively impact plant fruit production. In contrast, insufficient nitrogen can lead to stunted growth and overall crop failure.
Troubleshooting and maintenance
- Cultural, physical or mechanical options: These options involve choices that directly impact how likely a crop is to have issues. Choosing healthy cultivars, considering environmental factors, and using integrative pest and disease management are all ways to improve pest management and control.
- Chemical options: These options involve using chemicals and specially formulated compounds to fight pests and diseases. Opting for organic options is ideal as they are safe to use on food crops, and there is no worry about negative side effects when the berries are harvested and consumed.
- Variety options: Resistant varieties are a great way to keep your strawberries healthy. Choose plant types that are hardy against common issues such as drought and temperature or against common pests and diseases. This simple step will greatly reduce the work that goes into pest management.
- Biological options: Beneficial insects have long been used as a pest control method and include all predatory insects. This approach also includes the use of companion plants that deter pests and help boost plant health and vigour. Working these into your strawberry plantings can make pest and disease control easier.
Australia is a great place to start a backyard garden and grow food. If you are looking for some sweet and delicious treats, you have several great varieties of strawberries that thrive across the continent.
While to some, a strawberry is simply that, an experienced backyard gardener knows how to make the most of these tasty and nutritious plants. We hope this guide has helped you discover how to effectively grow and fertilise your strawberry plants.
To learn more, check out our other growing guides and talk to your local plant care expert at a local garden centre and see what tips and advice they offer!