Hello and welcome to Organic Edible Garden. It’s very early spring and if the worst of your frosts are passed in your area it’s time now to put your strawberries in. Strawberry plants still need that cold winter chill to set them off into flower. They also need the warmth and the sunshine to produce sweet, juicy fruit. It’s important to remember that strawberries like an acidic soil of between pH5.5 and 6.5. As a general rule those areas with high rainfall are always going to be more acidic than those with less. And also those in heavy soils like clay soils like ours are always going to be more acidic than those who live at the beach with sandy soils. If you need to add acidity to your strawberry bed, there’s a few good natural options. Firstly, there’s coffee grounds. This will add also a lot of carbon back into your soil. There’s peat moss which helps with moisture retention. There’s elemental sulphur which is a quick way of changing the pH in your soil. And finally there’s pine needles. I prefer pine needles because not only do they provide a good mulch and add the acidity but they’re a good deterrent to slugs and snails. After having corrected the pH of our soil the next most important thing to look at for strawberries is fertiliser. When planting our strawberry plants we don’t want a high nitrogen boost for them. We’ll get all leaf growth and not enough into the root growth to make them strong plants. What I’ve done here is I’ve dug trenches and in the trench I’m going to put some animal manure. Then I’ll mound up the soil over the top of that and plant the strawberries in it, so it won’t be until a few weeks after they’re growing that their roots will actually touch that animal manure and give them the nitrogen boost they need. In this case I’m using chicken manure but you can use sheep pellets or any other animal manure. A raised bed like this is great to grow strawberries. Drainage is really important so if you’re planting in a normal garden bed, make sure you hill it up, so there’s no chance of water-logging. Even though strawberries are readily available in spring and summer and are really cheap to buy, I still like to grow my own. I do this because homegrown strawberries not only have a longer season, but they taste great. And secondly they’re a heavily-sprayed crop and I prefer not to have that in my life. Even though I’m using a raised bed here I’m still hilling up the mounds to plant my strawberries in. I’m doing this because by the time I put a mulch and my pine needles down, I don’t want them smothering the plants. And we need to put the mulch and the pine needles down because when the strawberry plants produce strawberries they shouldn’t be resting on the dirt because it’ll cause them to rot. To get the strawberries off to a really good start and get their roots strong, we’re going to soak them in a seaweed solution. You do this if they’re in pots or even if they’re bare-rooted. And while doing this, if any of your strawberry plants have got flowers on, it’s a good time to chop them off. We do this so all the energy goes into leaf and root growth and not into fruit production. Now that they’ve been soaking for about 5 minutes, they’re ready to plant out. And as a general rule of thumb, you want to plant about 5 plants for every person in the household depending on how much they eat. In this bed I’ve got 16 strawberries so I’m going to do 2 rows of 8. And I want to have a bit of distance between the rows. I do this because I grow them organically and I want to have lots of air movement to help with fungus problems. When planting the strawberry plants it’s so important to have the crown, which is this large clumpy piece here, above the soil level. This is where all the flowers come from and if it’s covered with dirt, the flowers will rot. Strawberries are strong feeders and during the growing season, they need a lot of different fertiliser. What we’re going to do now is, because we want a lot of root growth, we’re going to put a high phosphorus fertiliser in, which is our rock dust. Then when it’s fruiting and got lots of flowers on, it’ll need the potassium fertiliser, which this is also strong in. What this lacks is nitrogen, but by the time the roots get down to that chicken manure, they’re going to pick it up from there. And don’t waste the seaweed solution. You can give them a bit of that as well. We’ll put the pine needles in now in the centre and that’s just going to provide good moisture retention as well as add the acidity to the soil. And finally our lucerne chaff. We’ll put all around the strawberry plants and as the season goes we may have to give it a second dosage. And now we’ll water it in. It’ll bed the strawberries in and stop the mulch from flying away. We’re going to net our bed now rather than wait for the strawberries to get ready because we’ve got chickens and cats and pukekos that will just love going in this bed.