Strawberry Crop Production
Strawberries are relatively short-lived herbaceous perennials, producing for 2 to 3 years. Plant in an open, sunny position in raised beds; a good airflow will reduce fungal diseases. Strawberries prefer a well-drained soil, rich in humus. Dig in lots of organic matter, compost, animal manure or blood and bone, about a month before planting. Keep the beds well mulched, to control weeds and keep the fruit clean.
Strawberries should be planted in an open sunny position preferably in raised beds that have good air circulation to help prevent fungal disease. They prefer a slightly acid soil with a pH of around pH5 - 6. Mulch the beds heavily to prevent weed competition. Irrigate with drippers to avoid the spread of fungal disease often caused by overhead watering. They are gross feeders and so beds should be well prepared with compost and dressings of well decomposed animal manure after a leguminous cover crop. To prevent viral disease do not plant in beds that previously grew members of the Solanaceae family.
Plants should be purchased certified virus free. The flowering of many modern varieties can be extended through almost three seasons, by removing leaves (ie. summer pruning), and growing in greenhouses (in frost prone areas).The production of runners also inhibits flowering remove runners to increase cropping and prevent overcrowding.
A fortnightly spray with seaweed is very beneficial and helps to improve vigour.
In commercial production, strawberries are generally grown for one or two seasons then removed and replanted with fresh, healthy plants. Home growers should replace plants every 2 - 3 years establish new plantings in a new bed to avoid build up of disease.
Soils and Nutrition
Sandy soils tend to produce a slightly earlier crop, but sands need more irrigation.
A medium loam is generally idea (ie. not heavy clay or sand). Lime soils (ie. a pH over 7.0) results in yellow leaves and poor crops. Water-logging will generally cause death.
Before planting cultivate and mix in 5 6 tonnes per acre of an organic fertilizer such as poultry manure or horse manure mixed with shavings or straw (ie. deep litter).
Strawberries are a deep rooted crop (some roots penetrate up to 1 metre deep, though 50% are within the top 20 to 30cm). As such, the soil is best to be reasonably friable. Research shows that crops benefit from deep cultivation.
Snails, birds and a variety of insects are the main problems with strawberries.
A few fungal diseases including botrytis and powdery mildew may also affect plants and fruit.
Strawberries are also susceptible to Fusarium, Verticillium, Armillaria and Phytopthera; avoiding infected and poorly drained soils will generally prevent these becoming a problem.
Potentially the most serious problem is a virus, however, virus free plants are readily available, but make sure that your supplier is reputable. To avoid this problem re-plant with virus free stock every 2 years.