One of my favourite memories as a child was going to the local farmer’s fields to pick strawberries. I’m fairly sure I stuffed as many in my mouth as I did in the bucket. Then covered in red, sticky gooiness I sat happily in the car ready to be driven home by my dad. That was back in England, but I bet growing berries in Australia with children, would be pretty much the same.
Growing berries in your garden is achievable for most gardeners, even those that are just starting out. I grow both my strawberries and blueberries in pots, so even if you don’t have a big space, berries can work for you.
Whilst I love growing berries, very few make it as far as my kitchen. My daughters generally pick and eat them whilst they play. I’m hoping this will be a happy memory for them as they grow older, and encourage them to grow berries with their kids.
Growing berries in Australia
Strawberries like a good quality compost with some cow poo dug through If you plan to grow them in a pot like me, fill the pot so that the soil comes just a couple of centimetres below the rim. This will allow the crown of the strawberry plant to sit high. Make sure you mulch them well to aid with water retention and to help stop the fruit from rotting. The flowers that turn into the strawberries will then be able to hang over the side of the pot or rest on the mulch.
Strawberries don’t like to get burnt so grow them in a space that gives them full sun / partial shade or alternatively, place a shade over them during those hot summer months. They are happy to be grown in most parts of Australia. Please check our climate planting guides.
Tips for strawberries
Good air circulation is important, so when you plant them give them some space. This helps to prevent mould from forming on their leaves and the plants becoming diseased. As strawberries only have shallow roots, they will dry out quickly so make sure they are kept watered. Avoid watering their leaves as this will cause mould, always water them at the root of the plant. Give them a feed when they start to flower to encourage good fruit growth. A good liquid seaweed feed will keep them happy over their fruiting seasons.
After about 3 years your strawberry plant will start to produce fewer strawberries. At this point, it is a good idea to remove it or them. The good news is that your strawberry plant will produce new plants, these are called runners. You will see them growing away from the ‘mother’ plant. They will develop nodules and roots. Allow them to root and then you can plant them into a new space. This way, you will be able to continue your strawberry supply for many years to come.
Raspberry canes can be purchased from your local nursery. There are two types of raspberry, summer fruiting and autumn fruiting. When you choose your raspberry plant, make sure you find out which type you have got as they need to be looked after a little differently.
Raspberries grow best in places where it gets cold in winter. They are happy in both a cool mountain and temperate climate. Plant them in their dormant period which is over the winter months. Put them in a sheltered spot that gets full sun. You will need to build a support such as a trellis for their canes to grow up as raspberries will grow large and need something to rest on.
The fruit grows on the canes. It generally takes a couple of years for the plant to start to produce a volume of fruit.
With an autumn fruiting raspberry, the canes will produce fruit, which at the end of the fruiting season can then be cut down to the ground, ready for new canes to grow next season.
For a summer fruiting raspberry, it takes 2 years for a cane to produce fruit. Therefore, you need to mark the canes (you can tie a piece of wool to them) that have produced fruit. These can be cut back at the end of the fruiting season. The canes that have not produced fruit must be left on the plant as these will be your fruit producers next season.
Raspberries like rich organic soil so make sure you dig some good quality compost around your plant.
Blueberries flourish in well-drained, good quality compost that is low acidic. I feed my blueberries with a camellia fertiliser to help achieve this, also adding some ground coffee beans that would otherwise have headed to my compost. They do not need to be fertilised often. As mine is in a pot, I fertilise at the end of winter, to prepare the plant for its new spring growth.
Blueberries like a position in full sun. This is important. A blueberry will not be happy if it is in the shade. They are happy to be planted at most times of the year. Please check the climate guides here. Once you have planted your blueberry, as it has shallow roots, it is important to mulch it well with some sugar cane mulch. This will help to retain water in the soil. Blueberries like to be watered frequently so that they do not dry out, particularly when they are flowering and producing fruit. If you don’t keep up the water, you will see the flowers and fruit dropping. They produce fruit on year-old canes.
Getting the most out of blueberries
To get the most out of your blueberry plant, you should remove all flowers for the first couple of years. This is frustrating but will help to improve future harvests. In terms of pruning, a new bush should only be pruned to remove dead or diseased wood as the canes where the blueberries grow need to establish. Once it’s established it does not need a lot of pruning. Canes that are several years old will start to produce less fruit so focus on removing these. The best time to prune is at the start of spring when the weather begins to warm up.
These are very similar to raspberries. Boysenberry like a position that is sheltered from the wind, in full sun. They also will grow their fruit on long, thorny canes so make sure you put in a trellis for them to grow along.
Boysenberry needs a well-draining soil that is sandy loamy with a big spade of organic, quality compost and cow manure dug in. Their canes will keep on growing so, if you are putting in more than one, make sure you give each a large space of at least one meter between. Train the canes horizontally along the trellis. Boysenberry will only produce fruit on a cane in its second year. Once the cane has produced fruit it will not give you more the next year, so this cane can be removed at the ground once the fruit has been harvested. There are a couple of ways to know what is giving you fruit. You can tie a piece of wool to fruit-producing canes so you know which to remove. Alternatively, when you train the canes onto the trellis, train all new canes flat along the ground for the first year, then remove the old canes, then move the new canes up the trellis.
What boysenberries like
Boysenberry like to be watered enough that they do not dry out. In the winter, this may be just once a week, whereas in summer you must water more frequently.
Fertilise your plants in the spring by adding some good quality compost and manure and digging this through the soil.
The biggest pests for all these berries are birds that will enjoy the fruit just as much as we do. It is advisable to place a net over your plants to keep the birds away if they are a problem in your garden.