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Canberra Today 3°/9° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

It’s almost strawberry planting time

Strawberries… need full sun and good airflow to keep any fungal disease at bay. Photo: Jackie Warburton

It’s almost strawberry planting time. They’re best planted in autumn, with a second planting in spring, says gardening columnist JACKIE WARBURTON

Strawberries are quick-growing, take up little space and are delicious picked and eaten straight off the plant. 

Jackie Warburton.

They need full sun and good airflow to keep any fungal disease at bay.

Strawberries don’t like too much water, but like a good soil with manures and organic matter to keep them growing and producing fast. Shallow rooted, they grow well in hanging baskets and pots. Red gauntlet is a popular variety for beginners.

Strawberry plants send out runners that can be removed to increase vigour or left to grow as a large patch.

Yields lessen over time, so replenishing plants every three to four years will make sure there’s always fruit. 

When picking strawberries, ensure the stalk is attached to the fruit, cut back old leaves to let the sun into the crown and feed with organic vegetable fertiliser. 

The main issues with strawberries are snails, slugs and birds. Sprinkling a little diatomaceous earth around the plants will help with snails and slugs, but the birds know when the fruit is ripe and a wire cage or covering will be the only way to keep them at bay. 

Dwarf magnolias… grow to a compact four metres and flowers in summer. Photo: Jackie Warburton

EVERGREEN magnolias are popular, especially the dwarf varieties that suit the suburban backyard. 

The parent tree of most magnolias is Magnolia grandiflora, which can grow more than 20 metres tall. 

Over the last few years, the dwarf varieties have increased in popularity. It grows to a compact four metres and flowers in summer. 

Its foliage is glossy, bold and opulent with the undersides having a felt-like texture. Petals of the showy, lemon-scented flowers fall, leaving interesting flower cones that contain seed. 

The flowers grow on the tip of the branches, so a good prune late summer or early autumn will ensure flowering next season as it is a fast grower, likes full sun and moist, drained soil. 

Overwatering can cause quick browning of branches and can be tricky to grow back, but if it is underwatered, it will die. It likes water, but not too much. 

Some new varieties are available as small trees as little as two metres wide and can fit in a small suburban garden or large pot as a feature plant. 

It likes full sun to flower well and prefers a slightly acid soil. Planting around camellias and azaleas will keep it happy. Fertilise with a slow-release acid fertiliser. 

The best time to plant one is early autumn to get it established before the winter weather sets in. 

Other magnolias to try in our region are deciduous and have just as spectacular flowering are Magnolia soulangeana for large gardens and Magnolia stellata for smaller gardens. Both these varieties bloom in early spring and protection from the frost and cold winds will get them flowering well or the evergreen magnolia which flowers in the summer.


  • Order autumn bulbs. 
  • Plant out more winter seedlings to cover losses. 
  • Harvest potatoes once flowers and foliage have died down. 
  • Prune flowers from basil to improve leaf growth.
  • The Horticultural Society of Canberra’s autumn flower show, Fitzroy Pavilion, Exhibition Park March 2-3. There will also be other garden clubs there such as the Cactus and Succulent Society selling and showing plants. 


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Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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