June 2016 Guest Speaker

The strawberry farm is 70 acres in area and can support up to half a million plants. There are 40-50 employees. The area in Millgrove was selected because of the soil temperatures and the quality of the soil.

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Luciano and Heather Corallo – Strawberry Springs Farm

The strawberry farm is 70 acres in area and can support up to half a million plants. There are 40-50 employees. The area in Millgrove was selected because of the soil temperatures and the quality of the soil. A soil that poses good temperatures can prolong the growing and hence the fruiting season. The soil, while slightly acidic, is enriched using phosphorus, potassium and lime. Ploughed in green crops on an annual rotation, also maintains beneficial soil structure. All planting is carried out in north/south rows as this allows the prevailing winds to blow along the beds rather that across them, thus minimising wing damage to the plants. The open air aspect also helps reduce the problem of mildew.

All planting is of the one variety and plants are replaced each year.

Plastic is used under the plants in order to keep fruit clean and easy to pick. The plastic also helps retain moisture which is supplied by drip irrigation. All runners are trimmed off so that the plant can concentrate on producing fruit.

Pest control is maintained by the release of beneficial insects and/or bugs rather than insecticide and chemical spraying. There is a need for occasional spraying when the problems of mildew and rot occur. Most pollination occurs from the wind and bees.

There is a new retail venture on the site to cater to those who wish to purchase strawberry products like cakes, biscuits, cheesecakes and sponges. You can also pick up some beautiful large, fresh strawberries in season between November and the end of January.

The strawberry industry has recognised Yarra Valley as at the ‘top end’ of the world list for both strawberry quality and flavour. Congratulations Strawberry Springs Farm.

There were numerous questions asked by the members and answers were delivered in a very professional manner.

Peter Versteege warmly thanked Luciano and Heather for their excellent and most interesting presentation.

 

May 2016 Meeting

Simon gave a brief history of perennial borders in Britain and the subsequent further development of this form of gardening, especially in the United States and Holland.

Simon Rickard: Herbaceous borders and perennials for dry climates

Simon gave a brief history of perennial borders in Britain and the subsequent further development of this form of gardening, especially in the United States and Holland. Typically such borders were a feature of grand estates with four or more gardeners, and involved a great deal of work and expertise. They reached the peak of their perfection in early spring. Major requirements:

  • 6-8 hours of sun per day
  • Beds that are much longer than they are wide
  • A width of at least 4 metres, preferably more
  • The tallest plants to be ⅔ of the width of the beds
  • A backdrop of a hedge or a wall
  • Very good soil (as for growing vegetables) with plenty of compost, and mulch which is constantly topped up
  • Plenty of water
  • Long wet springs, short mild summers and cold winters.

Australian conditions are not suitable for the traditional English herbaceous border, but it is still possible to achieve a full, lush and beautiful garden by avoiding early-spring plants and instead using perennials that flower in late summer and which come from countries with similar climatic conditions to Australia.

  • Decide on a ‘look’ and stick to it
  • Aim for repeat blocks of the same small number of plants
  • Shape and texture are more important than colour
  • Make sure all plants will flower at the same time.

Reliable late-summer performers:

  • Perovskia (Russian sage)
  • Agastache (Humming-bird mint)
  • Zauschneria
  • Sedum ‘Autumn joy’
  • Calmagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’
  • Miscanthus (needs a bit more water)
  • Anthemis ‘Susan Mitchell’
  • Many salvias, especially Salvia nemorosa
  • Catmints, especially ‘Walker’s low’ and ‘Six Hills giant’
  • Gaillardias
  • Origanums
  • Penstemons, especially P. serrulatus
  • Gauras
  • Kniphofias
  • Phlomis
  • Agapanthus – the sterile types which don’t set seed.
  • Mixed borders of perennials, bulbs and shrubs can help to keep the bed interesting through every season. Add in winter-flowering bulbs eg crocuses; shrub roses eg damasks, rugosas, species roses (R. moyesii for hips); shrubs such as yuccas, euonymus, euphorbias, cotinus (coppiced to the ground in early spring), cornus, buddleja.