Strawberries at Wickham farm keep warm from icy weather
THE icy blast of Darcy this week has had soft fruit farmer Graham Collett reaching for his fleeces - not for himself, but to keep his 150,000 baby strawberry plants warm.
The Meon Valley farmer, who runs Westlands Farm near Wickham, has been getting the fleeces out for the delicate plants all this week as night-time temperatures have plummeted below -3C.
Hampshire strawberries are renowned across the country for their look and flavour - the region has always produced among the very best strawberries every year. And this is a crucial time for this quintessentially British soft fruit which is due to be picked from the end of March.
Graham sells his 150 tonnes of strawberries each year in the Westlands Farm Shop but around half goes to major supermarket chains and the rest through wholesalers which means they end up in schools, care homes, restaurants and so on.
Graham said: ‘It is not unusual for it to be cold at this time of year but this week it has been especially chilly at night and for a sustained period of time too and that is a risk for the young strawberry plants we have been cultivating.
‘The fleece coverings for the plants in the poly tunnels and the glass houses just provide that little bit of extra cover for them when there is a risk of a hard frost.
‘We knew the cold weather of Darcy was coming thanks to the forecasting of the Met Office and that meant we were able to prepare for this and make sure we looked after the plants.
‘Hopefully, so long as the cold weather lifts before too long, everyone should be able to get their fresh British strawberries at their local farm shop or supermarket in time for Easter.’