A bit of planning will give us strawberry fields forever...
It’s wonderful to be picking strawberries. I have been plucking about eight every day from my plants growing in the greenhouse at home.
You can tell they are home-grown because they have a fragrance.
They were planted in five-inch diameter pots in John Innes No3 compost last autumn, left out in the cold and four inches of snow.
They were brought into the unheated greenhouse on February 2 and are now producing a great tasty crop. They are fed Maxicrop All Purpose plant food once a week.
To my amazement the variety called Marshmallow, which I bought two years ago, has now started to produce fruit.
This variety from Marshalls has an excellent taste. They are growing outside on the allotment.
The pigeons eat the fruits long before they ripen but a fine net supported on short stakes will stop them pecking the fruits.
It is essential to keep the plants well watered to ensure the berries are large and fleshy.
Strawberries planted in a strawberry tower, which looks like an upturned dustbin with little in-built cups to hold the plants, have died in a few places. The reason? Simple. I forgot to water them!
When picking the fruits, rotate them to ensure the fruits are red all round.
Take a bucket with you into which you put weeds every time you go out to monitor the strawberrries and it won’t be long before you are putting the fruits into the bucket instead.
We must now look ahead...
Long spindly stems called runners will soon appear. These will produce a baby plant.
Take a piece of 12in-long thick wreath wire, cut it in half and bend it to form the shape of a hairpin.
Fill three-inch diameter flower pots with potting compost, not garden soil, burying the pot halfway into the soil to stop it falling over. Now peg the tip of the runner into the little pot. This will provide plants for next year.
Keep the pots watered because they dry out quickly.
Choose runners from plants which are producing a good crop of berries and also look to make sure the foliage on the ones you are choosing looks healthy because if the plants are producing poor leaves, yellow streaks and lots of red leaves, they are deteriorating. This might be a sign of strawberry virus or red spider mite.
Is there a secret to success?
Remember to plant new plants during the early autumn on a new area.
Also remember thatin year one you will get the largest fruits; in year two, you will get the best crop; and in the third year you will notice the crop has deteriorated and you will wonder why.
Why? They are too old. So, follow the advice and peg some runners down into those three-inch diameter pots.