Gardening: A little sunshine means a bumper crop of strawberries
Wimbledon starts on Monday, so what better fruit to talk about than strawberries?
They’re easy to grow, as long as they have sun, shelter, and fertile, well-drained soil.
Don’t plant in areas that have previously grown potatoes, chrysanthemums, or tomatoes to avoid the disease verticillium wilt.
Buy named varieties, or use your own runners.
In poor soils grow in raised beds, or try containers, hanging baskets or grow bags.
Plant 35cm (14in) apart, trimming the roots lightly to 10cm (4in) if necessary, then spread them out in the hole.
Make sure that the base of the crown rests lightly on the surface.
Place the next row, 75cm (30in) away.
A fibre mat can be placed around each one, or you can plant through black polythene – red is supposed to give you a tastier, bigger crop but I haven’t tried it.
Water in well.
Water frequently at soil level, as water from overhead can rot the crown and fruit.
During the growing season, give plants a liquid tomato feed every seven to 14 days.
As fruits start to develop, tuck straw or matting underneath them to prevent them rotting on the soil. Net if birds are a problem.
After cropping has finished, remove the old leaves with secateurs or hand shears, and the straw mulch, fibre mat, or black polythene.
Strawberry plants should crop well for three years before being replaced – the plants’ runners should provide you with ample replacements.
Harvesting time: June-September.
Planting distance: 35-40cm apart (14”).
Aspect and soil: Full sun, moisture-retentive, sheltered, fertile soil. Avoid windy sites. Feed with granular fertiliser in late winter/early spring and mulch; feed with tomato fertiliser every 7-14 days in growing season.
Pruning: Cut back old leaves after fruiting; tidy up plants in late winter. Remove unwanted runners.
Recommended varieties: Early: Honeoye, Frutium Belleure.
Mid-season: Cambridge Favourite, Alice, Elsanta, Hapil, Pegasus.
Late season: Symphony, Florence.
Perpetual: Mara de Bois, Aromel, Parfum Line, Parfum Royal, Parfum Fraisonette, Parfum Fraisibelle, Parfum Eternal Love.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
* Liquid feed container plants and keep well watered in dry spells.
* Autumn-flowering bulbs, such as autumn crocuses, Colchicum, Sternbergia, Amaryllis, and Nerine, can be planted now.
* Take cuttings of patio and container plants ready for next year.
* Prop up tall perennials such as lupins, delphiniums, and gladioli if staking was neglected earlier in the season.
* Watch out for aphids (greenfly and blackfly) on stems and leaves of young shoots.
* Small holes and tears in the new foliage of ornamentals such as Caryopteris, Fuchsia and Dahlia are most likely caused by capsid bug damage.
* Powdery mildew can play havoc with plants such as clematis, roses, and honeysuckle.
* Look out for tall, flowering stalks on established bamboo and remove them promptly. Flowering can weaken the plants, as well as being unsightly.
* Ensure newly planted trees and shrubs do not dry out. They need much more water than people imagine.
* Yellow and distorted leaves on cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) show a powdery mildew problem.
* You may notice damage to leaves of Viburnum by viburnum beetles. The damage is not usually bad enough to call for treatment.
* Damp down greenhouses on hot days.
* Top up ponds and water features if necessary – a spray attachment on the hose will aerate the water. Any pumps on water features should be left on during sultry nights, as oxygen levels are lower in such conditions.
* Remove dead foliage and blooms from water lilies and other aquatic plants. Cut back any marginal plants that are getting out of hand. Continue to skim blanket and floating weeds.
GET IN TOUCH
* For more information, plus cook what you grow, recipes, environmental news and more, log on to the website at www.mandycanudigit.com – which is also now smartphone friendly.
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