As the month of July approaches, the press is once again full of stories about tennis and the latest Great British Hope. But when we think of Wimbledon, our thoughts immediately turn to strawberries and cream. What could be more quintessentially British than that? But does the unpredictable weather mean your chances of growing the perfect strawberry are ruined forever?
Strawberries are relatively easy to grow as they can be grown in a variety of ways: in the open ground, in cold frames or greenhouses as well as in pots, containers or hanging baskets. However, they are susceptible to the vagaries of the weather and can succumb to pests and diseases.
There are a few simple rules when growing them:
Prepare your site – Choose a sunny position. Only shallow cultivation is required, dig a shallow trench and add organic matter, such as leaf mould or well-rotted compost as they prefer a mineral-rich, alkaline soil.
When to plant – plants should be purchased in August or September – make sure they are disease free. If the weather is mild, strawberries can be planted as late as November.
How to plant – plants should be placed about 1½ft apart, in rows 2½ft apart. Dig a good sized hole and spread the roots out. Fill in the hole with excess soil and tread down hard.
Routine care – When the plants have flowered, a layer of mulch should be placed around the base of the plants to keep the fruit clean and free from damage. Strawberries also benefit from feeding; a weekly drink of tomato food does the fruit a world of good. I the strawberries are planted in pots or containers, they do not need mulching.
Protection from predators – As the fruits start to grow they need to be protected from birds. Cover the plants with a fine mesh or bird-proof netting.
When to harvest – Pick your strawberries and eat them when they are plump and red all over.
So now you have your perfect strawberry. All you need is to grab some cream and a bottle of champagne and you’re set to go. Anyone for tennis?