Get beds in order for strawberries

Plant your strawberries now if you want fruit. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Plant your strawberries now if you want fruit. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
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Strawberry beds lacking attention need it now if you’re planning to pick fresh fruit for Wimbledon week.

I did work through the rows mid-November, trimming excess and dead foliage, weeding and lightly forking, but must not forget the annual topping-up of soil organic content. For strawberries, it’s just as important as maintaining vigorous young plants.

We have three main varieties. Sweetheart, Cambridge Favourite and Malwina cover early, mid and late season respectively. They’re now entering their fourth year, but second season plants are on standby to take over.

This summer we’ll root a few more runners of each and discard the parent plants once cropping is completed.

January is a good time to lift mature plants from the garden and transfer them to pots, which stand on staging in an unheated greenhouse. Away from the elements, they make early growth, flower and fruit ahead of the outdoor crop. Watering and feeding is necessary, also keep checking for greenfly.

An alternative is to cover part of the outdoor crop with a mini polytunnel.

Plants currently on sale in pots will still fruit this summer if introduced to garden or container over the next week or so.

Let’s not forget the top fruits. Apples that had their side shoots shortened to 15cm in summer, to encourage maturity and fruit buds, can now have those growths reduced further to the definitive spur pruning.

Once established, this system makes management much easier.