Posts Tagged ‘bare root strawberries’

December Gardening Advice

December 2nd, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

December is the month where we swap our garden wellies for festive frocks and a glass of something bubbly. As well as looking ahead to 2018, we should also take a moment to reflect over this year’s gardening achievements. What worked, what didn’t, and what could you do better next year?

Frost in Winter

 

Now is the time to retreat to a cosy nook, or settle down in front of a warm fire and armed with a laptop, seed catalogues, and pen and paper, start drawing up lists, and make seed orders for next year. Maybe think about re-designing your garden, building a greenhouse, or growing something new on the vegetable patch?

As the days get shorter, the temperature drops further. But remember, this month sees the shortest day of the year (Thursday 21st December), and after that, the days get longer, with the promise of spring on the horizon.

 

In the flower garden

Protection

If you haven’t done so already, there’s still time to move those pots and containers. If you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel, or shed, then group them together in a protected area of the garden. Also, try to keep them raised and off the frozen ground. If your containers are too heavy, think about wrapping horticultural fleece around your treasured shrub. Bubble plastic is another option, a wrapped potted plant won’t only benefit from the added warmth, but your expensive pot won’t crack from the frost.

Dahlia 'Karma Choc'Storing tubers

It’s not too late to lift and store dahlia tubers. By cutting the foliage to a couple of cms above the tuber, any foliage dieback won’t reach and damage the tuber. Before storing them in a cool, dark place, let them dry-out upside down for a few days in the greenhouse, to drain the last of the moisture. Brush off the excess dirt, and place them carefully into a protected box or crate. Sand or old newspaper makes good insulation, but ensure the tubers aren’t touching. Check them regularly for any sign of rot. Dispose of those accordingly.

Pruning

As December rumbles on, you may want to consider pruning deciduous trees. With leaves now fallen the tree’s structure is clearly visible. Think about the three ‘Ds’: dead, damaged and diseased. Prune any branches that fall under these categories, but remember overall structure, and try not to prune too hard. As winter is a time of dormancy, many ‘sap’ based shrubs and trees, such as vines and acers, can also be pruned. It’s also time to start winter pruning wisteria. Ensure you cut summer side shoots back to no more than three buds.

 

New Chelsea roses 2017: 'Simple Yellow' (left), 'Margaret Greville' and 'Vanessa Bell'

Roses

Another plant that will benefit pruning now is bush roses. Bare root varieties can now be planted up. Ensure all climbing roses are sufficiently tied-back, as winter winds can cause damage. A fresh supply of mulch around your garden plants will help protect them from the cold.

Root cuttings

Consider taking root cuttings from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies, and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

Leaf mould

Continue to keep borders and paths clear; debris and foliage can make paths slippery as well as harbouring slugs, snails and other pests. If you have the space, why not create a large bin for leaves to break down naturally.  Four posts, forming a square, pegged into the ground, and surrounded with chicken wire is an easy and cheap solution. Twelve months from now, you’ll be looking at a wonderfully rich leaf mould that can be spread across the garden.

Christmas trees

With the festive season upon us, like many, you’ll be considering buying a Christmas tree. With so many pine varieties to choose from, it’s worth thinking about a pine tree that can be planted after the festive period. The potted Christmas tree has been steadily increasing in demand as consumers have become more environmentally conscious. Ten years from now that small tree you bought could be happily maturing in your garden, giving you and your family, not to mention the garden wildlife, great pleasure.

Failing that, don’t be so quick to throw away your tree. It can be chopped up, and used as mulch for acidic plants, such as blueberries. The branches could also find use as support canes for growing peas on your allotment.

Christmas wreath

If you’ve been growing ivy or holly, then you might want to consider creating your very own Christmas wreath. By using cuttings of evergreen, or branches of crab apples, and pyracantha berries, this is the time to let your creativity go wild.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird-feeding stations are clean and replenished regularly. A fresh water supply will also help our feathered friends at this time of year. Check all water features, including ponds, don’t freeze over, as this can damage the structures as well as being harmful to the fish and garden wildlife.

Freezing temperatures

Keep an eye on the weather reports and overnight temperatures. If you have plants in the greenhouse, then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. If there is a snowfall, ensure all snow is removed from the greenhouse exterior, as any plants growing in the greenhouse, will need all the warmth they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.

 

On the veg patch

Winter veg carrots

Winter veg

With the festive season upon us, it’s time for your winter veg to play their part on the Christmas day menu. Continue to check crops for pests and diseases, removing any fallen, yellowing or rotten foliage. The later you can leave digging up the veg, the fresher it’ll be on the big day. However, take into account the possibility of the ground being hard or frozen. If you haven’t started growing your veg yet, have a look at our range, which includes salsify, kale, squash, broccoli, cabbage and much more!

Primary cultivation

As winter veg gets dug up, and plots start becoming bare, remove old debris and add to the compost heap. If the ground’s not too hard, turn over the soil to expose dozing pests and to aerate the soil. If you can, spread a thick layer of compost, or well-rotted manure over the plot. If you have a compost heap, turn it over, as this will help it break down.

Bare root strawberriesFruit

If you’re growing currants or gooseberries, take hardwood cuttings. If you’ve been growing rhubarb for some years, dig up the crowns. Split them, top to bottom, with a spade, and then re-plant. If you’ve purchased new varieties, get them into the ground also. Remember, leave a newly planted crown untouched for a year, that way it can become established, and produce quality stalks.

This is a good time of the year to plant bare root fruit bushes and trees, such as gooseberry and currant bushes or apple, fig and cherry trees. Again, if you have established fruit trees, these can now be pruned. Think about the three ‘Ds’, as mentioned earlier. Check all staked fruit trees. If not securely tied-in, windrock can cause damage, and potentially kill the plant.

Winter salad

Winter salad

Continue to successional sow winter salads; check leaves for any slugs and pests. And if not grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel, ensure they are protected with a cold frame, cloche or horticultural fleece.

Prepping tools

If the weather has taken a turn for the worse, retreat to the potting shed. Once warm, set about cleaning and sharpening all hand tools. Service all power tools, including the lawn mower. Thoroughly clean all empty pots and trays, in hot water and diluted washing up liquid. Carrying out these tasks now will ensure your tools last for years to come.

 

Indoors

Indoor plants

Add colour to the home with poinsettias, hyacinths or cyclamen persicum. However, keep watering to a minimum, and place them in a draught-free environment, out of direct sunlight.

Finally, rather than buying decorations from the shop, why not bring the outside in. Cuttings of evergreen, and sprigs of holly, can make excellent mantle and table displays. Of course, with mistletoe hanging from a doorway, it’s a great way to make friends and share the spirit of the season. And for the ones that simply can’t get enough of gardening, we have a little indoor option: the herb grow kit, which may be the perfect Christmas present for a loved one.

 

 

Care and Cultivation of Strawberries

March 4th, 2015 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Strawberry Collection

When you receive your new strawberry plants,  unpack and check them immediately to ensure they are what you ordered and in the condition you’d expect.

Because plants are dormant when we send them out, some of the older leaves surrounding the central crown may look a bit ‘tired’ or even dead. This is quite normal. These old leaves can be left on the plant until the new foliage starts to emerge in the spring, at which point any that are completely dead should be removed. Leaving these old leaves on the plant throughout the winter and early spring will help to protect the crown from severe frosts and excessive rainfall.

What to do First

After unpacking, inspect the roots and, if they look at all dry, stand the plants in a bucket of water for a few minutes to moisten the root system thoroughly.

Strawberry runners

Plant as soon as possible but, if ground is not ready, temporarily ‘heel’ in the plants in a shady spot on a spare patch of ground. Space them out in a line and cover the roots with moist soil.

If there’s no ground available in a workable condition, they can be kept for a few days in a cool shed or garage, if the roots are wrapped in damp hessian or newspaper to protect them from drying out. Alternatively, pot them up, place them in a cold frame and plant them out when conditions are more suitable in spring.

Soil Preparation and Planting

Choose a sheltered area of the garden in full sun and, if possible, avoid known frost pockets.

While strawberries will grow on most soils, they require a well-drained, moisture-retentive soil, rich in humus to thrive, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, like farmyard manure or garden compost.

Prepare the soil as long before planting as possible and be sure to remove all perennial weeds as you dig as it is almost impossible to remove them from an established bed. Just before planting, rake in a dressing of balanced fertiliser, such as growmore or blood, fish and bone to give the plants a boost this season and, if recently dug, firm the ground thoroughly.

Set plants 37-45cm (15-18in) apart, in rows 82-90cm (33-36in) apart. Plant with a trowel, ensuring the roots are well spread out in each planting hole. It is most important to set the crowns just level with the soil surface. After refilling with moist soil, firm in each plant with your boot.

Aftercare Tips

If your plants are not growing strongly, particularly if they are spring planted, it is best to de-blossom them in their first season. This may seem hard in the short term but will enable plants to devote all their energies to building strong crowns for future years.

At the beginning of June, mulch fruiting rows with straw, tucking it around the plants and under the fruiting trusses. This keeps the fruits clean and reduces rotting. Do not put down straw earlier in the season as this will increase the chances of frost damage.

After strawing, cover rows with a net to prevent the ripening fruits being attacked by blackbirds or other birds. Support the net clear of the plants. If frost is forecast after plants have come into flower, protect them by covering with fleece, plastic or other suitable material.

Photo 21-06-2014 19 10 26

Strawberries suffer more than most other fruit in times of drought. If the weather turns dry at any time after the fruits start to swell, water rows thoroughly about once a week until rainfall returns to normal.

Immediately after picking has finished, clip over the plants with a pair of shears to remove the leaves. This allows a crop of new leaves to grow to nourish developing flower buds that will produce the following year’s crop. Remove the straw and give the bed a thorough weeding at the same time. Compost or burn all the material removed.

Plants will start to produce runners from about mid-June onwards. If you wish to keep rows of single-spaced plants, cut off the runners as they develop. The alternative is to encourage the formation of matted rows, which give higher yields. To achieve matted rows, allow the first 7-10 runners from each parent plant to root in a band 20-25cm (8-10in) on either side of the row and only remove any that are surplus to this.

Keep rows well weeded at all times and, each year in February, top-dress plants with a high potash fertiliser to encourage flowering and fruiting. You can have extra-early strawberries if you cover an early variety with cloches or a polythene tunnel at the end of February.

Perpetual Fruiting Strawberries

Also known as everbearing types, these varieties start to flower at more or less the same time as other strawberries but continue to produce flowers and fruit until the weather becomes too cold in October. The fruiting period can be extended if plants are protected with cloches in the autumn.

As the main reason for growing these varieties is to obtain fruit in late summer and autumn, it is recommended that any flowers produced before the end of May are cut off to encourage maximum production of fruit from July onwards. Later flowers should all be left on, even in the first year.

Cultivation differs from that of standard varieties in that fewer runners are produced and, as these flower and fruit immediately, they should not be removed. Also, plants should not be defoliated in summer. Instead, old leaves should be removed and beds cleaned up in late winter.

The maximum period for which these varieties will crop well is two years, after which beds should be replanted. They are often grown in tubs or barrels and are ideal for this purpose.

Nation of Gardeners results: Strawberry Sweetheart spring planted

April 22nd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Strawberry SweetheartStrawberry Sweetheart  is a modern variety bred at the famous East Malling Research in Kent. The sweet and juicy berries are conical in shape and have good colour.  The plants have a good habit and the fruit is well displayed too. The plants will fruit whether planted in the ground, container, window box or hanging basket making them a versatile and rewarding variety to grow.

Our Nation of Gardeners were originally asked to plant 12 bare root plants of variety Strawberry Sweetheart in November 2013 to test raising these bare root plants over winter in the open ground.  Mr Fothergill’s believes that autumn planted strawberries benefit from planting at this time in order to gain best fruiting results the following summer.  In March 2014 our gardeners were asked to plant out another 12 plant spring consignment of the same variety to test this theory.

The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 March 23 March Planted in open ground in west facing position.
Renfrewshire 28m 16 March Planted out in raised pots
North Devon 30-50m 31 March 14 April 6 put in raised bed, 5 in strawberry planter. 14/04 looking very settled in both location, new growth spotted.
Worcestershire 55m
Herefordshire 16 March 16 March Planted in raised bed on open site
Cumbria 90m
Ceredigion 131m 13 March 22 March Much quicker to show new growth
Bristol 55m 13 March 14 March Planted in open ground in raised bed.  First bloom 23 April.
Suffolk 6m 13 March First bloom 13 April.
Hertfordshire 150m 14 March 21 March Planted in open ground alongside the autumn planted Strawberries in partial shade position.
Surrey 58m 20 March 29 March Planted into pots outside
Pontypridd 157m 15 March 22 March Planted in open ground in south facing position. Established quickly and are now the same size as the autumn sown, but no flowers yet 13/04/2014
Buckinghamshire 66m 13 March Soaked in water before planting out in pots.
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 13 March Planted out in raised beds in south facing position
Moray 14 March 10 of 11 original plants still surviving.
Derbyshire 241m 16 March 20 March Planted in open ground on south facing plot. 10 live plants on arrival, x2 DOA. By 23 March they have established well. 12 April: one plant has been eaten, or withered away.

Nation of Gardeners results: Strawberry Buddy spring planted

April 22nd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Strawberry BuddyStrawberry Buddy is an everbearing variety that will provide a continuous supply of large, deep red berries from June through to October. Bred from a breeding programme at East Malling to develop varieties suitable to our ever changing climate.  Buddy has a ground cover habit and will continue to produce sweet tasting fruits, even in very hot weather.

Our Nation of Gardeners were originally asked to plant 12 bare root plants of variety Strawberry Buddy in November 2013 to test raising these bare root plants over winter in the open ground.  Mr Fothergill’s believes that autumn planted strawberries benefit from planting at this time in order to gain best fruiting results the following summer.  In March 2014 our gardeners were asked to plant out another 12-plant spring consignment of the same variety to test this theory.

The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 March 21 March Planted in open ground in west facing position.
Renfrewshire 28m
North Devon 30-50m
Worcestershire 55m
Herefordshire 16 March 16 March Planted in raised bed on open site
Cumbria 90m
Ceredigion 131m
Bristol 55m
Suffolk 6m
Hertfordshire 150m 15 March 20 March Planted in open ground alongside the autumn planted Strawberries in partial shade position.
Surrey 58m
Pontypridd 157m 15 March 22 March Planted in open ground in south facing position. Established quickly and are now the same size as the autumn sown, but no flowers yet 13/04/2014
Buckinghamshire 66m 30 March Soaked in water before planting out in pots.
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 13 March Planted out in raised beds in south facing position
Moray
Derbyshire 241m 16 March 20 March Planted in open ground on south facing plot. 10 live plants on arrival, x2 DOA. By 23 March they have established well. 12 April: two plants look dwarfed.

Nation of Gardeners November planting update: keeping our gardeners busy as autumn slips into winter

December 9th, 2013 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Live plants parcel received November 2013In November, the Nation of Gardeners received their second shipment of plants from Mr Fothergill’s.   As autumn slips into winter, many gardeners believe that their gardens go to sleep, but there’s so much to be done to plan for next year’s flower and soft fruit beds. It’s a perfect time to take stock of the structure of the garden and where there might be gaps that need filling.

Bare root perennials are shipped out at this time of year, and it’s a good time to put in fruit trees, fruit bushes and soft fruit plants too. And so it was a bumper pack of plants that hit the gardener’s doorsteps in early November, with the parcel containing 35 plants to keep our Nation of Gardeners busy.

A round up of November’s plantings

Blackberry Rueben primocan blackberry in Pontypridd

The gardeners received a Blackberry Reuben potted plant – this variety of blackberry is the world’s first primocane and so Mr Fothergill’s wants to really test this plant for performance across the whole of the UK, with especial interest in how this variety performs in more northern territories.

The blackberry plants – such as the one illustrated here newly planted in Pontypridd – was received with instructions for planting in the open ground.

All gardeners reported back that their specimens looked healthy and happy and were quick to establish themselves.  The plants were so happy in their new homes that three gardeners – in Pontypridd, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk  – even reported back that their plants were flowering soon after the plants had become settled.

By early December, most gardeners were reporting that their plants were still looking healthy and green-leafed, with no signs of them obeying the oncoming winter by dropping their leaves.

 

Strawberry runnersStrawberry runners were also shipped out in November, with 12 each of Strawberry Sweetheart (a June bearer) and Strawberry Buddy (an everbearing variety).

Mr Fothergill’s believes that autumn planting helps strawberries establish quickly and increases the yield for the summer, so how next summer’s crops turn out will be observed closely by the participants.   The gardeners will receive the same varieties again in Spring against which to compare their results.

The plants arrived as bare roots like the ones illustrated here. They arrived with the instructions to plant outside 15″-18″ apart.

The gardeners found a variety of means of planting their strawberries such as in raised beds, patio planters and potato bags.  Again, gardeners reported that the strawberries quickly established themselves with plants looking ‘perky’ only a few days later and definite leaf growth being observed within a couple of weeks.

strawberry_composition-nov2013

 

Bare root perennials are also being grown in this round to test the theory of planting out at this time of year to get a head start on establishing good growth the following year.  Five varieties of bare root perennial plants were selected comprising the following:

Two of each of these plants were received by the gardeners, along with planting instructions to put one in the ground and one in a pot that is to be protected in coldframe or greenhouse.   This should reveal the best method for handling these plants at this time of year, and will give insight into how they perform in the different regions included in the project.

Bare root perennials in the coldframe

Due to the nature of bare root perennials, strong results aren’t expected until the spring, though new leaf growth has been reported by a handful of the gardeners.

In North Devon, Papaver Place Pigalle is looking healthy

Papaver, Sedum and Astrantia all took to their placements well with new leaves emerging for many of the gardeners as the month of November unfolded.  Some gardeners also saw signs of life – or at least signs of a happy healthy plant – in the Eryngiums too. The photo to the right here shows our Devon gardener’s healthy and vigorous growth of her coldframe planted Papaver.

Across the board, the notoriously reluctant Cimicifuga refused to show anyone any sign of life.  This is a plant that takes a few years to properly establish however, and so our gardeners will have to maintain some patience waiting for this variety to show itself in the warmer weather in 2014.

October planting update

The plants grown by the group in October have continued to go from strength to strength.  For many, the garlic is starting to show, having got off to a very slow start during October and November.  There are still some garlic that refuses to show its head from beneath the soil however, so continued cold snaps will eventually show us if this will spurt these plants into life.

Sweet peas in Guildford

Broad beans are now fully established for all gardeners, with some of the gardeners needing to stake their plants due to the height they’ve attained since sowing.  The picture below shows the broad beans in our Cheshire gardener’s plot.  She reports that these plants are doing much better in the open ground than in the pots in the coldframe. Perhaps root constriction is at play here?

Time will tell if the lush growth that many of our more southerly located gardeners are experiencing becomes a disadvantage over the broad beans that have had more moderate levels of growth.  Hardier and more stunted growth may make them more resilient as the weather turns colder.

October plants in early December in Cheshire

Sweet peas – such as the ones the the left above here in our Guildford gardener’s greenhouse – are also doing well for most gardeners, though some participants have lost their sweet peas to hungry wildlife!

The challenge as we go into winter will be to protect these young plants from the cold whilst keeping them hardened off enough to not shoot on ahead prematurely.  This is as much a test of the skills of the gardeners as it is a test of the seeds themselves!

 

To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:

November 2013’s planting

October 2013’s planting

 

Looking forward into December

BasilMr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners has now entered  its third month, with the gardeners having just received their December package over the weekend.

With all of our gardeners now experiencing their first frosts and the perils of winter weather, the Nation of Gardeners will move indoors for their December trial to partake in windowsill growing of basil, coriander and four varieties of leaves.