Posts Tagged ‘strawberry plants’

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 March planting update: time to compare spring planting with autumn planted varieties

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

March parcel for Nation of GardenersThe March parcel marked the half-year of this project.  We have passed from autumn, through the hard winter months and back out into spring where the lighter days are making everything feel more hopeful.  It is safe to say that at the 6 month mark we have a network of full gardens and full windowsills stuffed to brimming with Mr Fothergill’s produce around the UK.

The weather in March turned mild, and then even turned sunny, before the sting in the tail of the last week of the month.  However, this  break in the weather enabled our gardeners to get going with no impediments for this month’s parcel which contained three varieties of tomato to trial.  Also in their sixth parcel, they found Garlic, Broad Beans and two varieties of Strawberries – Buddy and Sweetheart – all of which they had grown before.

You can follow the gardener’s progress as they post regular updates to the Facebook wall, and if you feel the need… then join in the conversation!  We’ve been finding that other people are joining in and posting pictures of their own developing crops and seedlings which is great to see how they compare with what our own group of gardeners are seeing.   This makes it a true Nation of Gardeners!  So if you are growing and have plants emerging for the first time, please feel free to also post your updates to the wall.

 

A round up of March’s planting tasks
Potted garlicA third shipment of Garlic Solent Wight was sent out in March.   After the autumn and spring planted Garlic Solent Wight from bulbs in October and February, Mr Fothergill’s decided to test out supplying the gardeners with some pot grown garlic – pictured here to the left.

The gardeners were supplied with three plants that were already growing in pots of compost, and were asked to keep an eye on these for whether they bolt having been grown on by the Mr Fothergill’s nursery team in this way.

Together with a final shipment of pot-grown garlic that will be sent out in April, it is hoped we get some firm conclusions on garlic growing across the UK using direct comparisons on techniques for growing to give us the optimum method and time of year to plant out.  See this article on early results published earlier in April for more on garlic growing across our UK sample of gardeners.

Strawberries in water prior to planting out

The gardeners received Strawberry Buddy and Strawberry Sweetheart again during March in order to test these spring planted strawberries against the ones planted out in the autumn.  The autumn-planted fruits have shown varying degrees of success around the country.  Largely they have overwintered well, but other gardeners in the group have found them to have drowned in the heavy rains we had over winter, or found them nibbled by hungry creatures.

Of the healthy plants – which form the majority – these will be tested against the spring planted versions for yield, time to crop from planting and duration of cropping season to see if they perform as well when planted 6 months later.  Many gardeners are already reporting that their autumn planted strawberries are in flower now, and that the spring plants are establishing well and growing on quickly.

Another packet of Broad Bean Aquadulce was also sent out for sowing to compare the crops with the autumn sown seed.  

Spring sown broad beans

By the end of March, many of the gardeners have raised some fine and healthy looking autumn-sown plants that are already in bloom before Spring had arrived.  The pictures below show some of the fabulously healthy looking plants in the care of our gardeners.  The mild winter has enabled this early blooming to some extent, but if there are enough pollinators around whilst these plants have been flowering away, there will be very early crops of broad beans for our gardeners to enjoy.  The mild weather in March has also enabled quite a few gardeners to germinate their spring sown broad beans pretty swiftly too.

By early April, some gardeners are starting to wonder if their autumn-sown plants have ‘run out of steam’.  And so the real test for the spring sown broad beans will be if they produce as heavy crops and with more certainty than the autumn grown seeds.  It seems clear that they certainly won’t be able to catch up and compete with the autumn grown plants in terms of ‘first to crop’, but maybe their growth will prove to be more assured.  Watch this space!

Broad beans sown in the autumn

New to the gardeners this month were three varieties of Tomato for growing outdoors.  Tomato Ferline, Tomato Sungold and Tomato Sakura were supplied as seed for sowing in March with the intention of growing these outside eventually.

March tomatoes for growing outdoors

The gardeners set to this task quickly, with some good germination rates being seen across the board. Whether the change in light and heat conditions in March versus February had an effect or not is not clear.  However, these March sown seeds went ‘leggy’ for some gardeners very quickly meaning they got potted on before the first true leaves had truly established themselves on the plants.   This has not had a detrimental effect on the plants though, with gardeners across the UK reporting some fine looking plants in their care.

The tomatoes supplied in February – Tomato Black Opal, Tomato Pink Charmer and Tomato Orange Slice – have got underway well  for most gardeners, though some reported difficulty in germinating them.  The best results seen were those that had an element of heat available for successful germination.  Intended for indoors growing only, these tomatoes will need more care than the March issued varieties.  This seems to be reflected in the relative ease of germination for the March varieties also, where a greater germination success rate was seen.

 

October through to February updates

The gardeners have been very busy in the last six months and so there is always something to report on.  Of note in March though, our gardeners have observed a number of things.  Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what’s been going on.

  • Potatoes breaking through the soilGeorgina in Cheshire, Gwynne in Morayshire and Max in Hertfordshire all got busy planting their potatoes out in early March.  Many gardeners have followed suit later in March and early April, with the first shoots pushing their way through the soil in patio planters and in the ground around the UK, such as this potato pictured in Ceredigion.
  • Our gardener in Bristol has potted on her salad leaves as individual plants with the intention of growing on outdoors.
  • Hannah in Guildford, Joanne in Suffolk, Lindsay in Devon and Mags in Renfrewshire have all planted out their autumn sown sweet peas in early April. However, it seems that this may have been too early as frosts came in Devon and Guildford shortly afterwards, so we shall have to see if they recover.
  • For many, the antirrhinums have been an unusual growing challenge.  Some of the seedlings collapsed totally for some gardeners whereas others, such as the ones being grown in Renfrewshire, are very well established if a little ‘leggy’ and seemingly on the point of collapse.  Our gardeners in Cheshire, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Pontpridd, Worcestershire and Suffolk have all managed to grow some specimens and so summer will be the real test for these new and exclusive variety of snapdragons by Mr Fothergill’s.Strawberries in bloom
  • The first broad beans sown in the autumn have set tiny beans in early April in Devon and there are flowers coming on the autumn planted strawberries for many gardeners such as these ones pictured in Pontypridd.
  • The bare root perennials planted in the autumn have started to come back to life in the last month. There are some casualties and there are some ‘missing in action’ plants.  Time will tell if these are truly lost or whether they are just being shy at presenting themselves.  The plants that are definitely starting to put in some spring growth are looking handsome and healthy – Astrantia, Papaver and Eryngiums are all performing well.  Perhaps most excitingly, the Cimicifugas have started to unfurl a leaf from the growing tips in the last few weeks for many of the gardeners who had previously doubted there was ever going to be a plant to see come Spring.  This plant has been very reticent to show any promise all winter and so it is with some excitement that the gardeners are greeting these small leaves.
  • February issued tomatoes grown from seedThe tomatoes issued in February, March and April all appear to be healthy so far and are at varying stages of development.  Mags in Renfrewshire appears to have grown some strong plants from seed leaving many other gardeners playing catch up.  In Derbyshire, the March sown seeds have overtaken the February sown seeds.  In Cheshire the gardener there has already planted to the outdoors.  With high levels of germination success, there are going to be bumper crops of 6 varieties of tomato in the gardens of our Nation of Gardeners this summer.

Keep an eye on the hashtag #nationofgardeners on Twitter for more updates as the gardeners post them, or follow the postings to the Facebook wall where you can also find a gallery of plant pictures that chronicle the Nation of Gardeners activities to date.

March 2014′s planting

February 2014′s planting

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

 

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 February planting update: plenty of eating to be done with this month’s parcel

March 21st, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

With the January parcel having been sent out fairly late in January, it seemed that the February parcel arrived in next to no time.  In mid-February, the gardeners each received their fifth consignment from Mr Fothergill’s which once again had them utilising different gardening techniques to enable them to carry out their tasks.

Even though the weather across the UK was grim for much of February, there was still plenty for our gardeners to do to get growing under shelter.  February is a good time for sowing indoor tomatoes to get a head start on greenhouse-grown plants.  February (and March!) also gives gardeners a good chance to get last-minute soft fruit bushes into the ground.   And so, in this parcel were three varieties of tomato and two varieties of blackcurrants to trial.

Additionally, the first of the comparative trials came in the form of a second shipment of Garlic Solent Wight.  Last October the gardeners received Garlic Solent Wight for autumn planting and in this parcel they received the same variety for sowing in the Spring.

Throughout the wintry weeks that February served upon us, our gardeners made sure to keep on posting updates to the Facebook wall and to keep Twittering away on the hashtag #nationofgardeners giving great blow-by-blow accounts of what is happening, and where, around the country.

 

A round up of February’s planting tasks

Our Scottish gardener potted up her blackcurrant into a large pot.The parcel that arrived in mid-February was a fragrant one indeed!  Within the brown bag the smell that greeted our gardeners as they opened up their mystery parcels was divine.  Supplied in this shipment were two varieties of Blackcurrant for testing out comparatively for yield later in the year.

Modern blackcurrant breeding has produced two varieties which produce fruit more than double the size of standard types and are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush.  These varieties are called Big Ben and Ebony and so Mr Fothergill’s wanted to find out how the gardeners felt these varieties performed.  They wanted to know how they grow, but also whether they demonstrated good disease resistance.  Most importantly they would like to know how sweet the fruits are with an all-important taste test at fruiting time later in the year.

Our gardeners chose a variety of places to put their plants.  Though the supplied plants look small and relatively tame right now, they will grow up one day to be enormous beasts! Our Scottish gardener potted up her blackcurrant into a large pot – pictured here to the right. But many other gardeners chose to plant in open ground where the root balls will be able to develop to their full potential.  And so for this, they had to take care to choose a site that can eventually accommodate the full 3 or 4 foot canopy of the mature bushes.

By mid-March, many of these plants have started to wake up to Spring.  Small leaves are starting to emerge from the buds of many of the plants across the country as the pictures below show from our Scottish, Buckinghamshire and Cheshire gardeners.

Blackcurrants leaves emerging in March

February is good for sowing indoor tomatoes although in cooler parts of the country where winter is reluctant to leave, holding back on sowing tomatoes is wise.  For gardeners with a greenhouse, getting going early with tomato plants during February enables them to benefit from the lengthening days.  Given a warm summer like the one we experienced last year, gardeners with early sowings are rewarded with early crops – as long as they can maintain a good warm environment in which to grow their tomato plants.

For this task it seemed only natural to ask the Nation of Gardeners to grow  tomatoes.  But these aren’t common-or-garden tomatoes – the varieties they were asked to sow in February come in every colour except for red!

In February they sowed:

Tomatoes sown in February germinated quickly

Black Opal was selected for trial, and it is a tomato that is bred from the old variety ‘Black Cherry’ crossed with a modern variety with high sugar content in order to give it more flavour.  The flavour is supposed to improve during cooking and so Mr Fothergill’s wanted to find out what our group of gardeners thought of them.

Pink Charmer has been bred for the colour, which as the name implies, is pink!  But where a particular quality like colour has been bred into a variety, flavour is often lacking and so Mr Fothergill’s want our gardeners opinions yet again on a taste-test.

The third variety, Orange Slice, is a greenhouse-only variety that is still on trial by Mr Fothergill’s.   Just like the January issue of Pepper King of the North this is an unreleased variety, and so our gardeners are growing in tandem with the formal triallists at Mr Fothergill’s in the spacious trial grounds in Kentford.

Germination was good across the three types of tomato with it coming quickly for most using heat to bring on the seedlings.   The Orange Slice fell behind the other two varieties in terms of germination rates, with the seeds hitting the 66-80% mark.  Many of the gardeners also commented that the Orange Slice were ‘more puny’ than the other two varieties with our Ceredigion gardener commented that the root system looked much weaker too when she repotted them in March.  The pictures above show windowsill propagators being used by our Devon and Ceredigion gardeners to bring their tomatoes to life.  Heated propagators, heated greenhouses and pots on windowsills indoors were all used.

Along with the tomato seeds, the gardeners also received some more Garlic Solent Wight as part of a comparative trial against the same variety of garlic the gardeners put in during autumn 2013.  These spring bulbs will be observed for speed of ‘catch up’ with their autumn sown counterparts. Conventional wisdom says that autumn planting is better but our gardeners have found within days of planting out the bulbs were ready to go and off they shot!

This picture below shows a direct comparison of top growth on the autumn-sown versus the spring-sown garlic.  Whereas the autumn sown cloves took 8-12 weeks to show any signs of growth at all for many of our gardeners, the spring sown cloves were shooting with green top growth within days for some, and within 2 weeks for most.

The theory is that although spring-sown garlic catches up with it’s autumn-sown counterpart, the bulb development is held back due to the lack of dormant time in the ground over the main part of winter, and so the autumn-sown cloves will produce better bulbs when cropping in July comes along.  So we are able to test this theory thoroughly in this trial.

Direct comparison of autumn sown and spring sown garlic

 

October, November, December and January updates

Potatoes chittingThere is so much going on now that the weather is starting to warm up, that the following are just a few of the highlights from previous plantings.

The gardeners were each sent a pack of Potato Charlotte in order to test open ground planting versus patio planter growing of the tubers.   A patio planter was provided along with the potatoes in the January parcel and so all the gardeners got busy chitting during the colder weeks of the winter, with a few of the gardeners – Georgina in Cheshire, Gwynne in Morayshire and Max in Hertfordshire  – planting their potatoes out in early March.

The Snackbite and King of the North sown in January have shown some rapid progress with many gardeners having pricked out and potted on within a couple of weeks of sowing.  For our Suffolk gardener though, she has observed that her peppers and tomatoes have stopped growing all of a sudden.  Through discussion between the gardeners, there’s a consensus that watering style may be the problem.  Tomatoes and peppers like to be moist but not wet and so bottom watering or misting is the recommended method to keep them in shape.  Time will tell if our Suffolk gardener’s plants will come to life again, or if they are no longer viable.

Antirrhinums ready for pricking onThe Antirrhinum Purple Twist F1 has shown promising growth for many of the gardeners who successfully germinated them and brought them on. These seeds were supplied in a small phial and the seeds were microscopic.  They came along with the warning that germination can be erratic – and so our gardeners rolled up their sleeves to take on this challenge!  These seeds again are warmth loving and require a gentle heat of 15-20° Centigrade to germinate and survive. Our gardeners deftly managed to germinate these seeds pretty successfully, and as February came to a close, many were thinking of pricking out and growing the plants on individually.  Pictured here are the handsome plants brought on by our Renfrewshire gardener.

For many, the Blackberry Reuben has taken a real hit over the winter from the wind and the rain, with many specimens looking very bedraggled.  The question of whether to cut back or not to cut back is now a hot topic of discussion amongst the gardeners to see how they can renovate their plants back to the healthy looking specimens that were delivered in the autumn.

For those with great sweet pea plants sown in the autumn, the future of these plants is looking very bright indeed.  There’s lots of healthy top growth, and those that developed well enough to get pinched out are looking simply fantastic.  And so, with a promising set of blooms on the way, a number of our Nation of Gardeners members have gamely agreed to enter them for the upcoming Mr Fothergill’s 2014 Sweet Pea Competition at Capel Manor in July.  Will they grow some prize winning blooms? Who knows?  Watch this space!

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

February 2014′s planting

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

Looking forward into March

The gardeners have just received their latest package in mid-March including three types of tomato – Ferline F1, Sungold F1 and Sakura F1.  Also supplied were 3 pot-grown Garlic Solent Wight supplied as live plants, and a second sowing of Broad Bean Aguadulce that is to be grown in comparison with the autumn-sown seeds.  Also to be grown in comparison with their autumn-planted cousins are another issue of Strawberry Buddy and Strawberry Sweetheart.  Let’s hope the gardeners are fond of tomatoes, garlic, broad beans and strawberries!