a strawberry colditz…

I have just returned from a trip to the allotment to gather sweet strawberries as a gift and thought I would look up some old posts about growing them. This is the background to the strawberry crop, and a gentle encouragement to grow your own, even if you have a small space.

Back in September last year I took on a neglected allotment-all couch grass and bindweed except for two productive areas-a rhubarb bed and a weed infested strawberry patch. Rhubarb is big enough and ugly enough to be able to take reasonable care of itself, but the strawberries needed some rescuing. In October I posted about the creation of the new strawberry bed here.

During the winter the strawberries established roots and in the spring I feed them with some more pelleted chicken manure. They came into flower in April and have been cropping since the end of May. I think because this was my first crop to establish I have lavished attention on them. As soon as the fruit began to colour I bought some straw from a pet shop and tucked it around the plants, resting the green fruits on a strawy bed-to keep the fruit clean and to discourage slugs.

Keeping the strawberries in…

There is a large resident pigeon population nearby and plenty of other birds too, so I netted the ripening fruit as well, pegging it down so birds can’t get trapped underneath, to try and minmise the damage. One of my plot neighbours told me woodpeckers will strip a strawberry bed -and there are those in the woods across from the plot. Where fruit is damaged, I pick it and leave it free of the netting for the creatures. It’s my part of the deal with the local creatures.

Some people advise against allowing the plants to crop in the first year-but hey, life is short, so I have let these 20 or so plants fruit this summer. I am keeping a running record of the weight of fruit (which means resisting eating the fruit before I get home..tricky).

To be fair to the plants, I am removing all the runners from them this season. That way they will hopefully build up into even better plants for next season. (I still have the “mother bed” on another part of the plot and I will take runners from these plants before I dig that whole bed up, as I intended to do last autumn. ) Soon, when the berries finish, I will remove the straw and layer a thick mulch to support that strong growth I am hoping for.

We seem to be enjoying a good season. Whilst the fruit has been ripening, it has been quite dry and the berries have escaped mildew. And the straw seems to have deterred most of the slugs. All round, a great success and we have even managed to eat everything that has ripened.

Even if you have only a small space, strawberries are such pretty plants they are worth tucking into pots or small borders as an edging. The delight of collecting your own fruit is well worth the small effort.