Weather, we talk about it so much in this country. It’s like a member of the family, some days we adore it and other days we’re almost ashamed of it. But whatever it throws at us, we can’t stop talking about it: ‘I’ve never known such a wet winter’, ‘Unseasonably warm’, ‘No wonder the spring bulbs are popping through’. Nevertheless, not even the frosts could deter me from planting up my strawberry runners last Sunday.
For just two people, we do grow a lot of fruit: blueberries, cherries, rhubarb, gooseberries, raspberries and of course strawberries, and I grow it all in the back garden. Why? Because before we took on an allotment, all my growing was done in our small back garden. So I crammed in trees and fruit bushes which are now thriving, and it would be wrong to pull them up and relocate them to the plot. Besides, I designed the garden with these treasures in mind, so here they will stay. And being a greedy beggar, once those fruits start ripening, I don’t want to waste time trudging up to the allotment, I want to eat them immediately. There is great pleasure to be had wandering through your garden on an early summer’s morning, picking fresh fruit to throw into some yoghurt for breakfast.. Of course some may get lost on the way to the kitchen, via my stomach, but what Agent Soph doesn’t see, she won’t miss. (Note to self: when eating fruit on the sly, wash juice from beard afterwards.)
But I digress.
I have many varieties of strawberries strewn across the garden, growing in tubs, disused chimney pots and hanging baskets. Although I try to take runners from the plants for the following season, I thought it was about time I invested in some new ones. Trawling the different gardening websites, I saw that Marshalls were offering a great deal: 30 runners for just over £20. Varieties included: Vibrant, Marshmello and Malwino. As these all have a long cropping season, it seemed a good buy.
There’s no real science to planting up strawberries. I tend to split compost and topsoil 50/50, then add in a few trowelfuls of vermiculite or perlite for drainage. I also add a spoonful of plant feed, just to help them establish early on. This year I’m trying Richard Jackson’s ‘All Season’ feed, so here’s to some good results.
In years gone by, I have used water retaining gel in my baskets, but to be honest I have never noticed the difference; baskets always need a lot of watering. I’m not saying the gel doesn’t work but each garden generates its own micro-climate and in our garden, the conditions are great for my baskets. Planting up, I put runners in all the designed side gaps and several protruding from the top. However, knowing how they hang, I always leave the back of the basket strawberry-free. Remember, these runners would be up against your wall or fence seeing very little sunlight. Furthermore, a strong wind knocking the basket against your fence will only damage them.
With my baskets planted up, I watered them throughly then placed them in the greenhouse. There they will sit until spring, all being well, when new foliage will start appearing. Then it’s a case of hardening them off and finally hanging them.