Strawberry Sunday

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. 2 straw

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.straw2 Collage

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. straw CollagePlanting 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. 1 straw

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.

Roll on summer! Now, do you think I can cram a fig tree into the garden?


Happy New Year 2016!

Hello and welcome to a sparkling, spanking new year! Did you have a relaxing Christmas break? Was Santa good to you? As for myself, I ate so much I hear Disney want me for the next Star Wars film to play Jabba the Hut. And when I wasn’t eating, I spent my time hanging from the Christmas Wreath doing impressions of the Green Man. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time with friends and family and and the break gave me the opportunity to reflect and appreciate all that’s good in life.me2It’s become a bit of a tradition now, but in the last few years on New Year’s Day, I take myself away to a quiet nook of the house and set up a temporary den filled with garden magazines, sketches, seed boxes and ideas for what I hope to achieve in the upcoming year.

With the allotment blueprint sketched and ideas for the garden taking shape, I then turn to my sacred seed box. Think Indiana Jones* retrieving the most valuable of artefacts. It’s here I work out what I’ve got, what I’ll need and I leave any old seeds for the bird feeder.

But it doesn’t end there. The decorations haven’t been packed away and I’m already reaching for the seed compost! Patience isn’t my greatest virtue, and as a man filled with mince pies and turkey, I’m desperate to get out in the fresh air, feel the soil under my nails and burn off that Christmas waistline. So part of my New Year’s Day tradition is to sow my chilli, pepper and aubergine seeds. This year I’m trying Sweet PepperAubergine Moneymaker, Chilli Heatwave, Cayenne Red and Cherry Bombpepper Collage

Getting these into the soil this early gives them the maximum time to germinate, grow and produce those delicious treats. I’ve found in years gone by, sowing these crops later in the spring leaves me fighting against time the following autumn and often I’ve been left broken-hearted without a chilli in sight to warm my winter months. 1c

But it’s the first weekend in a whole new chapter, and I’m bristling to turn my plans into reality. However, with winter yet to fully descend I just might have to sit on these hopes for a little while longer. AdeSignature

(*Harrison Ford man crush? Moi?)