Guide to Growing Strawberries
Guide to Growing Strawberries
A sunny slope from which cold air can drain freely is the ideal, for frost damage can be a problem, but most of us have to make do with less satisfactory sites. The best results, so far asis concerned, are obtained on rather rich loam that has been deeply dug and enriched with well-rotted stable or farmyard manure.
Planting can be done in late summer or early autumn or in March, but spring-plantedshould not be allowed to fruit during the first year. Space the plants 2ft. apart in rows 2-1/2ft. apart. The best results are obtained from one-year-old plants and after three years they should be discarded. Strawberries are shallow-rooting plants and do not take kindly to weed competition; so perennial weeds should be eliminated from the ground, as far as possible, during the propagation stages.
The planting operation must be done with care for the crown of each plant must be kept at surface level and the roots spread out to their fullest extent. Firming the soil round the roots is also very important.
Spread black polythene sheeting or clean straw around the plants and under the leaves in May to keep the fruits clean. At this time, too, cover the bed withnetting or other suitable protective material to avoid losses from birds. If there are signs of or other diseases and straw has been used, burn this when all the fruit has been gathered. This will burn off the old foliage but new, disease-free leaves will soon appear. Remove all unless these are wanted for propagation purposes.
If the plants are covered with cloches in March they will produce ripe fruit in late May in sheltered areas, but make sure that the soil does not become dry when giving this protection. By using cloches and choosing your varieties carefully the season can be spread over six or seven weeks in summer, with more fruit in the autumn if perpetual-fruiting varieties are grown.
The perpetual-fruiting varieties flower continuously from May onwards, and produce good- sized and well-flavoured fruit in the autumn in abundance. However, they will only do this if the first blossoms are removed, and only the later ones allowed to fruit.
Alpine and perpetual-fruiting varieties can be planted closer together (about 9in. apart) and be allowed to form a matted bed. They throw runners which start to flower and fruit in the same season if allowed, but thefrom these runners should be taken off if strong plants are required for the following year. Strawing is said not to be necessary because they hold their fruit high, but in practice I find that it is still more satisfactory to protect them in this way. Providing the plants with the protection of cloches in the autumn will result in larger fruits of better colour.
Increase strawberries from the plantlets formed on runners, choosing the best and planting out the young plants in late summer or early autumn. The plantlet on each runner nearest the plant should be chosen in each case, the rest being removed. It is better to remove the unwanted runners before they grow to any size and deplete the parent plant of its energy. Between four and six should then be left on each parent plant. The runners are pressed down with a bent piece of wire. The best months for this job are June and July and the plantlets should be well rooted by the end of August and can then be severed from the parent plants. They should be left in position for about a week longer and then transferred to their permanent quarters.
Some gardeners are reluctant to propagate strawberries themselves because of the proneness of these plants to virus diseases, and the decision is not made any easier by the difficulty of positively recognising some forms of virus attack.
Some of the perpetual-fruiting strawberries do not make runners freely and must be increased by division at planting time. Alpine strawberries, which produce their small fruits over a long season, are raised from seed sown in a warm greenhouse in February or in a frame in March or April, the seedlings being planted out after a few weeks of hardening-off in a frame.
These include Cambridge Favourite, early to mid-season (good for cloches). Royal Sovereign, early to mid-season (strong grower and runs to leaf on heavy soils; first-class flavour). Talisman, late mid-season (produces a second crop in a mild autumn with cloche protection). Redgauntlet, mid-season. Hummi Grande, mid-season (a new variety from Germany which produces exceptionally large berries of good flavour). Alpine variety: Baron Solemacher. Perpetual-fruiting varieties Sans Rival and St Claud.