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OUT IN THE GARDEN: Berry good planting tips...

This week in the Cox household we were able to throw a mini celebration. It was quite a small affair with just a few sausage rolls and pizza slices. I wanted vol-au-vents but my wife said that they were too fiddley. We settled for pate on toast, they looked quite posh, not MasterChef standard but definitely passable say on Ready Steady Cook.

For dessert we had strawberry tarts, they are a particular favourite of my daughter. Best of all there’s no cooking as they are available from a certain orange supermarket. As we were celebrating, my little girl with jam all round her chops asked me how many strawberries did I think get grown and eaten every year in Britain?

I picked up my smartphone and began googling however it took quite some time to get to an answer which is already a little out of date. I stumbled across a website which claimed that in 2015 the UK grew over 168,000 tonnes of strawberries with 85% of those grown cultivated under a polytunnel.

Strawberries (45429020)
Strawberries (45429020)

That’s a lot of strawberries. I guessed last year’s consumption of strawberries would be down a little due to Wimbledon being called off. At least we were spared a song from Cliff every time it rained.

There is a point to all of this rambling as quite coincidently earlier on in the week I’d received an email from Mrs Brown, who is a teacher at my daughter’s school. Mary (7), one of Mrs Brown’s class, had asked her if they could grow strawberries in their new fruit garden and what is the best way to grow them.

How could I refuse such as question? Now when it comes to the garden I’ve always promoted working with Mother Nature rather than against her, but this week I will bend that rule slightly so that the balance is more in our favour.

I remember my Dad growing strawberry plants when I was a child on his allotment and often when out playing with my friends I’d raid the strawberries if I was hungry. Between me and friends and the slugs we filled our bellies, though as I recall the slugs always seemed to get the biggest and juiciest strawberries.

This is where I think we should look at commercial strawberry growing practices. Now as mentioned earlier 85% of fruit production is grown inside a poly tunnel. Not everyone has a poly tunnel or access to one. But we can all raise our strawberry plants off the ground like commercial growers do.

We can emulate their technique by simply growing them in hanging baskets. They don’t have to fight for light and they certainly won’t be attacked by slugs, netting them from birds is a good idea though. They will need feeding and watering but you’d need to do that for them even if they were growing in the ground.

That said if Mrs Brown wants her strawberries to produce a bumper crop my advice would be to hang the baskets slightly higher than little arms can reach, but not too high so that they can’t enjoy the odd low hanging fruit. The love of gardening has to start somewhere.

Back to our Finding Alice part, we’d finally managed to watch the last episode. Woo hoo, you have to get through lockdown anyway you can really!

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