|pic from www.babaduck.com-quirky Irish cooking blog|
But when it came to the maintenance of the beds there was a bit of a breakdown in communication. I thought they were Seamus's beds, he obviously thought they were mine! In the end although there was never a problem getting willing strawberry pickers, (visitors volunteered all the time for the job) there was no willing weeders. (Two nosey neighbours dropping off church collection forms once asked if they could pick a few-I'm eternally grateful for the new gate, it keeps all these fecking do gooders out!). And so it started to go a bit feral, sliding further each year into jungle-ness.
|I'm not exaggerating! a right old mess|
|raking the new strawberry bed-dry and cloddy|
Planted 1.5 feet apart with chives as companions, the original spacings have been overrun with runners, the chive plants are enormous and in need of division and worse! the briar's have begun to colonise the bed. Did I mention that the chive flowers are so popular with bees and moths that they have self seeded everywhere? And there are strawberry runners escaping onto the paths? It's a right bloody mess.But more importantly I cant take it any longer!!!
So the old strawberry plants are getting evicted from the beds and a new one is ready for Cambridge favourite plants that I got last spring from Englishes in Wexford.Last night we did phase one. I call this the strawberry jail-they will not escape!
The new bed is one of the shorter ones at the end of the garden that had mixed green manures sown in it over winter and was dug in some weeks ago. It was so dry and hard from the weeks of drought that we had to water it before covering it in bio-degradable garden fabric. I had an old roll in the shed but you could just as easily use a cardboard or newspaper mulch.
|the new bed with biodegradable stuff in place|
Technically strawberries are not meant to be grown on the flat. I famously found this out at my IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers And Growers) interview while I was finishing exams in Dromcollogher. We has to pass an interview with David Storey, an intimidating man with a reputation as the most sarcastic man in Ireland. He used to love torturing vegetarians by asking them if they thought lettuces felt pain when they were cut!
I was doing a strawberry project for my Finals and he asked me about it. When he found out how I was growing them in the tunnel he snorted and said (voice dripping with sarcasm) "EVERYONE knows you grow strawberries on drills NOT on the flat". In other words he was telling me I was an idiot.
Not keen on taking things lying down when he asked me later in the interview if I read the magazine IOFGA produce called Organic Matters and I told him "no because its a load of shite"-that didn't go down well!! He was very proud of it. He threw it across the table and barked "read it! I threw it back and said "no thanks"! Still I got my certification so who knows maybe even sarcastic cranky people like those who bite back. He passed away a few years later but Organic Matters is still going. You can check it out here organic matters.
|strawberries from my tunnel project many moons ago|
What I have learned about strawberries over the years for what it's worth;
- The roots need moisture but the tops need heat, light and dry conditions. So that's the reason why those nice terracotta containers for strawberries are such a disaster.
- Slugs and birds are the biggest predators but rain is the worst of all because it literally rots the fruit.A plastic cloche outdoors is essential in wet summers if you hope to get fruit. Likewise a net to keep off birds.
- Too much rich manure will give you a crop of leaves, not flowers so don't be over generous when you are putting them in.
- If you can grow chives or some member of the onion family with them or close by it really does help to keep off greenfly which can be a big problem.
- Finally airflow is essential to keep off moulds so do not plant them too close together, they need that 1.5 ft apart spacing in an open sunny site.