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Strawberries

UK Garden Centre - An overview of Strawberries

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The strawberry is the most popular soft fruit, always prominent on special summer occasions, to be enjoyed with cream or sprinkled with wine. It is also popular with growers for if planted in October, it will bear a crop the following summer; autumn-fruiting varieties will crop the first year if planted in March. Yet the strawberry ripens quickly, needing constant attention with its picking, and its blossom is more liable to frost damage than other fruits. The plants are more troubled by pests and disease. The fruits may also be spoilt by heavy rain when ripening, though the introduction of new varieties to extend the season has minimised this. It is now possible to have fruit from early May (under cloches) until the year end, using cloches again in October.
Strawberries should not be grown in frosty districts, unless the resistant Cambridge Early Pine or the late flowering kinds are planted, for example Cambridge Favourite (early); Talisman (mid-season); Hampshire Maid (late). These are fairly immune to frost. In areas of high rainfall, plant those whose fruits have a glossy surface and are more readily able to shed moisture e.g. Royal Sovereign, Cambridge Favourite and Early Pine.
For an early crop in a frame or under cloches, Cambridge Early Pine and Cambridge Premier are suitable, for they ripen quickly and do not make too much leaf. But those plants to be covered must be in the ground by early September so that they can become established before they are covered in early April. If covering with barn-type cloches, plants a double row spaced 37cm (15in) apart and 25cm (10in) in the rows. On warm days remove the cloches and give the plants a soaking before replacing the cloches late afternoon. Removal of the cloches and syringing the blooms will assist pollination. But do not uncover the plants except for a short time, if cold winds are blowing. The first uncovered plants will begin to bloom towards mid-May and the first fruits will have ripened by early June. When the first fruits have formed, place straw between the rows to prevent soil splashing on to the fruit; which will help the soil to warm more quickly and the fruit to ripen sooner. From this use of straw the plant took its name. Or place 30cm- (12in-) wide strips of black polythene between the rows, held in place by large stones. Sheets of newspaper may also be used and should be kept damp. Each of these materials will also help to prevent moisture evaporation from the soil.
the plants must be kept moist if they are to make plenty of healthy foliage and the berries are to be large and juicy. So in dry weather give plenty of water, though plenty of humus in the soil before planting will hold moisture.

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