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
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
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.