strawberry

  • Grow at Home: Companion Planting

    Companion Planting

    Companion planting is where two or more crops are grown together for the benefit of one, or all. The most successful combinations mirror nature.  They can be an important part of planning a successful and productive garden.

     

    Deterrent Smell

    Plants have natural affinities with others of their kind.  The smell of volatile oils from many plants can above all discourage pests, making them excellent companion plants. Perhaps the most well known is the relationship between the tomato plant and the strong smelling French Marigold.  This is said to deter whitefly, for instance.

    While there is little scientific proof of these associations working, if you talk to any experienced gardener they will certainly provide plenty of anecdotal evidence.  Tomatoes like to be grown with Basil and Parsley.  Useful for cooks as well as gardeners.  And separating rows of brassicas with onions has always been popular.  This is possibly due to the strong scent of onions confusing the cabbage pests.

    Companion_planting_marigold_carrotsAttracting Pollinators

    English Marigold (Calendula) can provide welcome splashes of colour in the kitchen garden.  The added benefit is that they attract pollinators.  Along with Yarrow (Achillea) and Hyssop they also attract hover flies.  The hover flies will lay their eggs around these plants and when they hatch the larvae feast on aphids.

    Lavender_in_pot_in_flowerEnhancing fragrance

    Some gardeners know Chamomile as the 'plant doctor'.  This is because of its alleged ability to encourage the production of essential oils making their scent and taste stronger. It is attractive and easy to grow so a worthwhile addition to any planting scheme.

    Another garden 'must have' is the super fragrant Lavender. This acts as a general insect repellent whilst still attracting bees to your plot.

    Crops and their Companions

    Different combinations work in different conditions, so experimentation and experience is the best guide. Below are some combinations of crops and their companions that work well in most situations:

    • Asparagus: Tomatoes, Parsley, Basil
    • Beans: Carrots, lettuce,parsley, spinach
    • Beetroot: Onions, cabbages
    • Cabbages: Celery, mint, thyme, onions, nasturtiums
    • Carrots: Peas, radish, chives, onion, leek
    • Courgette: Nasturtiums
    • Lettuce: Strawberry, beetroot, radish
    • Onions: Carrots, beetroot, chamomile, courgette
    • Parship: Garlic
    • Peas: Potatoes, radish, carrot
    • Spinach: Strawberry
    • Tomato: Celery, basil, marigolds, foxglove
  • Grow at Home: Super Strawberries

    strawberries_flower_portrait

    Strawberries can be grown in the ground, in hanging baskets or in containers.  They are simple to grow and an easy and delicious place for kids to start their gardening journey.

    They come in early, mid and late season varieties so if you choose your plants carefully you can have strawberries on tap throughout the summer.  Not only will you save money at the supermarket but you will have fresher, tastier strawberries too.

    How to Start your Strawberries

    Strawberries can be grow from seed, runners or small plants bought at the Garden Centre. It should be noted that they produce their best fruit when they are in their second and third years so however you start them, do not expect much in the first year.  Whichever one you choose they need rich, fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny situation.

    Growing from Seed

    strawberries_in-handsCheck your seed packet for instructions but many strawberry seeds need to be cold treated before they will germinate.  To do this, place the seeds, in an airtight container, and put it in a freezer for 2 to 4 weeks. This simulates winter so once they thaw the seeds are fooled into coming to life.  Remove the seeds from the freezer and leave them to gradually warm up to room temperature.

    Once your strawberry seeds are at room temperature you can plant them in a seed tray filled with suitable compost.  Moisten the mixture with water and sprinkle your strawberry seeds evenly over it. Cover them with a light dusting of soil ensuring that some light can still reach them as they need it to germinate.  Keep them indoors in a well-lit room and in direct sunlight.  They should germinate in two to three weeks.

    Keep the soil moist and keep the tray somewhere warm.  On top of a fridge or with a heat pad underneath are both good options.  Gently transfer the strawberry seedlings to larger containers or pots after they gain their 3rd leaves. 

    If weather allows, the strawberry seedlings can be planted directly outside after hardening off first.

    Growing from Runners

    Strawberries are so easy to propagate (to have babies – reproduce). After the harvesting season you will notice that off the strawberry plant there is a shoot or 'runner'.  This will often have a baby strawberry plant developing on the end. When this shoot has rooted itself to the ground you can a) leave it there b) move it to a better spot c) replace an old plant with it d) give it away if you don’t want it!  Most gardeners are happy to pass these runners on to others and spread the strawberry love so its a great way to start your strawberry patch.

    Growing from plants 

    The easiest thing to do is to buy some strawberry plants, usually during the early Spring, and then to plant them out.

    Planting Strawberries

    Prepare the soil well.  Fork in well-rotted organic matter and a handful of general-purpose fertiliser, such as blood, fish and bonemeal, per square yard/metre. Plant in rows, spacing plants 18 inches apart. You could use an EasyPath between rows to allow easy access for picking.

    If you don’t have the space for strawberries don’t forget that you can plant them in patio planters, this can be quite good as you can move them to warm spots or even encourage more fruit by placing the whole thing in a greenhouse.  They are really striking in hanging baskets and only dare-devil slugs and snails will make the journey meaning your ripening fruit is safer here than anywhere else.

    After flowering

    strawberries_dewAs soon as the flowers finish, the first tiny green strawberries start to appear or “set”. Make sure you weed carefully and now is the time to set up your slug protection, such as SlugBusters. You may also want to protect the strawberries from rotting by placing some straw underneath, I don’t seem to need to do this myself as my patch is fairly dry but if your patch isn't, this will keep them off the damp ground.

    If your plants are in containers they will need watering but if your plants are in the ground then avoid watering after flowering if possible.  Damp conditions will encourage grey mould and rotten fruit. If a dry spell makes watering essential, do it first thing in the morning so that foliage and developing fruit dry off quickly.

     

     

    Replacing Old Plants

    Strawberry plants don't last forever and will only last around 4 seasons.  After this both yield and flavour will drop so they should be replaced.  To grow your own replacements, leave a few of this years plants un-pruned and peg down the resulting  runners to the soil.  They will grow into new plants ready for next year.

    Pests & Diseases

    Beware of birds, once they find a supply of yummy ripe strawberries, they will be gone in a matter of hours. Cover them with plant protection nets before they start to ripen. Also beware of slugs they are much slower in their approach but also enjoy strawberries.

    Harvesting & Storage

    The first harvest of your strawberries will be delicious and sweet, towards the end of the season I find that they are not quite as good and this is when I collect them for jam making. Yum.

    I'm not a fan of frozen strawberries - too mushy - but if you have a glut and don't want to make jam then they can be frozen.  Place them in the freezer individually on a tray, when frozen pack them up into bags.

  • Is this pudding the best thing about summer?

    Summer Pudding or Summer Fruit Pudding is a British dessert traditionally made of sliced white bread, layered in a deep bowl with fruit and fruit juice. The first reference to it as Summer Pudding in print was in 1904, but identical recipes for the much less catchy soiunding 'hydropathic pudding' can be found as far back as 1868.  You can of course still make it with stale bread but for a little extra indulgence my recipe uses brioche to add a buttery softness.

    So, I use strawberries, raspberries and currants Lone-raspberrybecause that's what I grow but if you have been more adventurous and have tayberries, loganberries, cherries or blueberries then these could be used too and have your children proclaiming that their family "make it with Tayberries and its simply the best!"  Nothing like creating a new family classic!

     

    Summer Pudding—using brioche

    This has got to be one of my best recipes; it is so easy and delicious. I make a lot of these in the summer with my children.  They feel so important to have made such a great pudding. You can use a variety of fruits, I always think it is nice to have a few blackcurrants as they are very flavoursome against the gentleness of the raspberries. Of course you can use some fruit that you have frozen to mix with the fruit that is in season.

     

    Preparation: 20 minutes Cooking time: 5 minutes

    Waiting time: min 3 hours Serves: 6 – 8

     

    Ingredients:

    2lbs (900g) soft fruits, raspberries,summer-pudding-with mint-on-top

    strawberries, blackberries, white/black/redcurrants...

    6oz (150g) caster sugar

    6 – 8 slices of Brioche

     

     

    Directions:

    1. Use a soufflé dish or pudding basin; cover the bottom of it and the sides with slices of
      brioche.
    2. Hull* the strawberries.
    3. Put the fruit into a pan with the sugar on a low heat, until the fruit has softened for 4 – 5 minutes.
    4. Take it off the heat and spoon out the fruit leaving most of the juices in the pan.
    5. Cover the top of the fruit with more brioche and pour the remaining juice on top of that.
    6. Put a plate that fits into the bowl on top and weigh it down with some kind of weight.
    7. Put it in the fridge for 3 hours – overnight is best.
    8. Finally, just before you are ready to serve, take it out of the fridge.  Take off the plate and the weight, loosen the edges gently and turn it out onto a serving plate.
    9. Perfect served cold with a splash of cream.

     

    * Hull means to take the stalks off the strawberries.

    For a printable copy click here Summer Pudding 

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