Of course in normal times, this week would have seen the start of Wimbledon fortnight. I have noticed through the years this inclement weather seems to come with the lawn tennis championships.
Last year 27 tons of strawberries were consumed by the spectators while watching the tennis. With the loss of the tournament this year the poor strawberry farmers are going to suffer a huge loss in profits.
Strawberries in the supermarkets seem to be getting much larger this year, but unfortunately the quest for size seems to be at the detriment of the taste. I still think the sweetest of all strawberries are the old fashioned variety Royal Sovereign. They are much smaller than modern varieties but they have a really sweet flavour and the smell from a punnet when picked fills the room.
Strawberries probably give you the quickest return of all fruits. Strawberries planted out in late summer will start producing fruit the following summer.
To make a strawberry patch I find it is best to buy about ten plants in late July to mid August. Dig a hole about 2 inches deeper and wider than the plant making sure you spread the roots out and back fill the hole and water in well.
Leave a space of about two feet and plant the next one. Continue this process until you come to the end of your row. By late May you will see the white flowers appear.
At this point you need to buy a couple of bags of straw and lay the straw as tight as you can around the plant. Making sure the flowers are laying on the top.
At the same time it is a good idea to purchase a net to put over your strawberries. The birds enjoy them as much as the tennis fans.
By early to mid June you should find the red berries are ready to pick. Once you have harvested the last of the fruits, rake up the straw and burn it. Lightly fork over the ground around the plants and within a few weeks you will start to see the plants send out runners.
As the runners grow they will produce baby strawberry plants. Get a piece of bent wire, (old metal coat hangers cut up are ideal) peg the runner down as close as you can to the new plant, keep the soil moist and you should soon have a crop of new plants.
After a few weeks the young plant should be strong enough to cut from the runner and be planted out. Try and get at least ten new plants to form another row, plant it about 3 feet from the original row. Repeat this process each year until you have four rows.
Strawberries produce the best fruit in years two and three. After four years of planting out the new plants from the runners, I tend to dig up the four year old plants and replace them with a new row.
After four years of planting new plants from their runners you should have a well established strawberry bed.