The biggest success of last year was probably the strawberries. I have very little experience of growing strawberries, but here’s what I’ve managed to glean from various books, and how we’re planning on growing them:
Unfortunately, you can’t just plant up a bed with strawberries and leave them there forever. Strawberries crop best in their second and third years, and then production drops off. So it’s best to dig up the plants after three years and put in some new ones.
Thankfully, strawberry plants send out plenty of runners to create new plants, so once you’ve got a few plants there’s no need to buy new plants ever again.
When you dig up your old plants and put in new ones, it’s best to move the strawberry bed to a new location. This is because strawberries are susceptible to soil-borne diseases. Grow them in the same place for too long, and you’ll get a build-up of disease in the soil, putting your plants, and your sunny summer days at the allotment eating strawberries straight from the bush, at risk.
So our plan is to grow our strawberries in three sections. One section will have first-year plants, one second-year plants, and the other third-year plants. Each Autumn, we’ll dig up the oldest plants and establish a new bed somewhere else on the plot using runners taken from our existing plants. That way two-thirds of our plants will always be at peak production, and we’ll have done what we can to reduce problems with disease.
The first of the new raised beds that we’re going to be using will be the new strawberry bed for next year. I’ve dug in plenty of well-rotted manure from the stables up the road, and transplanted sixteen runners, planting them 50cm apart in rows 60cm apart. (I’d have preferred to leave more space between the rows, but that was as much as the width of the bed would allow.)
We’re growing several different varieties, and I’d like to know which varieties produce the best fruit. To aid with blind taste tests next year I’ll keep to myself which varieties are planted where. (Let’s just hope I don’t forget.)
Now we just have to keep the bed weeded and wait until next summer.