BEST WAY TO CULTIVATE STRAWBERRIES

SOIL

Strawberries grow successfully on a number of soils, however good drainage is of paramount importance, for this crop will not thrive in waterlogged land. Shallow soils that dry out badly in summer are also unsuitable, though these can be improved considerably if organic manure is added. Some varieties will thrive on heavy land where the drainage is good, but for most kinds a medium loam is best.

AREAS

Commercially, the early crops are produced in Cheddar, Tamar Valley and coastal areas around Southampton. Main crops are grown in Kent, Norfolk and Isle of Ely. Large areas are grown for jam-making and canning in the Eastern counties.

SITES

Sites for early crops need careful selection with the frost factor in mind, as the strawberry flowers at a critical frost period in April and May.

A Black Eyed Susan

frosted strawberry

flower

(the centre of the

strawberry flower is

golden normally)

MANURING

Humus is essential, especially on light land. The preparation of the site should include ploughing, harrowing and rolling, and a heavy application of well-rotted farmyard manure, some of which should be kept near the surface.

Previous to planting, apply bonemeal at 40 g/sq.m and sulphate of potash at 20 g/sq.m. As an annual dressing in February or March to established beds, give 10 g/sq.m of sulphate of potash and 10 g/sq.m of sulphate of ammonia.

Recent experiments

These seem to indicate that the nutritional status of runners at planting time may have more effect on cropping than manure applied during the growing of the crop. This applies especially to nitrogen dressings where cropping beds are kept for one or two years only.

Strain is most important

Only certified runners should be bought. Special stock runners are best. Planting distances vary but on good soil 1.0 mx0.5mis not too much. It is most important to plant early; August and early September are good times. On very wet soils the plants may be put out in the spring, the middle of March being suitable, and de-blossomed (but this means a year’s growth before cropping). The use of cold stored runners may be very useful to ensure early planting and cropping in the following season. (Cold stored runners are mainly used for spring and early summer planting to get later crops during the summer.)

De-blossoming

Where runners are planted in August, the plants may be allowed to fruit in the first season. This is especially valuable if an early crop is the aim. If spring planted, de-blossoming is done before the fruits set. (Leaving the fruits to come from spring lifted and planted runners is rarely a success.)

De-runnerina

This need attention several times during the growing season.

Strawing

This is best done when the developing fruit just starts to weigh down the truss. The straw helps to keep the fruit off the ground, clean and dry, therefore improving the quality.

After harvesting

Under field., conditions ..the. straw is usually raised with a fork, after first cutting off the old leaves and runners. Straw needs to be dry for quick burning over, and a brisk breeze ensures this. If weather conditions do not allow burning, the straw can be rotavated in. Burning over helps by reducing many pests and weeds. Regrowth is quick and frequently in good seasons there can be a small autumn crop as well.

Varieties

Cambridge Favourite – Second early. A good cropper. The

main commercial variety.

Royal Sovereign – Excellent flavour. Will not stand

impeded drainage. Low yields.

Red Gauntlet – Mid season. Usually flowers a second

time in autumn and may fruit in a good season.

Talisman – Mid season.

Templar – Late main crop.

Note: The use of polythene tunnels for early crops is

normal. South facing slopes (30°) may improve earlies by 7 to 14 days.

Newer varieties include Hapil, Dormanil, Tamella, Pantagruella, Tantallon and Harvester. The key factors about the newer varieties include:-

i) season of harvest earlier;

ii) yield – 12 to 15 tonnes/Ha is possible;

iii) quality following freezing;

iv) disease resistance.

In spite of very red fruits with good red flesh, so far the special strawberry flavour particular to the outdated Royal Sovereign and some wild strawberries has eluded the plant breeders.

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