Caring for Soft Fruit Bushes

STRAWBERRIES

SITE

An open sunny position is required for strawberries, but it must be sheltered from cold spring winds and late spring frosts. Gardens situated in a frost pocket will need to have strawberry plants protected with cloches or polythene tunnels, or the autumn fruiting varieties can be grown removing the first trusses of blossom and concentrating on late summer or autumn fruits.

SOIL

Strawberries flourish in a rich medium loam with a high humus content. If manure is difficult to obtain, any well-rotted organic matter, compost, leafmould or peat can be used with beneficial results. The site should have good drainage and the ground should be prepared well in advance of planting time. Ideally the soil should be neutral or slightly acid. Strawberries do not do well m soils which have a high lime content.

PREPARATION

Early preparation of the soil is essential, not only to assist in soil improvement but also to help eradicate perennial weeds. Manure, compost or peat should be liberally applied and dug in. Prior to planting dress tne ground with 3 oz. Bone Meal, 3 oz. Hoof and Horn and 1 oz. Sulphate of Potash per square yard.

PLANTING

Allow 1 8 ins between the plants and 2 1/2 ft between the rows. Summer fruiting varieties can be planted either in late summer or early autumn or even early spring. The earlier the plants can go out the stronger they will be the following year, so if plants are available, planting can commence from late July until September Pot grown runners should be planted for preference, but these are not always available, so choose strong plants of open ground runners

When planting it is important to make sure the base of the crown is at soil level, not higher or deeper. Plant firmly and water well. In the following spring give a general fertilizer dressing at the rate of 2 oz. per square yard. Mulching with peat or compost would be beneficial at this time of year to help preserve soil moisture in the event of a spring drought.

TIMING THE FRUIT

When in the spring following planting the first blossom buds appear, an important decision must be made. First year flowers on maiden plants will give the earliest crop and the largest individual berries, but if you remove the first year’s blossom and wait until the second crop, the yield will then probably be greater than the total of two years’ crops on plant fruiting in their first season. If an early crop is required the plants will be protected with cloches or polythene tunnels and the first year blossom should be left on. If earliness is the main criterion then the strawberries may be treated as an annual crop and a fresh batch of plants planted every year.

PROTECTION

Before the strawberries ripen it is important to give some form of protection to prevent the berries being splashed by mud. The traditional method is to lay straw on the soil underneath the berries taking care not to put it down too early because of the risk of radiation frosts. If straw is unobtainable specially made strawberry mats can be used instead.

PESTS and DISEASES

Although strawberries can be attacked by numerous pests, only aphids, birds and slugs are really common. Aphids must be dealt with rigorously since the strawberry aphid is responsible for the transmission of virus diseases to which strawberries are particularly susceptible.

Fruiting plants should be sprayed before flowering approximately mid-April and Malathion is suitable for this purpose. Plants must be checked carefully and further spraying given as necessary. Never spray open blossom.

Netting offers the only protection against birds. Slugs are troublesome in most gardens but the modern slug pellets are effective provided you remember to renew them after rain.

Botrytis or ‘grey mould’ is the disease which most often troubles the strawberry. This is a lungus disease which attacks the berries, covering them with a grey, furry mould. It is most common in warm, moist weather. When one in five flowers have opened, spray with Captan, repeating this when all petals have fallen and at ten day intervals until picking is about to start.

Mildew can also be troublesome. Spray with Dinocap immediately before flowering and repeat at ten day intervals.

Several virus diseases attack strawberries and can severely reduce cropping, and there is no cure foi them. Prevention, therefore, involves starting with clean virus free stock and spraying to keep down the insects, namely aphids which transfer the disease from plant to plant. Any infected plants should be dug up and burned.

RASPBERRIES

The ground for raspberries should be well prepared in the autumn. Dig in all the humus possible

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