|Irish Holidays 1400AD - 1982AD|
Cultivated strawberries are a relative newcomer to our gardens - in centuries past througout most of Ireland you could simply wander out into the woods and pick all you wanted. Then along came the Brits in the 18th Century to take our forests home to make battleships for world domination. And so woodland strawberries along with woodlands, became rare. This meant we brought them home when we found them, planted them in the garden and mulched and marked the berries with straw – thus giving them their name. Hayberries (only joking)
|Wexberries...the very bext|
Later that same century, the much larger garden strawberry we are familiar with today was created by crossing two imported varieties from the north and south Americas. Unfortunately few foods have been as denigrated by the mainstream supermarket chain through the past three decades as the beloved strawberry. The store bought berry has been designed for longevity, durability in transport and to be produced at bargain bucket prices rather than taste, nutrition and texture. The muscular fragaria you find down at your local supermarket is an irradiated water pustule which will last forever in your fridge. Put one in and keeping looking over the months.
Which is why there’s a world of difference today between the taste of a modern supermarket grown strawberry and a homegrown one. Especially a heritage one. So if you haven’t already got your strawberries in – mine are already starting to flower – then there’s still time to grab a few trayloads from the garden centre.
|A hive outbreak yesterday|
The plants don’t produce well in year one but do best in their second and third years. So give them a chance (I did in my first year, vow in print, never to grow strawberries again) They do reproduce quickly by throwing out runners after they fruit. So ground yourself a few runners from each plant by pinning the “bend” into a pot of compost or soil and once they’ve rooted and produced three or four leaves, cut the stalk to the main plant and now you have another plant. While fruiting however they need to be watered carefully and well fed. Otherwise plants will keep in any old conditions and are quite resistant to a bit of heavy frost and snow. Some growers even swear that they fruit better because of it.
When they’re fruiting you can save space by planting them in multi pocketed upright containers, in hanging baskets or in cut pockets in wall mounted grow bags – but you do need to ensure that they’re kept well watered once they start flowering. Water continuation is crucial. Also make sure they go in the sunniest position possible – it’s the sun that makes that flavour.
|There is a multi pocketed planter in there somewhere..|
I hang old unwanted cd's nearby to keep the birds off. In his day grandfather used to deploy shards of old mirrors to keep the birds off his fruit. The resulting reflections unnerve them. Birds hate mirrors.