Into the swing of spring – strawberries recovering

Cambridge Favourite strawberry plants

Despite the late, late frosts last month, I’m pleased to see that my tatty strawberry patch is recovering nicely! I picked out the damaged black-eyed strawberry flowers, and crossed everything that the remaining buds weren’t damaged. And although some of the Cambridge Favourite strawberry flowers have opened with black centres, it seems most are A-OK. Phew!

I’ve decided to help my strawberries along a bit this year. Last year I was terrible, neglecting to water or tend to the plants until they pretty much shrivelled up in protest. This year, I’ve started as I intend to go on, giving the plants a little more TLC in the hope that they will flourish… and I’ll get to enjoy a decent crop of fresh, ripe, sun-soaked(!) strawberries.

Growing a successful strawberry crop

Firstly, I can tell you that I will NOT be putting out any kind of slug pellet or slug trap. I’m a live and let live kind of gardener. The only “pellets” I would consider are the wool pellets, but current budget dictates that we’ll have to rely on other wildlife keeping slug numbers at a manageable level! We incur a few losses, but I think we’ve got a good balance here and we don’t have a massive slug or snail problem at all.

Let there be light
It’s said that the best, sweetest tasting strawberries are those that have been sun-soaked. It’s serendipitous that my no-dig strawberry patch gets sun from early morning through to late afternoon. So it’s up to the flighty British summer to sweeten those fruits now.

Mulching & weeding
As we’re currently experiencing some much-needed downpours, the setting fruits will need lifting off the (well-draining) soil, so a mulch of straw should do the trick. You can protect your fledgling fruits from birds with well-pegged down, tight and VISIBLE netting (add CDs or streaming ribbons to aid visibility), or if you’ve a few pennies and saved away, build a fruit cage (again, ensure the netting is visible to wildlife).

This year, with no budget for any kind of fruit cage, I shall be counting on the good grace of my feathered friends, and the fact that there are bird feeders all over the garden… e

Feeding
Mulching and regular weeding will also encourage healthy, vigorous growth, and the plants can be fed an organic liquid potash (potassium rich) feed (like tomato feed). Organic liquid seaweed feed might also help too, but watch the nitrogen content… you want it to be low. It’s also been suggested that homemade dilute liquid comfrey can help boost flavour of the fruits (1 part comfrey liquid to 15 parts water).

I’ve got a general organic kelp mix that I’ve been feeding weekly all over the veg patches, flower borders and fruit cages. The trick is to NOT overfeed or overwater your plants – just a little helping hand can do wonders.

My Two Cents: Top Gardening Bloggers Share Their New Year’s Resolutions

Cherry tree in winter

It might be February, but it’s cold, bleak and grey out there and the growing season seems so far away. We’ve had frost after frost, sleet, snow and endless days of cloud and rain, and the garden has been sleeping soundly for weeks on end. It’s been just over a month since we were launched headfirst into 2017, but already the seed catalogues have been arriving in droves.

Top Gardening Bloggers Share Their New Year’s Resolutions

It might be dull and dreary outside, but this time of year is perfect for planning the growing season ahead from the comfort of my centrally heated house. So when Capital Gardens asked me for my take on my horticultural new year resolutions, I was more than happy to help. I joined five other gardening bloggers in offering up my thoughts on what I hope to achieve this growing season, and why this year I’ll be aiming for quality over quantity.

So check out Top Gardening Bloggers Share Their New Year’s Resolutions to see what we all had to say.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 visit

botanic garden

Part of the Botanic Garden

This week I headed down to Sloane Square with my mum for this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The weather was a bit crap – overcast and pretty chilly for a late May day – but given the crowds I was actually quite pleased not to be in the glare of a hot sun!

First off we headed for the show gardens, and although at times given the volume of people it was hard to stop and ponder the planting, I really enjoyed the flowing, naturalistic planting schemes that seemed to prevail in the vast majority of the gardens. Wildflowers have definitely made a comeback, with ragged robin a popular choice, and it seemed most gardens were going for purples, whites and a variance on rusty orange or rusty pink.

I suppose just like fashion, preferences for planting are subject to trends. But I like this recent trend. Pollinating flowers like alliums and salvias were in evidence everywhere, as was a certain type of almost milk chocolate-coloured California Iris.

I think my favourite garden had to be the Botanic garden – not for its main feature, a glass house, but for one side of the garden that was planted up in a style that nodded to permaculture, with salvias, lupins, wild carrot, hyssop, beetroot, rhubarb, blackcurrant, gooseberry, french beans, nasturtiums, and all manner of fruit and veg crammed in together to create a bustling, thriving growing space. It definitely gave me lots of ideas for my own patch of the good life.

A close up from the Greening Grey Britain garden

A close up from the Greening Grey Britain garden

The Greening Grey Britain garden was also an inspiration, with some almost prairie-like planting with swathes of plants that are perfect for pollinators, wildflowers including ragged robin and aquilegia (another popular feature in many gardens this year), grasses, and some gorgeous rusty metal bird seed cups that I haven’t been able to locate anywhere! I love the idea of ‘Greening Grey Britain‘, an RHS scheme launched last year in a bid to overcome the paving over of front gardens, driveways and what could be thriving spaces for flora and fauna to reduce flooding, combat localised temperature rises and even subsidence. Want to make a contribution and bring colour and vitality back to the streets of Britain? Then visit the RHS site to make your promise.

So lots of ideas and inspiration, and armed with three new packets of seed (two types of pollinator-friendly Astrantia, and some white ragged robin), I’ve come away determined to make the Smallest Smallholding a living, breathing and productive oasis in my part of suburbia.

Natural planting schemes were everywhere!

Naturalistic planting schemes were everywhere!