The Cottage Smallholder

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Photo: Strawberries

Photo: Strawberries

One of the best cakes that I’ve ever tasted is my mum’s sponge cake with a wicked filling of strawberries and whipped cream. In fact when she was making this filling she discovered how to make butter with double cream and an electric whisk. So I was doubly blessed.

Many varieties of strawberries with the best flavour don’t travel well. So you won’t find them in the market or supermarket. Waitrose tried stocking some old English varieties one year but the shelf life was so limited that they gave up. The great thing about growing strawberries at home is that you can choose strawberries with the best flavours as they only have to travel from plant to wash to plate.

One of the great benefits of being off sick (now a scary 17 weeks) is that suddenly I’m time rich. Most of my day is spent happily in bed because I feel so peaky. I try and spend an hour a day in the garden – is like a day at work. But those hours soon add up and are proving to be really worth while.  The garden has never looked so neat.

But it’s the hours in bed that are even more valuable. With the lovely laptop Danny gave me last summer I can surf the web and find the answers to questions that I haven’t had time to research before. I’ve always been a bit lazy about boning up on how to care for my soft fruit properly which is silly as we grow quite a lot and now I have a food dehydrator we could be eating our own fruit 365 days a year. Lolling in bed I’ve discovered what I’ve been doing wrong and also that some varieties of strawberries can be planted now.

I have quite a few strawberries dotted around in the garden and a small patch in one of the fruit cages. They don’t do spectacularly well. Now I realise that they have never been given a fighting chance. Usually I plant a few each year in Spring and don’t nurture the runners or cosset them at all. I had no idea that they are such greedy feeders needing sunshine and a deeply dug loamy soil.

As I drifted across the internet looking for strawberry growing tips I came across a new variety – Albion that crops on and off from May to October. This would be perfect for me. A few every now and then rather than a mid summer glut. I’ve also ordered some Florian F1 strawberry seeds that can be sown now to germinate in my cheap electric propagator for an early crop under glass. They will be living in the cold frame in the Spring as the greenhouse is hosting pelargoniums and pepper plants this winter and the latter (along with tomatoes and potatoes) can pass on the dreaded verticillium wilt which kills strawberries.

I’ve also looked up companion planting tips for strawberries. They hate cabbages but love beans, lettuce, onion, spinach, thyme. Planting borage near the strawberry patch helps the plants to build resistance to pests and diseases. Guess what else was slipped into my shopping basket!

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Mary

    I had no idea. Poor you 🙁

  2. You jest. There is a far wider choice of food in the UK AND it’s cheaper!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Allotment Blogger

    Yes I’ve heard that Alice are good strawberries to grow. I like your nifty raised beds too.

    Hi Mary

    I’m amazed about the thick cream problem in France. I assumed it was a foodie haven with everything and more available.

  4. We use the cream recipe all the time here in France. It’s really difficult to get decent thick cream here, and that recipe is heaven-sent. (and so yummy)

  5. Allotment blogger

    We’ve just planted Alice strawberries to extend our cropping season, plus a new bed of runners from the old exhausted strawberry bed, and we have wonderful alpine strawberries that are still cropping as of yesterday!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi S.O.L

    We have lots of wild raspberries too. Dr Quito and I fight over who will eat them first. I always put a handful in a bottle of gin each summer too 🙂

    Hi Gary

    You are lucky – Kent means access to great stawbs and damsons! Haven’t got such greenfingered nieghbours as you so if I want them I’ve got to grow them.

    Hi Wendy

    Yes the internet is a wonderful resource. It’s really keeping me going these days.

  7. 17 weeks – I hadn’t realised it was so long – we are so sorry that you are still feeling ‘peaky’. You are making the most of your time though, the few hours in the garden must mean so much. I think that the time spent on-line is never wasted as there is so much out there and I love searching for information. x

  8. Great notes about strawbs, one of my favourite fruits, but i never get around to planting any.

    The trouble is that i’m lazy by nature, and there’s hundreds of pyo farms around here ( Garden of england, Kent) , so they’re always easy to get hold of.

    I always have a few plants around, but not many. One of my fellow plotholders grows far too many, and I’m assured of a couple of free punnets most weekends during their growing season.

    Maybe I’ll get around to it one day …..

  9. I am lucky enough to have been given huge amounts of wild/alpine strawberry plants that even grow in the cracks of my parents drive. the cant seem to keep the under control. the cat loves them and you have to fight her to get to them first.

    the leavesare half the size of the ones you buy at the garden centre. and the fruit is only the size of a ladies ring finger nail. but boy do they pack a punch. really fruity and not at all floury in taste. yum

    you cant dig the plants up from the wild though peeps, I think it is prohibited.

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