I couldn’t imagine summer without strawberries. In my opinion they are the quintessential seasonal fruit and nothing beats tucking into a bowlful you’ve grown yourself. Plants are usually started from plugs, bare root plants and pot-grown specimens bought in spring, but those with strawberries in the garden can propagate their own from runners. Read on for my advice.
Make more strawberries
It’s easy to make more strawberry plants from the little baby plantlets that appear on the long, above ground stems that emerge from mature specimens. Known to gardeners as runners, these are dead easy to propagate. Start by filling a 7.5cm (3in) pot with compost. Next, choose a runner with a healthy plantlet, and peg the end down on the surface of the compost using a small piece of wire bent into a U-shape. Keep the compost moist and allow the plantlet to form roots. When established, the runner can be cut away from the mother plant. Grow on and move into a larger pot when necessary.
Tackle brown rot
As we head towards late summer, many trees are laden with ripening fruit. Alas, some trees are vulnerable to a fungal disease known as brown rot, which can spread rapidly throughout the branches, infecting fruit and leaving them inedible. If you spot any apples, pears or plums with soft brown patches on their skin – often adorned with rings of white fungal pustules – remove them immediately and put in the wheelie bin, not on the compost heap.
If diseased fruit are ignored, the fungal spores can spread into the shoots of the tree and overwinter, contaminating fruit that develops next year.
Whether you are growing patty pan varieties, crooknecks or any other type of summer squash, fruit will ripen more readily if you give plants a little bit of attention. Apart from lavishing them with plenty of water and giving them a dose of liquid fertiliser that’s high in potash (Flower Power is ideal) every couple of weeks during the growing season, it’s a good idea to snip off any large leaves that are covering the developing fruit. Doing this will allow more light, warmth and air to reach the crop, helping to speed up ripening. To ensure plants produce a succession of fruit, harvest regularly.
Freshly chopped chives are perfect for adding a mild, oniony taste to all sorts of dishes, but if left to their own devices they tend to run out of steam – plants will spread to form large clumps that start to die out in the centre and produce weak, straggly growth. Fortunately, it’s easy to rejuvenate large specimens. Lift clumps carefully with a fork and divide into several smaller pieces (it’s a doddle to prise roots apart by hand). Replant in the ground, spacing pieces 30cm (12in) apart. If you only want one plant, give away the rest. If you grow chives in a pot, split the rootball in two, replanting a portion in the same pot.
Carrots are among the root crops that can be stored in an insulated, outdoor structure known as a clamp. Ideal for dealing with a glut at the allotment, there are numerous methods of making them, some more sophisticated than others. To make a simple clamp, place a sheet of polythene on the ground and cover with a layer of straw. Arrange a layer of vegetables in a circular pattern, covering with more straw. Continue to build up the layers, making a cone-shaped structure. Once finished, spread straw over the structure and then cover with a 15cm (6in) layer of soil.