Soft Fruit Planting & Onward Care

Planting & Care Instructions by Variety

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Use the options below for advice on planting your products, get the best results and for the onward care of your plants. Alternatively, you can download the full pdf here.

Soil preparation

Asparagus plants can remain productive for up to 20 years, so it’s worthwhile spending time on preparing the bed to give them a flying start in life. If you can, start in autumn by digging over thoroughly, mixing in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure, and removing all perennial weeds. A week or so before planting, scatter some general fertiliser granules over the area (about 90g/ sq m is ideal) and fork in, before raking the ground level.

Planting

You will need about an hour to plant 10 crowns. Make a straight trench, 30cm wide by 20cm deep, and then pour soil down the length of the trench to make a 10cm high mound. Next, carefully take your asparagus crowns and sit them on top of the mound, spreading the roots out either side – plant crowns 30cm apart and then cover with about 5cm of soil, which has been sifted through a riddle or sieve. Cover the plants with more sifted soil as the stems grow, aiming to completely fill the trench by autumn. Subsequent rows should be spaced 30cm apart.

Aftercare

Water newly planted crowns thoroughly and keep damp during dry weather. Succulent spears may appear soon after
planting, but avoid the temptation to harvest them or you’ll weaken the crowns. During their first two years of growth, plants should be left to form lots of ferny foliage – cut down the stems in autumn, leaving 5cm stumps above the ground. To prevent competition, keep beds free of weeds.

Harvesting

Most plants are ready to be picked two years after planting, although several modern varieties have been bred for earlier cropping. To harvest spears, wait until they’re about 12cm long and remove them with a serrated knife, cutting them off 7cm beneath the soil. Stop harvesting in mid-June to allow the plant to build up its energy for next year, and give plants an extra boost by feeding with a general fertiliser.

Preparation

A sheltered frost-free site in full sun is preferable, however they can tolerate light shade. Blackcurrants also like a slightly acidic soil but this is not crucial.

Planting

Plant at a distance of 4-6ft (1.2-2m) apart training left and right from the centre. Prepare a 2ft x 2ft (60cm x 60cm) area at each planting spot by digging a hole approx. twice the diameter of the root-ball or pot. Line the bottom of the hole with fresh compost or well-rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil. Plant with the old soil mark (if visible) approx. 2in below the surface. Replace the soil by gently treading it back in and it is a good idea to apply a general purpose fertiliser mixed in with the soil at this time, ensuring the plants get the best possible start. Water in well. If planting between November and March, cut back all the shoots to within 2-3 buds (approx.5cm) of soil level after planting.

Pruning

This should be done between November & March but should not start until 2 years after planting. Remove any branches that may be diseased or weak. As the plant matures i.e. 3-4 years old remove approx. a third of the branches that have fruited to enable new shoots to grow. Do not retain any branches more than 4 years old.

Ongoing Care

Occasionally due to frost, some plants may have lifted during the winter. Check for this, and carefully tread down any that may have done so. Regular weeding is important. Hand weeding is recommended, however, if using a hoe, ensure you don’t go too deep to avoid damaging the roots which can lead to suckers being produced. Watering is vital during spells of dry weather. It may be necessary to cover the plants at night during flowering period (March/April) when frosts are forecast.

In April, apply a good layer of mulch around each bush. Blackcurrants also need a regular feeding
cycle, so as well as applying Growmore in March, they will need a liquid feed that is high in
potassium when the fruits are swelling. Bear in mind that it is a good idea to cover the bushes
when the fruit is beginning to ripe to keep birds at bay.

Preparation

Blackberries will tolerate most locations including areas of partial shade and soils that do not have good drainage. As for raspberries, ensure you are planting these in fresh ground wherever possible, if not, it is recommended to remove and replace the existing soil to a minimum of spade depth. It should be noted however, that this is not always effective at preventing the virus from spreading. Prepare a 2ft x 2ft ( 60cm x 60cm) area at each planting spot by digging a hole approx. twice the diameter of the root-ball or pot. Line the bottom of the hole with fresh compost or well rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil.

Planting

Blackberries will need to be trained against either a wall, shed, fence of on a post & wire system (see raspberries for set up instructions). Plant with the old soil mark (if visible) level with the surface – this should be no deeper than 4 inches. Plant at a distance of 8ft (2.3m) apart training left and right from the centre. Line the bottom of the trench with fresh compost or well rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil. Take each plant and spread out the roots evenly, the old soil mark (if visible) should be level with the surface. Replace the soil by gently treading it back in and it is a good idea to apply a general purpose fertiliser mixed in with the soil at this time, ensuring the cane get the best possible start. Water in well.

Pruning/Training

Once picking is over, cut back the recently fruited cane to near ground level. Once the plant is established, the simplest method of training black/hybrid berries is by tying the new cane in the opposite side of the centre from the established fruiting cane, this enables easy pruning of the fruited cane down to near ground level, and allows the new cane to grow freely.

Ongoing Care

Water in a general purpose fertiliser i.e. Growmore, in March. Once this is done, apply a mulch such as well-rotted manure or compost. This will help keep the soil cool & moist as well as keep down the weeds. Regular weeding is important. Hand weeding is recommended, however if using a hoe, ensure you don’t go too deep to avoid damaging the roots which can lead to suckers being produced. Watering is vital during spells of dry weather.

Primocane Instruction

To grow as a primocane (ie producing two, smaller crops each year), cut back the new spring stems, which have produced fruit at their tips in autumn, to a point just below where the blackberries were produced, soon after they have finished cropping. These half-canes can then be left to overwinter, will put on new top growth in spring and will then go on to produce the first crop of berries in early summer. After these two year old canes have finished fruiting they should be cut right back to their base. In the meantime, new canes will have emerged from the base of the plant in spring and these should be tied onto their support as they grow. These new canes will then produce the second, later crop and should have their tops lopped off after fruiting. This then creates a repeating cycle.

Preparation

Plant in an open sunny spot sheltered from strong winds. Must be planted in acid soil, avoid any soil with a pH of more than 4.5. Cranberries will benefit from being planted close to water, but make sure the ground is free-draining and is not prone to water-logging. Monitor the soil’s pH every few years, because it may be necessary to add acid. Remember, if your soil is not acidic, cranberries will be just as happy planted in a pot or hanging basket with ericaceous compost. The pot size should be approx 1.5 times the size of the root ball to ensure plenty of room for rooting.

Planting

It is a good idea to plant two different varieties of cranberries to ensure cross-pollination although two of the same variety is just as acceptable. A single cranberry plant will produce fruit, but the yields will be higher and the fruits bigger if more than one plant is grown. Plant cranberries in autumn or winter leaving about 1.5m (5ft) gaps between them and mulch with a layer of acidic peat, wood chippings or pine needles. Water in well using rainwater rather than tap water if possible. Tap water contains lime which renders the soil less acidic over time.

Pruning

After approx. 3 years from first crop, cut away the old shoots & tidy runners, doing this will give the plants more space to grow & develop thereby ensuring a larger crop.

Ongoing Care

Use nets to protect plants from birds in the fruiting season. In spring, apply a little Bone Meal around each plant. Once this is done, apply a mulch such as chipped up pine tree or pine needles. These are ideal mulches to place around the plants because they’re fairly acidic. Ensure that all weeds are removed & that the soil is moist before
mulching. Mulching helps to keep the soil cool & moist as well as keep down the weeds. Water plants regularly. They require water from when their buds begin to show in spring until their leaves fall in autumn. Again, remember to use rainwater. For plants grown in pots/hanging baskets, give the plants a high potash feed (such as tomato feed) occasionally during the growing season.

Preparation

Gojiberries are not generally difficult to grow, they tolerate light shade, but should be grown in full sun for best crop. They are hardy, and once established will tolerate wind, salt-laden air (such as coastal gardens) and drought.
Gojiberry plants like a moderately fertile and well-drained soil. To improve drainage try adding additional plant compost to the soil or if planting in pots, some vermiculite to the compost. Plant in full sun for the best berry production, growing in a south-facing position if possible. Goji berry plants will also grow in a large container, such
as a sawn-in-half barrel and container-grown plants can be brought in in the winter and put out again in the summer. However, you will need to replace some of the soil in the container each year and also give them a yearly dressing of compost.

Planting

Prepare a 2ft x 2ft (60cm x 60cm) area at each planting spot by digging a hole approx. twice the diameter of the root-ball or pot. Line the bottom of the hole with fresh compost or well rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil. Plant 6ft (2m) apart unless using them to create a hedge or windbreak in which case leave 3ft (1m) between plants. Firm the soil around the plant and water well.

Onward Care

Pruning is best undertaken in the early spring just as the plant breaks into growth. We would recommend pruning is kept to a minimum in order to maximise fruit yield – though Goji’s will recover well from hard pruning. Mulch yearly with well rotted compost or manure to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Water in dry periods. Apply a Growmore type fertiliser in the spring For plants grown in containers, apply a high potash feed (such as tomato feed) fortnightly
during the growing season.

Pruning

For maximum fruiting, it is best to train plants against a wall or fence, tying the lax stems onto wires. Wear gloves for protection against spines. Flowers and fruit are formed on the stems that grew in the previous year, so pruning aims
to encourage the production of this wood. Prune lightly in early spring, removing dead and badly-placed shoots. If necessary, cut overlong stems back to a well-placed branch and remove some of the oldest wood. Renovate shrubs in early spring, reducing the plant to a low framework of branches or cutting close to the base. This will cause vigorous re-growth, but initially reduces the fruiting. To restrict growth on plants in containers, cut new growth back by up to half in summer however bear in mind that this will reduce the yield.

Preparation

Choose an open sunny or partly shaded spot, sheltered from frost & strong winds. Prefers a slightly acidic soil, but must be free draining & fertile.

Planting

Plant at a distance of 4-6ft (1.2-2m) apart. Prepare a 2ft x 2ft (60cm x 60cm) area at each planting spot by digging a hole approx. twice the diameter of the root-ball or pot. Line the bottom of the hole with fresh compost or well rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil. Plant with the old soil mark (if visible) level with the surface. Replace the soil by gently treading it back in and it is a good idea to apply a general purpose fertiliser mixed in with the soil at this time, ensuring the plants get the best possible start. Water in well.
If planting between November and March, cut back all branches by half after planting.

Pruning

This should be done between November & March but should not start until 2 years after planting. Remove any branches that may be diseased or weak. As the plant matures i.e. 3-4 years old cut back the new growth produced by the leaders by half. Cut back the side shoots growing from the leaders to approx. 2in.

Ongoing Care

If the plants are not protected by a fruit cage, then it will be necessary to cover them duringwinter to avoid birds damaging the buds. Occasionally due to frost, some plants may have lifted during the winter. Check for this, and carefully tread down any that may have done so. Regular weeding is important. Hand weeding is recommended, however if using a hoe, ensure you don’t go too deep to avoid damaging the roots which can lead to suckers being
produced. Watering is vital during spells of dry weather. It may be necessary to cover the plants at night during flowering period (March/April) when frosts are forecast. Water in a general purpose fertiliser i.e. Growmore, in March. Once this is done, apply a mulch such as well-rotted manure or compost. This will help keep the soil cool & moist as well as keep down the weeds. Bear in mind that it is a good idea to cover the bushes when the fruit is beginning to ripe to keep birds at bay. If Mildew occurs, spray with an appropriate fungicide.

Preparation

Grape vines are lovely plants to train along the inside of a greenhouse or conservatory, but they do require a lot of room. One grape vine is plenty for a small greenhouse, but for larger ones allow 1m (3¼ft) between each vine.

Planting

Greenhouse grapes grow best when the roots are planted outside the greenhouse, and the vine is trained into the greenhouse through gaps near ground level. However, where this is not possible, the vines can be planted directly into the greenhouse border, but more irrigation will be required.

Double dig the ground and then incorporate a light dressing of well–rotted manure or compost, plus John Innes base fertiliser. If the soil is waterlogged, dig a hole 75-90cm (30in-3ft) deep and create a 15cm (6in) drainage layer of brick rubble, gravel or similar in the base. Greenhouse vines should be planted at the opposite end to the door, with the stems trained along the side of the greenhouse parallel to the ridge of the roof and running towards the door. Outdoor vines should be planted 4-5ft (1.2—1.5m) apart, 6in (15cm) away from wall/fence. November and December are a good time to plant, as the vine can be pruned back without bleeding at this time of year. Vines should be planted at the same depth that they were in the pot, teasing the roots out so they are well spread out in the planting hole. Grape vines can be grown in containers of loam-based John Innes No 3 compost. Use a pot about 30-38cm (12-15in) in diameter and depth.

Pruning

In the first spring after planting, choose one shoot to be the leader and train. Any laterals produced from the leading shoot should be stopped at 5 or 6 leaves, and any flowers or tendrils should be removed.

Onward Care

Just before growth starts in the spring, mulch the rooting area with well-rotted manure and sprinkle the with John Innes base fertiliser and dried blood. During the growing season, vines benefit from an occasional extra sprinkling of dried blood. When growth starts in the spring, feed every three weeks with a high potassium feed, such as tomato fertiliser. Once the vine is in full leaf, increase this feeding to weekly intervals. When the grapes start to ripen and colour up, stop feeding with tomato feed, as extra feeding at this time may spoil the flavour of the fruit.

Water the vine thoroughly every seven to ten days in the growing season. Vines with the roots inside the greenhouse will need more frequent watering than vines with their roots outside the greenhouse. Where the roots are outside the greenhouse, be guided by the weather and concentrate your watering in dry spells. During the summer, it is a good idea to mulch the greenhouse borders with straw to keep the atmosphere dry. This will aid pollination of the vine flowers and subsequent fruit set.

Re-soiling

Every three to four years, it may be necessary to ‘re-soil’ by digging a trench about 2m (6½ft) from the main stem, 60cm (2ft) wide and deep enough to reach any rubble put in to improve drainage. The soil removed form the trench should not be used on vines again, but may be used elsewhere in the garden. The trench should be backfilled with fresh topsoil.

Preparation

Honeyberries will grow well in most soils but loose & free-draining soil. They do not mind acidic or alkaline soil which makes them a great alternative for people who struggle to grow blueberries. Ideally, plant in spring when there is no risk of frost, this allows the plant to get established over the following summer. Plant on a site in full sun to help increase fruit yield as the sun will ripen the wood.

Planting

Plant 1.5m (5ft) – 2m (7ft) apart, in rows 4ft (14ft) apart. Dig a hole approx 50cm deep & wide, line the bottom of the hole with fresh compost or well rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil. Replace the soil by gently treading it back in and it is a good idea to apply a general purpose fertiliser mixed in with the soil at this time, ensuring the plants get the best possible start. Water in well.

Pruning

Pruning is best done in early spring as the plant breaks into bud, however it is recommended to keep pruning to a
minimum to maximise fruit yield. Young plants only need dead material removed for the first
three years while they get established. For more established honeyberries, pruning should be done in early to mid-summer after harvesting;

  • Remove straggly weak and damaged growth.
  • Thin out any overcrowded shoots by removing several down to the base to encourage
    new strong shoots to replace the old.
  • Also, remove the tips of young shoots as this encourages more flowering laterals.
    Onward Care

A yearly application of a balanced fertilizer such as blood, fish and bone in the spring is all they need. Too much feed will produce lots of lush green growth and not many flowers and fruit. A mulch of well-composted organic matter will help retain moisture and improve soil conditions. It may be worth considering pollination by hand to increase yield of fruit. They flower late winter to very early spring when there is little pollinating insect activity. Hand pollination can be done by lightly brushing over the flowers with a small, soft paint brush.

Preparation

The first thing to ensure is that you plant raspberries in fresh ground that has never grown raspberries or any Rubus plants before. The previous Rubus plants leave a dormant virus in the soil that becomes active as soon as fresh plants are put in the ground. This virus can lie dormant for up to 30 years, and so it is so important that fresh ground is found to plant fresh stock in. Failure to adhere to this advice will negate our guarantee. Raspberries should be grown in a sheltered spot – they grow best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Ensure that the soil they are being planted in is not too heavy – soil that holds a lot of water is no use as raspberries will die very quickly with their roots standing in wet, airless earth. If planting in clay soil, it is recommended to plant in a raised bed by forming a ridge. Dig a trench approx 18in (40cm) wide and 6in (15cm) deep. Line the bottom of the trench with fresh compost or well rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil.

Planting

Plant 18in (45cm) apart in rows 6ft (2m) apart. Take each cane in turn and spread out the roots evenly, the old soil
mark (if visible) should be level with the surface. Make sure the cane are not planted any deeper than 4in (10cm), we recommend 3in (7.5cm) as an optimum depth. Replace the soil by gently treading it back in and it is a good idea to apply a general purpose fertiliser mixed in with the soil at this time, ensuring the cane get the best possible start.
Summer fruiting varieties will need to be supported, and the best method to use is the post-and-wire system where the cane are tied to the wires with soft twine. To set this up the posts should be 10ft (3m) apart. It is best to use 8ft tall, 3in x 3in posts. The end posts must be fixed securely in the ground – ensure this by burying 2ft (61cm) in the ground and supporting with an angled strut. The three wire supports should be placed at 2.5ft (76cm), 3.5ft (1m) & 5.5ft (1.6m) from ground level.

Pruning

For newly planted raspberries: cut down the old cane to near ground level when the new growth appears in Spring.
For established summer fruiting varieties: as soon as picking is over, cut down all the cane that have fruited to near ground level and retain the best 6-9 young unfruited canes and tie to wires 3-4in (7.5-10cm) apart. For established autumn fruiting (primocane) varieties:- cut down all cane to ground level in February. As the new cane grow in the spring/summer, tie them to the wires with soft twine.

Ongoing Care

It is imperative that especially during the first year when they are establishing themselves, the raspberries have plenty of water, therefore during dry periods, regular watering will be necessary. It is particularly important to keep the soil damp when the fruit is swelling. Regular hoeing is important to keep weeds down – ensure the hoe does not go too deep to avoid damaging the roots. Suckers need to be removed in summer, and stems growing away from
the main row should be pulled out. Water in a general purpose fertiliser i.e. Growmore, to the rows in March. Once this is done, apply a mulch such as well-rotted manure or compost. This will help keep the soil cool & moist as well as keep down the weeds.

Recap/Checklist

DO…

  • Plant in free draining soil or on a ridge if your soil is
    heavy.
  • Water in dry period after planting.

DON’T…

  • Plant in soils that have grown raspberries or Rubus
    plants before.
  • Plant in heavy wet soils.
  • Plant too deep—a maximum of 4 inches is acceptable, we would recommend 3 inches.

One final note

Raspberries are very different from other fruit plants and require extra care and patience when first planted. A common mistake is to assume that the old cane that is planted in the ground should produce shoots/leaves—these sometimes do appear but they are fruiting laterals and should be removed when they appear, as they hinder the overall establishment of the cane. The old cane you have planted is in fact gradually dying as it produces it’s fresh
shoots underground, and therefore is no guaranteed indicator of life. The fresh growth to look for in raspberries comes up through the soil from the base of the old cane – please note that newly planted raspberries can take well into June to produce these.

Preparation

Choose an open sunny or partly shaded spot, sheltered from frost & strong winds. Red & White
currants prefer a slightly acidic soil, but must be free draining & fertile.

Planting

Plant at a distance of 4-5ft (1.2-1.5m) apart. Prepare a 2ft x 2ft (60cm x 60xm) area at each planting spot by digging a hole approx. twice the diameter of the root-ball or pot. Line the bottom of the hole with fresh compost or well rotted
manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil. Plant with the old soil mark (if visible) level with the surface. Replace the soil by gently treading it back in and it is a good idea to apply a general purpose fertiliser mixed in with the soil at this time, ensuring the plants get the best possible start. Water in well. If planting between November and March, cut back the main branches by half after planting.

Pruning

This should be done between November & March but should not start until 2 years after planting. Remove any branches that may be diseased or weak. As the plant matures i.e. 3-4 years old cut back the new growth produced by the leaders by half. Cut back the side shoots growing from the leaders to approximately 2in (5cm).

Onward Care

If the plants are not protected by a fruit cage, then it will be necessary to cover them during winter to avoid birds damaging the buds. Occasionally due to frost, some plants may have lifted during the winter. Check for this, and carefully tread down any that may have done so. Regular weeding is important. Hand weeding is recommended, however, if using a hoe, ensure you don’t go too deep to avoid damaging the roots which can lead to suckers being produced. Watering is vital during spells of dry weather. It may be necessary to cover the plants at night during flowering period (March/April) when frosts are forecast. Water in a general purpose fertiliser i.e. Growmore, in March. Once this is done, apply a mulch such as well-rotted manure or compost. This will help keep the soil cool & moist as well as keep down the weeds. Bear in mind that it is a good idea to cover the bushes when the fruit is
beginning to ripe to keep birds at bay.

Preparation

Rhubarb is not fussy as to soil but should be planted in slightly raised beds if the soil is very heavy. It does, however, need an open site as it will not tolerate shade. Prepare the soil carefully by digging to two spits (spade depths), the roots go deep, and work in plenty of farmyard manure or compost as you go. In choosing a site remember that the leaves are heavy and reach at least 2 feet (60 cm) all round the crown. All varieties of rhubarb develop a deep root system and grow best in a fertile, partially shaded, free-draining soil. Start digging over your soil four weeks before planting, removing any stones you find and adding as much organic matter as possible. Plant in sun or partial shade, on moist but well-drained, humus-rich soils.

Planting

Keep in mind that many varieties grow to be very large plants, and require a lot of space. Before planting, dig a hole with a trowel a little bit wider than the crown/plant. The depth should be such that the top of the plant is at, or just below the soil surface. Gently firm the surrounding soil and water well. Spacing between plants should be about 75cm (30in) for smaller varieties, and up to 120cm (48in) for larger varieties.

Onward Care

After the leaves have died down, spread a new layer of compost around the plant to conserve water and suppress weeds. Dead-head flowers immediately after they appear in the early spring, as allowing flowers to set seed will weaken the plant. In order to keep the plants healthy, rhubarb should be divided every five or six years during
winter, when dormant. Each plant can be split into three or four separate crowns with a spade. Make sure each crown has an ‘eye’, or a large bud that will provide next year’s shoots. Dig out a hole slightly larger than the divided plants and place the crown in the hole with its roots facing downwards. The top of the crown should be 2.5cm (1in) below the soil surface. Mark where the crown has been planted with a cane or stones until new shoots appear above
the soil surface in late February or March. Rhubarb suffers from few diseases. Crown rot is the main threat, particularly if soil conditions are wet. The fungal infection occurs at the base of the stalks where crowns turn brown and soften. Plants suffering from rot should be dug up and destroyed immediately. To avoid crown rot,
make sure rhubarb is planted in fertile, well-drained, weed-free soil.

Forcing

This simple process provides an earlier harvest of sweeter stems that don’t need peeling. For forcing outdoors, cover plants with a container or large pot to exclude the light. Place the cover over the rhubarb as soon as it begins to show signs of growth. For forcing indoors, lift whole crowns in November and place them on the soil surface to be chilled for two weeks in order to break their period of dormancy. Pot each crown up with compost and bring into a cool greenhouse. It’s important to completely exclude any light by placing forcing pots or black polythene over crowns. The lack of light and the heating effect of the cover will quickly cause the rhubarb to ripen and it will be ready to eat within four weeks.

Harvesting

Allow rhubarb to establish for one year before taking your first harvest. Select three of the largest stalks, waiting for the leaves to fully open before pulling from May to August. Stalks are harvested by gently twisting the stems and pulling from the base of the plant. Leaves shouldn’t be eaten as they contain oxalic acid and are poisonous.

Preparation

Strawberries do best in full sun but can cope with partial shade. The site must be sheltered from both wind & frost. Ideally fresh ground is desirable i.e. ground that has not cropped potatoes or strawberries within the last 10-15 years.

Planting

Plant at a distance of 12-18in (30-45cm) apart, and 2ft (60cm) between the rows. When creating the bed, mix in a good dose of compost or well-rotted manure to enrich the soil. Create a small mound in the middle of the bed/planting hole and spread the roots out evenly over it. Ensure that the crown is level with the soil then replace and carefully firm the soil around the roots. Water in well.

Pruning

This takes place as soon as fruiting has finished. Cut off all leaves to approx. 3in above the crown, also remove any
unwanted runners. For ever-bearing varieties, simply remove the old leaves.

Onward Care

Due to their low-growing habit, strawberries run the risk of being swamped with weeds. Ensure this does not happen by regular light hoeing – avoiding the crown areas. During flowering period, if frost is forecast, it will be necessary to protect the plants. Water in a general purpose fertiliser i.e. Growmore, in March.

Once this is done, apply a mulch such as well-rotted manure or compost in May. Ensure that all weeds are removed & that the soil is moist before mulching. Mulching helps to keep the soil cool & moist as well as keep down the weeds. Bear in mind that it is a good idea to cover the plants when the fruit is beginning to ripe to keep birds at bay.

Most varieties produce runners, these can be removed or allowed to grow and root, creating a mat of plants. Allowing the mat to develop will result in overall higher crop yield than leaving them as individual plants, but maintenance is more laborious.

Preparation

Planting and caring for a new hedge is very similar to that for any new tree or shrub. Good soil preparation beforehand will give your hedge the best start in life. Prepare the ground by digging over a strip 60-90cm (2-3ft) wide and one spit (or spade blade) deep. If a herbicide (weedkiller) has not been used beforehand, remove all weeds.

Add organic matter, such as garden compost or a proprietary tree and shrub planting mix, spreading it over the soil and mix into top 25cm (10in) of soil with a fork (forking in). Rake in general-purpose fertiliser, such as Growmore.
Soils that become waterlogged in winter may require a permanent drainage system. Alternatively, form the soil into a ridge about 15-20cm (6-8in) high and 50-70cm (20-28in) across to plant into.

Planting

Planting distances vary from 30-60cm (1-2ft), depending on the plants’ final size, the size of hedge required and plant vigour. For hedges thicker than 90cm (3ft), plant a staggered double row 45cm (18in) apart,
with plants 90cm (3ft) apart. Trim back damaged roots to healthy growth with sharp knife or old pair of secateurs.

Spread out the roots, ensuring the planting depth is correct (note that the previous soil mark on the stem indicates how deeply the plants were grown in the nursery or pot). Work soil between the roots, firm plants in so that soil is in close contact with the roots. Water if the soil is dry. Mulch to a depth of 7.5cm (3in) after planting to prevent weeds.

Onward Care

Ensure plants are well-watered during dry spells for the next two years. Top-dress annually with a general-purpose fertiliser, such as Growmore and re-apply mulch as required. Keep the hedge and 45cm (18in) on each side, weed free.

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