Time to protect your strawberries

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Your strawberries may be a little slow to ripen compared with previous years but be patient and they will make it worth your while, and when you see the high price of Dutch and Spanish imports in supermarkets, growing your own makes good economic sense too.

Now is the time to be taking particular care of your plants, while the fruits are still young. Weed regularly because strawberries are shallow-rooted and can be quickly over-run by weeds if you don’t stay vigilant. When the small green fruits form, spread straw or lay synthetic strawberry mats down between the plants, tucking them under the leaves and around the plant collars to stop weeds and protect the fruit from mud splashes, damp and dirt. This is the time you need to water them carefully, watering between the plants as wet strawberries will often go mouldy.

You’ll need to protect the plants from birds by either growing them in a fruit cage or using lightweight netting, draped over a framework of canes. Avoid putting nets straight over the strawberries because the birds will peck straight through them.