“My strawberry patch is overrun with weeds and I don’t know what to do… can you help please?”
This was a question asked by a customer recently who’s strawberry beds were full of weeds, just like our own.
Like my customer, I’d left the strawberry patch to last as it really was the most weedy, daunting job in the vegetable patch this year. It had been neglected for several months and with no weed membrane or mulch surrounding the little plants that had been transplanted there from runners last year, it was now seriously out of control.
Three days later (on and off) and the strawberry patch is looking fabulous and we’re hopeful that we’ll have a good crop of fruit this year, but it took some work to get it there. On my hands and knees pulling up dandelions, dock, creeping buttercups and thistles, I was almost ready to throw in the towel but kept going as I knew from previous years that this lovely Cambridge variety of strawberries can provide a bountiful harvest.
Back to the question, where to start? Like everything, at the beginning… pick a corner and begin to pull out everything dead or diseased looking and all the old runner stems. If you have too many little plantlets in the patch that have rooted themselves from last year, take them out and pot them into multipurpose compost or even some soil from your garden and give to a friend. Then weed by hand. All the pernicious weeds mentioned above need to come out roots and all or they’ll be back in no time. See some tips here from a previous post about weeding.
I’m sure many of you have heard that the slugs are expected back in our gardens in large quantities again this year, but I’m guessing we’ll also be seeing a lot of crane fly too if the amount of larvae we fed to our pigs is anything to go by. Every single weed I pulled out had at least one or two leather jacket grubs around it and I’ve already lost one kale seedling to one of these little root eaters.
Once the beds were cleared in the Greenside Up garden, to keep the weeds down and cover our clay soil that can dry out immensely, we added a thick layer of straw around the plants, dampened it down with the hose to prevent it blowing away, then added hoops and netting over the entire patch to keep the birds out who love to feast on juicy strawberries. The new structure will also act as a cloche if frosts arrive at the same time as the strawberry flowers bloom… I’ll be able to cover the patch with horticultural fleece and quickly protect them.
Inside the polytunnel the few strawberry plants we added to give us an earlier crop are much more advanced with fruit starting to appear. We can expect the outside berries at the beginning of July all being well.
If you’d like to know more about strawberries, here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago with more information, but for now we just have to wait patiently before we dig out the strawberry cheesecake and Eton Mess recipes and hope for some sunshine!