THE POTTED GARDEN:
SWEET TASTE OF SUMMER
Spring is finally here and it’s time to start thinking about planting for the summer and perhaps even giving fruit growing a go
Of all the popular summer fruits, strawberries are one of the easiest to grow in containers and you can grow them on a patio, balcony, window sill or even in a hanging basket.
Strawberries are compact plants, so even gardeners with limited space can have a few pots on the go positioned close to the kitchen or outdoor seating area for convenience. By growing them in pots you can provide strawberries with the perfect conditions – rich, fertile, well draining soil in a sunny position and as they are growing off the ground they are less likely to suffer from disease or damage by pests.
There are two types of strawberries you can go for – summer-fruiting varieties or perpetual strawberries. Summer-fruiting are the largest and most popular. They have a short heavy cropping period over two to three weeks any time from early to mid-summer. Perpetual strawberries produce smaller crops of fruits from early summer to early autumn. The crops are not as heavy as the summer-fruiting ones and the fruits are smaller in size.
You can grow strawberries in a variety of different containers, but the advantage of growing them in a strawberry planter – an urn shaped pot with pocket holes down the side – is that they look attractive, a good sized pot holds a fair number of plants and they produce the highest yield. You will need one plant per side opening and three or four for the top – if you are growing strawberries in an ordinary container then just three or four plants will do.
Fill the bottom of the pot with compost that contains a slow release fertiliser and continue to fill the container as you plug each hole with a strawberry plant, lightly patting the plant into the soil as you fill. Finish off your strawberry planter with the three to four plants on top.
Make sure your containers get at least six to eight hours of sun so that you will get plenty of flowers and fruits and if the sunlight is coming from only one direction, rotate the container every three to four days if possible. Water your strawberries whenever the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface, and when there are long periods of hot, dry weather you may need to water daily.
If pots and containers are just part of your outside space then here are some gardening tips for this month from the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society).
• Tie back climbing and rambling roses
• Keep an eye out for pests and keep weeds under control
• Start feeding plants in the garden from now to the end of the summer
• Sow seeds directly into the soil so they can flower in the summer
• Sow vegetable seeds directly into prepared beds
• Plant summer flowering bulbs
• Sow new lawns or repair bare patches
• Prune shrubs and trees
• Apply mulch or manure to flower beds and pots
• Prepare hanging baskets