Archive for the ‘Strawberries’ Category

Mara des bois strawberry in October 2

Last year I experienced Mara des Bois strawberries for the first time (having planted them the summer before) and was so delighted with these fruits that I’ve ordered more for me, my clients and our community veg growing project. They really are one of the most delicious fruits I’ve ever tasted, and being a perpetual type of strawberry, will crop from July until October-how impressive is that! Half cultivated variety and half wild strawberry, these berries don’t need full sun to perform well and still have the most succulent bite, whilst retaining some of the intense sweetness of their wilder relative.

Mara des bois bare-rooted strawberries

So here’s what two dozen looks like! They arrived bare-rooted at the weekend (from Pomona fruits,

Soaking Mara des bois bare-rooted strawberries

and I unwrapped them straight away and put them in a bowl of water for a good long soak.

Heeling in-pottong up bare-rooted strawberries

I was hoping to give some of these away at the weekend at our spring Cake Sunday, but alas, it was snowing, so we’ve postponed the get-together for a few weeks and I’ve potted these up until next we meet. These strawberries will be great for lining a pathway, or in a mixed border with perennials and other fruit and veg and they’ll be ideal for generous window boxes and containers too.

So if you want to extend your berry picking season until October, you can order these now and Pomona Fruits will be sending bare-rooted Mara des Bois plants out until the end of June.

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Cos freckles lettuce 2

Just before Christmas, Mark from Vertical Veg  sent out a questionnaire for growing in 2013. It contained a few simple and very pertinent questions and ones which got me thinking about the many positive aspects of growing your own fruit and vegetables. Question one: why do you grow your own food?

For me, I find it joyful and incredibly rewarding to be able to pick fresh veg from our doorstep. And it’s not just picking any old veg. It’s being able to choose and grow the things that you really love to eat and that will flourish in the growing conditions that you have in your garden. In a less than sunny part of the front garden, my lettuces thrived throughout the dampest of summers and supplied delicious sweet fresh leaves, unsprayed by supermarkets (and with zero food miles) for months on end. Pea shoots came a close second, supplying a succulent alternative to lettuces and being very quick to grow (about 3 weeks from sowing to harvesting from May onwards). I also love growing food that is sometimes difficult (or impossible) to buy in the shops and I’m going to really concentrate on the less run-of-the-mill herbs next year such as Lovage, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely.

Autumn fruiting raspberries

Next question. What’s your biggest challenge? Time (and space-could do with an extra half an acre at home!). Allotments are great, but they do take a feat of organisation to fit in with our busy lives. Whatever I grow on the allotment (leeks , raspberries, jerusalem artichokes….), I still love the fact that I can harvest salad leaves, strawberries and rhubarb only minutes before cooking them if I can grow them in the front or back garden (or in a pot on a windowsill or balcony). Jono from Real Men Sow has written an excellent piece on giving up his allotment and his move to growing everything (including some ornamentals) in his new garden at home.

Space in our urban environment is another constant challenge; trying to squeeze in everything I’d love to grow, but then planning becomes the key to getting the most out of our growing space.

Asparagus tips

In 2013 I’m planning for more effective successional growing, so that as soon as one spot becomes available, I’ll have the right seeds or small plants to pop right in there, and for sowing at the right time of year to provide crops throughout the seasons. Next year I’ll be attempting to fine tune my seed sowing for autumn and winter lettuces (I reckon August is the key month) and trying not to forget (in all the spring excitement) to sow seeds for some purple sprouting broccoli, as I always regret the absence of this fine vegetable come the following year. I’m planning to grow more perennial fruit, vegetables and herbs such as Rhubarb, Blackberries, Asparagus and Marjoram that will happily look after themselves (apart from the odd bit of mulching and training) and hopefully this will leave me with a bit more time for some more ‘no dig’ trials and to sow some new crops that I’ve only dreamed about so far.

During this wettest of Christmas holidays, it’s been great to have time to reflect and imagine my ideal plot, and I wish you all a Happy New Year, and one full of exciting growing experiments and successes throughout 2013, whatever or wherever your veg plot is.

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When in France last Easter, I bought a few wild strawberry plants (or so I thought) at a market stall and was expecting to see small intense berries growing throughout the summer.  In fact, Mara des Bois strawberries are something in between cultivated and wild varieties, theoretically giving you medium-sized fruits from July right through until October. Yes, October! If I’d remembered the name of what I’d bought (I knew it had ‘bois’ in there somewhere), and if I’d done a little research, I wouldn’t be so surprised. But the fact that these berries have just kept on fruiting all through summer until now has astounded me. I’ve enjoyed every bite and have shared these berries with equally delighted neighbours who see what I’ve been up to. Another plus about these berries is that they don’t need full sun either. I just popped them in on the edge of a flower border, under some wild roses. What a find!

Earlier in the year, I realised I had no ordinary wild strawberries, when some of the plants produced real whoppers of berries. But both larger and smaller fruits have had a wonderful taste. Not quite so intense as their wild cousins, but still very sweet, with a slight wild strawberry tang. I’m not sure what took me so long to find out about these late season fruits, but I’ll definitely be growing more next year to elongate my strawberry eating season.

The very friendly people at Pomona Fruits have a special offer on at the moment, so you can order now and plants will be sent out mid March next year. If you have a spare patch of ground (or a window box) and fancy eating strawberries in October, worth ordering now!

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