The Kitchen Garden

5 top tips for more fresh strawberries this summer


Home grown strawberries. Does your mouth water at the thought of them? They may not be as big or perfectly shaped as those from the shops, but the taste......

So after spending an afternoon getting my strawberries in shape for this season, here are my top 5 tips to help you get a large harvest.

1) Planting Strawberries in the ground in a mulched bed is great, but to get early Strawberries, plant some up in a pot or trough and put them in a greenhouse or conservatory, for the earliest harvest.


2) Weed round your strawberries now, and in 3-4 weeks time. This makes sure that weeds aren't sapping energy from the plants, and that as much light can get in to the crown as possible. - Also make sure that you've taken off any dead leaves, and taken away and potted on any runners that were crowding out the main plants

3) Feed those strawberry plants now, to give them the energy needed to fruit and fruit this summer. I use worm leachate, as it's free, but Seaweed fertiliser, Miracle gro, or Tomorite (when they are flowering) are equally effective. Water on your fertiliser around the base of the plant, to get it to the roots, rather than covering the leaves.

4) Water  - Strawberries are thirsty, and will not fill out to full plumpness unless given lots of water. - Fine when in a border, where you can water with a can or a hose to the base, - but in a pot, they are relying on you for all their thirst quenching needs. - If you plant strawberries in a pot you can often drown the plants at the top before you've got any water reaching the bottom plants. - My suggestion is to use a grit filled plastic bottle with holes in the side as a watering vessel in the centre of the pot.


(Here's one I was planting up earlier, - showing you how I position the bottle as i'm putting in the plants) Tonic water or mineral water bottles are an ideal size for this. When you water into the top of the bottle, the water is held in the grit and soaks out through the holes at all leaves, and that means that the plants at the bottom of the planter get just as much water as those at the top.

5) and finally to get as many fresh strawberries as possible, - replace the main plants every third year, using runners, or new plants from nurseries, which means that you get fresh, healthy and vigorous plants to give you the most Strawberries possible.



A Birthday at Grace and Flavour

Just under a year ago, I wrote about my first day of planting at Grace and Flavour.

This afternoon, We went and joined over 80 others to celebrate the 1st Birthday


This fantastic community garden has joined young and old together, has provided fresh vegetables to members, local residents through 2 shops, and by a tythe to local community groups.

For our family it provides somewhere to go and join in, -without obligation and when we can, with a healthy outdoor activity. (Although you often eat more cake than you've burned calories digging). As a gardener there is always more to learn, and I love hearing from other gardeners how they do things.


As well as celebrating the first year of community gardening today, - We helped celebrate as the first plants went in the allotment area.


This is William, trying to look like he actually helped to plant David and Dana Leigh's gooseberry bush (he didn't!)

So congratulations to all the Grace and Flavour members, and to the team who helped to make this possible, (you know who you are) Here's to many more years of Cake and Cropping at Grace and Flavour

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

I'm feeling fairly pleased with myself this year, as all of my vegetable beds are full of overwintering crops, that will feed me between now and April.

Trouble is, when the weather's like this, and the temperature hasn't reached above zero, - they're all frozen.




good job I don't have to be self sufficient and there are fruit and veg in the fridge and freezer for dinner.


Raspberries in November

if you read my earlier Harvest post, and thought I was joking about the raspberries, - you'd be wrong, - look.

Ok i should have put a copy of the Sunday Times next to them to authenticate them, but honest, - I picked and photographed (and ate) these Raspberries this afternoon 7th November 2010, and there are actually a few more on the plants that aren't quite ripe yet.

The harvest from my Autumn bliss canes this year has been incredible, - starting at the beginning of August, and including winning me (along with my blueberries) the West Horsley Horticultural Society Fruit Cup. I've been picking a bowl of raspberries a week at least. for the last few weeks, it has been down to a teacup size bowl, but heh, - this is into November.

The Secret is, - well i'm not quite sure... They are in a sunny spot in my garden, (but they are only 5 metres from a very tall conifer hedge) There are 2 rows of about 2 metres each, planted about 1.5 metres from a fence. I started with about 15 canes, (and there were about 7 canes of summer fruiting as well) but now there are more than that. -They did get watered a couple of times, from my water butt, but not on a regular basis. They've been planted for 2 full years now, so this is their 3rd season. They were mulched with homemade compost last winter, and have been fed once this season with Worm leachate.

I do however pick them very regularly. I also don't let any fruits that go over stay on the plant.

I'm pretty sure this is the latest i've ever got raspberries, but even if I don't get any more from my plants this season (go on sun, shine this week to ripen the rest) i've got about 3 punnets worth in the freezer. So i'm hoping for a couple more raspberry smoothies at least this year, and very much looking forward to even more next year.


Tomato review 2010

it's over a month now since I harvested the last of my tomatoes, but those that were still green have been gradually ripening on the window sill, so i've been busy using them up.

Here's my review of what I liked and what worked well for me in 2010.


last year I grew 5 types of tomatoes, this year I went slightly over the top and grew 10.

My favourite for the year by far was new to me and was suggested at my Sarah Raven vegetable course earlier in the year. - Red Alert was easy to grow (pictured above), and produced medium sized red tomatoes with lots of flesh, - ideal for tomato soups and sauces. - I'd been told that a down side was that it tended to all ripen at the same time, but I had the first ones before I went on holiday in July, and harvested the last 4 green on the 27th September and they are still in the fridge (still looking healthy) ready to be used. The only problem that I found was that very few of the seeds that I germinated as Red Alert, actually turned out to be that variety, - the others were probably Gardeners delight and were a lot smaller,- don't know if it was miss labelling ( by me when sowing) or a dodgy lot of seeds.

Continue reading "Tomato review 2010" »

Community gardening at its best

I've had the most fantastic day full of gardening, and I only got 1/2 an hour of weeding done in my own garden. I've spent the rest of the day at Grace and Flavour.

Do you remember how empty the garden looked back in April?

Well now after 6 months of hard teamwork, the garden looks completely different, and full of crops


Continue reading "Community gardening at its best" »

Apples at Wisley

I love going to Wisley with my family, but sometimes it is lovely to sneek off there on my own, and this afternoon I had 2 refusals when I mentioned a walk, so I got to enjoy the afternoon sun solo.

Wisley had their taste of Autumn show on this weekend, so I left arriving until later than usual (although the gurhkas were organising the car park with clockwork efficiency, so it wasn't a problem) My brisk walk up to the orchards got me some lovely shots of the apples against the sky.

I then strolled down to the show tents, and although too late for the talks in the cookery demonstration marquee (would have liked to listen to Mark Diacono, but didn't have the urge to come during the crowds at 2pm) there were still plenty of apple to taste and compare, and lots of different varieties to marvel at

This was the just half the range of the UK apples, then there were hundreds of others from different counties.

Of course the show wasn't exclusively apples, but I avoided the tasting tents of all the other foodie specialities, so as not to spend all this week's food budget in one go.

I did manage to have a chat with Mario who now runs the model Veg garden. He was proudly selling off loads of the vegetables and fielding veggie questions, Leeks, Celeriac and onions were looking great, but these were my favourites.

i'll have to make some more Chilli Jam this week

Courgette glut?

It's at this time of year, when harvest is in full swing, that it can get to the point when you can have too much of something.


Courgettes are one of those crops where given a bit of rain, and half a chance, they'll take over your garden and produce so many fruits, that you might give up picking them and vow (like my husband) to never eat them again.

But that would be a big waste, as they are very versatile, and even better, if you keep picking them, you will continue to get new fruits until the frosts arrive.

So, if your veg patch is getting buried under several hundredweight of courgette foliage, - give them a trim. 

The courgette leaves all come from a central vine, which extends itself and produces courgettes only at the end.  If you cut off the leaves, the vine stem heals itself, but you can then see the stem and coil it around your patch to get the best light for the ripening courgettes, and so you can see them before they become inedible whoppers.

Don't give up on them.

If you have excess courgettes, why not try courgette lasagne, courgette soup, courgette and chocolate cake ,warm chickpea salad, Courgette and feta fritters, or stuffed courgette flowers

Do you know what's on your fruit?

As a mum, I'm delighted that my son loves fruit. Yes he loves chocolate biscuits as well, but he's active enough to wear those off. 


When he was a baby and I started weaning him, I tried lots of different things, and like most mums I read up on what's good and bad, should I go organic?.

What shocked me was that although I had heard the word organophosphate pesticide, I hadn't realised that the average industrially-produced apple may have been sprayed up to 16 times with 30 different chemicals. (source Soil Association website) and that the 4 types of fruit with the highest concentrates of pesticides in them were Apples, Peaches, Strawberries and Cherries. That started me using an organic box scheme 6 years ago, but when I moved to my current garden, I was lucky enough to have a mature apple tree.

Over the last 3 years i've added Strawberries, Blueberries, Rhubarb, Raspberries, A fig, a peach and my latest acquisitions are redcurrants and blackcurrants. With the damson tree that hangs over from next door, and the blackberries available in the hedgerows. I can get fresh fruit from my garden 8 months a year.


My parents used to grow lots of fruit in my childhood garden. I remember picking icecream tubs of raspberries to freeze, and of having enough gooseberries and redcurrants in the freezer when I set up home with my husband that we could make a decent amount of wine from them (the redcurrant was delicious and potent, the gooseberry tasted of burnt sugar and had a kick like a mule!)

BUT, my garden isn't as big as theirs was, - and i've got a boy who likes playing to make space for, plus I actually rather like to practice what I preach and have flowering plants in my garden. How can I fit it all in?

The good news is that a lot of fruit can be grown in containers, and can be trained to give the maximum harvest for the minimum earth coverage. While an apple or pear tree may take many years to get to its full fruiting potential and size, it will then fruit for decades, but strawberries can be harvested within 90 days of planting in the right conditions.

If you'd like to find out more about how you can grow fabulous fruit from tiny spaces, if you'd like to reduce the amount of pesticides you ingest and get fresh fruit to harvest for most of the year, - join me on Saturday 16th October for my fruit workshop in Horsley, Surrey. 

For more information and to book click here

Making the most of your fruit crop, and preventing Silver leaf


These are borrowed fruit. Well to be more precise, the tree to which they belong doesn't start in my garden. This branch is hanging over from next door, - and the conditions this year have been so good for tree fruit that it is laden with Damsons. Loads of the Prunus (cherry) family are having a bumper crop this year, with Prunus Cerasifera, (common name Cherry plum) which normally has a few insignificant fruits, producing lovely big crops, of cherry sized and coloured fruits with an almond shaped stone in the middle rather than a pip.

Anyone got any ideas of what to do with all this extra bounty? - I don't do jam, - (Mainly because my mum is rather good at it, so I leave it to her). So any other suggestions to use up this great crop would be greatly appreciated.

Oh and if your bumper crop has been so weighty that it has damaged any branches, - make sure that you prune them this month. The Prunus family are susceptible to Silver leaf disease if pruned at other times of the year. Silver leaf disease is caused by fungal spores which generally break out between September and May. As this can kill trees very quickly, and gets in through new cuts and breaks in the tree branches, only pruning in the summer months for the prunus family is highly recommended.

Don't know if you tree is a prunus? - All this family have horizontal lines on the bark like this