Unless you’re a strawberry obsessive then the first part of this installment of my bi-weekly greenhouse diary ramblings is going to be incredibly boring. Thankfully, as so few even bother to read the articles, much less the comments, this fact won’t bother hardly a single person. Over the years I’ve had mixed success with this particular soft fruit and its cultivation, but, being the roughest of gardeners, I haven’t bothered to take the trouble to find out why, beyond the most cursory of investigations. What I do know is this; they don’t like peat too much, it’s very easy to over water them, the fruit is liable to rot if it comes into contact with damp growing medium and, for such a small plant, the root ball can take up an inordinate amount of space, relative to the growth above the surface. My first decision this year has been not to replace any of the plants with newly bought stock. Buying new is the easy way out and one I’ve taken in the past, being a big fan of easy ways out of things, but not this time. Accordingly, I’ve spent over a week (admittedly some of the time has been wasted on shit posting and pointless musing) lifting each plant in an attempt, hopefully, to revolutionise my soft fruit growing successes.
The first job was to de-weed and clear out the less than successful “cut and come again” salad bed, something I intend to try again but on a smaller scale. I needed this trough to become the “nursery” as it were for my “new” strawberry plants. Job done, which didn’t take very long, I removed the growing medium and replaced it with a more shallow layer of my own compost, which is now rotting down nicely, and dampened it a little. The above picture tells its own story, the last fruit would have been harvested in late summer and the two beds left to their own devices, un-watered and ostensibly uncared for since then. I’m working on the theory that those plants still alive are strong & healthy, something only time will tell. Consequently they’re the ones I had to (fairly) carefully tease out of the troughs and separate into hopefully viable new plants.
The roots of the plants, over time, have become entangle with their neighbours and are often connected to the “runners” (new off-shoot plants) that strawberries use as a form of reproduction. Where I’ve been able I’ve detached viable runners and planted them in the nursery, but due to my ignoring them for months, many have withered and become nonviable. I’ll try to remember this next year because I’m guessing they’ll grow on, in a year or two, to become vigorous plants in their own right. The above picture, though not as clear as I’d hoped, gives some idea of the extent of the root mass. Much of it is very cotton like and I’m guessing it’s been put out by the plants in a vain attempt to extract what little moisture there was left in the growing medium. Whatever the case, I’ve cut most of it off before going onto the final stage and added it to the compost heap.
Once cleaned off and denuded of dead leaves, runner shoots and other detritus I’ve been able to expose the main “corm” of each viable plant. This is where I’m really making a leap of faith. The roots which have formed towards the top of each corm, given their thickness and colour in comparison to the rest of the root system, indicate their viability as the basis for replanting. It’s a bit of a faff, but I’ve carefully untangled half a dozen or so of these thicker new roots and removed the section of the corm with the “straggly bits” before planting in the nursery. I’ve never done this before and I have no idea if it’ll work at all, but if it does I’ll have saved myself £20 in new plants and created myself a little job for hopefully many January’s to come. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably give up on soft fruit and grow more beans, at least with a bean you get free seeds every year.
It isn’t all thinning out root systems and riddling compost though, thoughts, at times, turn to the issues of the day. I’ve never been a great fan of Boris Johnson, those odd one or two of you that read the comments will already know this. Politics, to my mind, is a serious business that needs to be taken seriously for the greater part of the time. We all like a bit of banter, but there’s a time and a place. Along with many others, once I got over the initial shock of this dreadful, deadly “Global Pandemic” I simply, to the best of my ability, ignored the stupid lock down “roolz” and got on, as best as I could, with my life. I drove for miles to walk in the hills and beside the waters of my adopted county, hoping, on every occasion, to be challenged by some kind of authority for having the temerity to do so. I never did meet any of them, but I was told I’d just missed a couple of bobbies that were patrolling Ullswater, looking for law breakers and lock down flouters. I even attended impromptu drinking sessions and the odd “party”, because I wanted to and, anyway, the “roolz”, for the main part are (and were) nonsensical. I didn’t make them though; if I had, I may well have been less cavalier in flouting them.
So we come to “Partygate”; firstly, let me say I couldn’t care less if there was a party or not, I couldn’t care less if Boris attended one or more parties and I couldn’t care less if it broke the “roolz”. What I do care about is the fact that the rule makers themselves were so confident in their knowledge that COVID-19 was as dangerous to them as their next days hangover would be, that they got pissed, ate cheese and didn’t give one single thought to those who had followed the rules. Not because they thought they could get away with it, but because the rules didn’t matter. They knew, almost to a certainty, that they’d be “safe” from serious illness. If they hadn’t believed they were “safe”, given the nature of the people involved and given the fact that Boris had only recently been at deaths door, they wouldn’t have got involved. Don’t even get me started on the “Envy Of The World” that is the UK Parliament at PMQ’s, there have been some unedifying spectacles in recent years, but Wednesday the 19th took the biscuit for pantomime style hyperbole and fake outrage. “Let he (or she) without sin, cast the first stone”, the fucking hypocrites.
The continuing media brouhaha isn’t about parties, or cakes, or cheese, or beer in a suitcase, it’s about revenge. I find it ironic, really, because the revenge they seek isn’t for the two years of penury they claim to have suffered whilst others (and they themselves) partied, and it isn’t about revenge for not being able to give their granny a proper send off, it’s revenge for “Brexit”, the “Red Wall” and the 80 seat majority that made them choke on their avocado toast and soy latte breakfasts.
Whilst ordinary, right minded people want Boris and this increasingly less than conservative government to act on illegal immigration, grooming gangs, energy prices, fishing rights, the threat of runaway inflation and all the other issues that beset us on a day to day basis (including the Ukraine “situation”, if it really exists), or move aside and give someone else a chance, the Main Stream Media have their knives out, 67 months after the event, simply because they may have to apply for a visa to visit their Tuscan hideaways. Pffttt, a pox on all their houses.
Incomprehensible rant over, I’ll leave you with this thought; It’s a good idea to have a hobby, however mundane. It helps to balance all the other stuff out, by taking one away from the incessant 24 hour “news” cycle. In my case, when the poo really does hit the fan, in the form of either nuclear Armageddon or the even more worrying prospect of strictly regimented “One World” government, at least I’ll have a few tomatoes, beans and leeks to fall back on. And the odd strawberry, of course…..
NEXT TIME; Trenches, a new spade, the last leek, more hooptedoodle….
© Colin Cross 2022