Keep ripening strawberries clean with a thick layer of straw tucked under the leaves just as plants begin flowering. The straw provides a soft layer for developing fruits to sit on, keeping them off the damp ground and preventing them from rotting or getting splashed by mud. It also acts like an insulation layer, holding warmth in the upper layer of soil overnight, which speeds up fruit ripening. Even better, it traps moisture in the soil so you don’t have to water as often, and slugs find it difficult to track down your fruits when they’re nestled into a tangle of straw.
You can bring on ripening even earlier by popping a cloche over the top of the row as well. You’ll find a good range on sale in our garden centre here in Poynings: choose an easy-to- use polythene tunnel to concertina out over your plants, or go for a rigid plastic longrow cloche. Slot it in place firmly and the clear cover intensifies the sun’s heat, turning fruit red weeks before they would otherwise. Remember to open up the ends during the day to let pollinating insects in and you won’t have to wait long for the bumper harvest of juicy red fruit you’ve been dreaming of!