Sowing Seed

Raising plants from seed has got to be one of the most satisfying aspects of gardening and is probably the easiest way of growing a lot of the same plant within a tight budget. If you want a lot of one particular plant or are propagating plants for sale at a plant fair, for example, many flowers can be raised successfully from seed collected from your own garden. Bear in mind, however, that seed from a names variety may not grow into a plant that is exactly the same as its parent.

To save your own seed, simply cut the seed head just before it is fully ripe and place it in a paper bag in a dry, airy room where it will finish ripening. For plants that eject their seed, you will need to cover the seed head with the paper bag before you remove it from the plant. On this plant a succession of stages can be seen, from flowers to ripe fruit. Strawberries eaten immediately after picking taste best. Place a layer of straw under the leaves of the strawberry plants in order to prevent the developing fruit from getting muddy or covered with dirt.

Strawberries can be grown through polythene plastic mulch. This not only protects the fruit from mud splashes but also reduces the need for weeding and watering. Strawberries produce their best crops in the second or third year after planting, then yields tend to fall and the health of the plants deteriorates as pests and diseases take a hold. Therefore, it is a good idea to replace the whole strawberry bed every few years with new, vigorous plants set in fresh soil. The cheapest way to do this is to raise your own plants by rooting runners from healthy, heavy cropping plants.

Strawberries can be protected against frost with cloches. A tunnel of wire netting can be used to protect the fruit from birds. The netting can be in short sections for easy removal and storage. After summer fruiting strawberries have produced their fruit, cut off all the leaves and burn or compost them, along with the straw mulch, to help prevent the spread of diseases. After fruiting, the strawberry plant sends out a series of runners that root along their length to produce new plants. This method of propagation is called layering. The layered plants can be dug up once they have rooted and used to start a new bed.