George says: pay a visit to strawberry fair

I remember a different version of the old English folk song Strawberry Fair, which George quotes at the end of this advice newsletter. When I was little, we had a Beverly Sisters recording, which went:
As I was going to Strawberry Fair,
Ri-fol, ri-fol, tol-de-riddle-li-do,
I met a boy with light-brown hair
Fol-de-dee, fol-de-dee
He came to buy a chestnut mare,
but he stole my heart at Strawberry Fair
Ri-fol, ri-fol, tol-de-riddle-li-do,
Ri-fol, ri-fol, tol-de-riddle-dee.

The folk song, by the way, has nothing to do with the music festival in Cambridge. It predates it by at least 100 years, and there have been other versions recorded as well, notably by the actor, singer and songwriter Anthony Newley.
I was always fascinated by the Beverly Sisters, because one of them was called Teddie. What a great name! How cool that a girl could be called Teddie! And why couldn't I be called Teddie? It was quite a letdown when I discovered her real name was Hazel.
Apart from that, my only expertise when it comes to strawberries is in eating them. So here's George to tell you how to grow them.

The modern method of growing strawberries on staging in poly tunnels, with drip feed, takes away the true taste of the strawberry.
So, let’s look at the old-fashioned method of producing a strawberry of distinction, with fragrancy and taste.If you have strawberries growing in your garden and you are happy with their taste, then in late summer either layer the lateral (the long side shoot) with new plants forming, or take off the shoot from the lateral and plant in 10cm pots. They will soon establish themselves and be ready for planting into new ground in October.
If you have used the layering method, where you pin the new shoot down onto the soil or compost, cut off the lateral either side of the new plant that has rooted into the ground, then dig up with soil attached and replant on a new prepared strawberry bed.
If you have a patio and you wish to indulge in growing a few strawberries, you can do it in growbags. You will need two growbags and six strawberry plants – I would recommend Royal Sovereign or Cambridge Vigour which have a good flavour.
Put the growbags in a sunny position, spike six holes in the base for drainage, then plant three strawberry plants in each bag. As they grow, cut off any laterals that form and you will soon build up a large crown.
As the plant starts to flourish it will send out many flowers, then the berries will form. Do not feed the plants as this will reduce the taste, and just keep the plants moist  - do not overwater. Natural rainfall (if we ever get any) will enhance your plants.
When the berries are getting larger but not yet changing colour, cover with netting because the birds will dine on your hard work in achieving delicious berries. Also beware of slugs and mice, who will cherish a tasty meal.
When the berries are nice and red, it’s picking time. This is the moment when you can enjoy the fruits of your labour with sumptuous strawberries with cream. How good is that?

In the early days of the Chelsea Flower Show an exhibit each year was displayed by the Waterperry School of Horticulture from Wheatley, near Oxford. I can say the smell from the strawberries had the visitors drooling at the mouth. It was heaven and they were red and large strawberries, grown naturally.

There are still one or two pick-your-own farms around, such as the one just outside Gloucester on the Ross road, where you can get natural grown strawberries in July.

As I was going to Strawberry Fair
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies
I met a maiden taking her ware Fol-De-Dee, Fol-De-Dee
Her eyes were blue and gold her hair as she went on to Strawberry Fair.

Enjoy your delicious treat.



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