John loved strawberries.I am not sure whether being born in June had anything to do with it but they were his favourite fruit. So when we put the greenhouses up he saw a chance to get a supply that went on longer. But to save growing space he decided to use a stacked vertical system. He built a series of shelves up the north walls of 2 of the greenhouses to take plastic troughs and planted them up. The batten at the back was on edge whilst the one at the front was flat so that the troughs were tilted forwards slightly and the fruit (in theory at least) hung down. Into each trough he planted 4 small plants. And he did indeed get a longer season.
But (isn’t there always a but?) they were a lot of work. Each autumn the runners had to be cut off and planted in pots to see if they would survive the winter. And each spring every trough would have to be lifted down, dead leaves and any failed plants removed as well as any runners which we had missed and had rooted themselves into the parent trough or, worse, the one below making a cats cradle of stems. Periodically the whole lot had to be turfed out and the exhausted compost replaced. Then there was the watering – because there was relatively little soil they quickly dried out so I had to do them at least once every day and the ones at the top were particularly difficult to do without getting water everywhere. So he researched and bought an automatic watering system and placed 2 drippers over each trough and at the same time laid perforated pipe in all the beds. It made the watering less time consuming but some plants got too much water, some too little and some were just right!
After John died I just did not have the energy to keep them up so I put all the surviving plants into the outside raised beds where they largely look after themselves and reverted to watering everything else under glass manually, first with a hose and then, when I went on meter and installed lots of water buts, by can. It means I can give each plant the right amount and as I am standing there I notice if they need any other attention.
Now before you wonder if I am ever going to get round to talking about grapevines.. Having taken out the disappointing one and trying to decide what to replace it with I noticed that a clementine I had grown from a pip and put in the lean-to greenhouse on the South of the house had died in the very cold snap. That could be replaced with a kiwi and I could have an Apricot tree in the greenhouse on the veg patch. We had had one up there previously but it grew too big and spread over the path so we cut it down but not before we had had such a good crop I made jam! So … I need to fan train it against a wall which means fixings…. Then I had a brainwave. (I do get them occasionally and some of them actually work – time will tell if this is one of the good ones) If I took down the shelves I would be left with a sturdy framework on the back wall and if I planted the Apricot in a huge tub which was full of earth in the middle of the greenhouse ( placed there so I could get to the strawberries), but moved it back against the wall I could tie the branches in and keep it neat. A trip to Trefhedyn Garden Centre in Newcastle Emlyn and an afternoon with the battery drill/driver and Ta-Da!
I have just got to get a kiwi now. But I was so pleased with the better use of space that I took down the shelves in the next greenhouse too and moved the 2 huge tubs in there back to the wall. Now.. more Apricots? Peaches? Nectarines?