What could be nicer on a warm summers day than English strawberries picked straight from the garden served with ice-cream? What could be more evocative of those long summer days of picture-book childhood, when life was lived at an easier pace?

It was with this in mind that we made sure one of the first crops we planted after digging our vegetable beds was strawberries. The variety we started with was ‘Cambridge Favourite’, kindly donated by our new neighbour, and soon they were thriving.

We had a couple of really good years, but gradually the plants began to look their age and crops diminished, so we dug a few of the worse ones out and replaced them with some of their own ‘runners’ plus some new plants, ‘Hapil’ and ‘El Santa’ for a bit of variety. Sadly we must have peaked early where strawberries are concerned because this second tranche never really got going.

I tried to protect the fruit from the birds, but one year a thrush got entangled in the net whilst we were out, and died. I was really upset, and reluctant to use the net again, but I did eventually, taking great care to tuck all it’s edges in very tightly to prevent further mishap, not an easy task. Anyway, there were no more fatalities, but the cropping wasn’t improving.

So last year I decided to take action. I waited until most of our vegetables were harvested then prepared one of the vacant beds. Over a period of a few weeks I carefully selected healthy ‘runners’ from the existing plants and planted them in the ‘new’ bed. Once it was filled, and having potted up a few spares just in case, I dug out and burnt all the old plants.

We now have a new strawberry bed with 18 brand new plants. They have also had the benefit of the manure that was delivered last Autumn, so they should be off to a good start. It could be lack of nutrients that contributed to the last lot failing. Let’s hope these new ones thrive and prosper. They certainly look happy and healthy, but Peter says I was too late planting them out last year, so he’s not expecting much of a crop this summer. We shall have to wait and see. This is one occasion when I hope he’s wrong.