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HOW TO GROW STRAWBERRIES
Planting a patch of strawberries is quick and simple. It’s the warmth of the sun that makes strawberries sweet, so choose the sunniest spot you have. This small plant works hard to grow lots of fruit, so it's best to enrich your soil before you start. You can do this by tipping a full bag of multipurpose compost over the patch of soil you want to use and mixing the compost in to the soil with a garden fork. Adding compost also means your strawberries will flourish even if you forget to water them, as compost will hold on to moisture more readily. A 25l bag of compost is enough for one square metre patch.
Use nine strawberry plants in one metre square of space. Dig a hole for each plant, arranging your runners in three horizontal rows of three, one row above another. The holes need to be deep and wide enough for roots of the runners to fit easily in without bending or breaking them, and the crown of each plant (where the roots and the stems join together) should be level with the garden soil. Allow 30cm between each plant and the next one. This wider spacing leaves lots of room to the strawberry plants to get big and healthy. Backfill the planting holes with the soil and compost mix and water in, giving each plant a through soaking.
You'll only need to water your strawberry plants when the weather is hot and the soil looks dry. Too much water will dilute the sweetness of the fruit.
Once you're strawberries are ready to pick, you can use them in all sorts of recipes including this delicious Victoria sandwich cake...
Victoria sandwich cake
Homemade jam makes this teatime classic even more of a treat.
You will need:
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
225g self raining flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
300ml whipping cream
A handful of strawberries
4 tbsp. strawberry jam
Heat the oven to 190*c (170* fan). Line two 20cm round sandwich tins with baking parchment. Beat the butter and sugar together until they are pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition, then sift in the flour. Fold the batter together using a large metal spoon. Add the vanilla extract, stir, and pour the cake mix into the two tins, dividing it evenly. Bake for 25 minutes, before cooling on a wire rack.
Whisk the cream into soft peaks and spoon the jam into a bowl, beating it hard with a spoon to soften it. Slice the strawberries. Using a spatula, spread the jam over one layer of the cake and cover with a scattering of strawberries. Add the cream, carefully pushing it to the edges. Carefully place the additional sponge on top, and dust with icing sugar.
You can find 5 more strawberry recipes, including berry tart and strawberry muffins in the May issue of Modern Gardens magazine.