Strawberry growers can take basic, low-cost precautions to protect their plants should a third hard winter strike in 2012, according to the Horticultural Development Company (HDC).
"Bags and troughs in the air fared worse than those on or near the ground in 2010-11," points out ADAS consultant Robert Irving in a new HDC fact sheet. He added that more elongated older crowns, and those that were shallowly rooted, were also damaged more often.
However, he notes: "Most crops were retained for fruiting and in most cases they provided acceptable yields."
Reducing nitrogen use in autumn will prevent vulnerable lush growth, he points out, but the traditional horticultural practice of overwintering vulnerable plants by mulching with straw should be used with caution.
While such a covering can protect plants from a brief frosty spell, during a prolonged freeze after a wet period, this would increase the risk of crown rotting, he said. A single or, better, double layer of horticultural fleece was preferable.
In declining order of effectiveness, he suggests moving crops to protected structures that can be heated or, move them to unheated permanent structures, wrapping table-top crops in fleece and putting them on the ground, wrapping such crops and leaving them in place.
For a copy of the fact sheet, call Louise Arculus on 02476 478661.