24 February 2017

24 February 2017

how to make new strawberry plants out of old ones and how to plant a tea hedge

Making new strawberry plants

  • At this time of the year your strawberry plants will have sent out runners which are called stolons. These stolons are horizontal stems that run above the ground and produce new clone plants at nodes spaced at varying intervals.
  • Most plants have a root system that consists of primary roots with root branches forming and growing from the primary root. Strawberry plants have this arrangement for the majority of their root system. But they also have a function called adventitious root formation at the nodes of their stolons. Adventitious roots appear away from the primary roots of a plant. As the strawberry plant runners are sent out, the nodes will develop the adventitious roots, send them downwards, and establish the new clone plant once contact with soil is made. These special roots make it easy to start growing strawberry plants from a runner.
  • Carefully pull the clone plants out of the soil and, without separating them from the mother plant, plant them into individual pots filled with a good quality potting mix.
  • With the little clone plants at the end of a runner, Rob undoes a paper clip and makes it into a tiny hoop to peg the plant down so it doesn’t accidentally get uprooted.
  • Give the new plants a water and then leave them in situ for 2-3 weeks until they form good strong roots (you’ll sometimes see them coming out the bottom of the pot). At this stage they’re ready to be cut from the mother plant and transferred to a sheltered spot for overwintering.

Planting a tea hedge

  • Camellia sinensis is the species of camellia that tea is made from.
  • To make black tea, we pick new leaves in the spring and leave them to dry out in the shade for around 24 hours. After they’ve dried we use a rolling pin to bruise them slightly. Then we ferment the leaves and dry them out again.
  • The term fermentation actually refers to how much the tea leaves are allowed to undergo enzymatic oxidation by allowing the freshly picked tea leaves to dry. This enzymatic oxidation process may be stopped by either pan frying or steaming the leaves before they’re completely dried out. So the fermentation happens naturally and we control it by when we stop it. Black tea is fully fermented. Green tea has hardly any fermentation at all.
  • We make green tea by simply drying the leaves out and stopping any fermentation by pan frying or steaming.
  • All camellias like a slightly acidic soil and do well in shade. They also like free-draining soil, so if you have a clay soil, add compost and even some pumice or sand to your bed at this stage.
  • Rob plants the tea bushes a metre apart. They can grow to 2 metres tall but we’ll prune our bushes heavily to keep them to a manageable size and to encourage new growth which is what we make tea from.
  • For now we’ll prune all the lower limbs off these new plants to encourage strong upward growth.
  • Camellias can succumb to sooty mould. If yours do, spray them with Neem oil in the evening every second day on 3 occasions to get rid of the insect causing it. Then to clean off the actual mould, use a small amount of natural detergent to make a spray and coat all parts of the plant. Make sure to get both sides of the leaves and let the detergent spray soak the leaves. You can then either wait for the next rain to wash the detergent off, or give your tree a good wash down with clean, clear water from the hose. If we don’t get rid of the sooty mould, it will affect the taste of the tea.
  • Next we’ll water the plants in well and then lay down a heavy mulch like well-rotted sawdust that’s high in carbon.
  • We won’t fertilise at this stage because we don’t want any new growth going into winter. But in the spring we’ll apply a good dose of rock dust and sheep pellets to stimulate new growth. Also if you know your soil tends to be alkaline, spring is the time to add some pine needles or sulphur or coffee grounds to create a more acidic soil.

Camera: Hugh Williams
Editor: Thomas Asche