The cold spring in most of Scotland has delayed the strawberry season, but it will soon be time to start picking your delicious fruit.

If you planted new strawberries last autumn, you may get some this year, but spring planted ones should be left to settle in. Be patient and snip off any flowers to let the plants get properly established and crop generously next year.

As we know to our cost, birds also have a sweet “tooth”, so the strawberry bed should be netted if we want to eat any. It’s also important to keep the strawberry bed weed-free and prevent any soil from splashing on the fruit while it’s raining. The traditional way is, of course, to cover the ground with straw and, luckily, I can spare some of the bale I have for the poultry.

But many of us can’t lay hands on straw, so need special strawberry mats for the job. An extra challenge is keeping molluscs at bay and some mats do this better than others. Some contain copper which reputedly works, but I had little success with them in the publicly-funded demonstration garden I ran a few years ago. Copper ain’t always what it’s made out to be and can only be used in a few situations.

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Jute mats do work well but, in my experience, wool ones are especially good as slugs steer well clear of it. You could even get a roll of wool to cover the entire bed and use planting holes, but would need to work out the relative cost of a roll vis-a-vis individual mats. The roll would keep the entire bed weed and mollusc-free.

If you’re taking runners from one- or two-year-old plants, sink a 6cm or 7cm pot filled with soil in the earth close to the mother plant. If the bed is covered with mulch put the pot on top. Peg the runner in and, in both cases leave the attaching stem in place till the new plant is well rooted.

Only take one runner from a mother plant and if growing a new plant, remove all other runners. Also snip off the tip of the extending runner as it continues to grow beyond the pot. If you don’t want new plants, snip off all runners as this weakens an established plant.

Discard strawberry plants after four years and don’t replant in the same bed. Old plants will be virus-ridden and any viruses in the soil will spread to new plantings.

Plant of the week

Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’ is a blue-purple flowered hardy geranium derived from our native Geranium sylvaticum or wood cranesbill.

It prefers partial shade and damp soil though it will tolerate drought. It is also very hardy and, like most geraniums, needs no particular care.

The pretty leaves are deeply divided and make a most attractive clump which will get bigger over the years.

Once established, plants can be divided after flowering

Also popular with bees.