Crown: the very centre of the plant. The bigger and well formed the crown, the more flowers therefore the more strawberries.
Before removing the dead leaves, our plants may have looked… dead. That isn’t a very nice word to describe our strawberries so let’s go with ‘not as alive as you would hope’. But now that we’ve removed the dead leaves, a set of new leaves have been revealed. *magic*
The old leaves are kept on the plant over December and January to protect the crown from frost. Removing the dead leaves now will make sure the plants use their energy solely for new growth – rather than maintaining older leaves.
Our photos explain this a bit simpler. You can clearly see the plants now have several crowns. The ideal plant will have two large and healthy crowns which will produce good sized berries.
If a plant has several crowns like the photo on the above, the berries will be smaller.
The photo below shows the ideal amount of crowns…
It takes 6 weeks for strawberries to grow from a flower. We are hoping to have our first harvest in mid-April so should be seeing some flowers at the beginning of March!
The amount of chilling units vary depending on the plant. Chilling units are worked out by how long the plant is at or below a certain temperature. For example, our strawberries require 30 -35 units. In an ideal situation, the plants would receive all their chilling units in 30 – 35 days with temperature being less than 7 degrees Celsius. However, we aren’t guaranteed those temperature, so night-break treatment enables the plants to receive the chill units.
Two nights of light break treatment (on for 10 minutes every hour for 10 hours) is equivalent to 1 chilling unit.
Where grow development and physical activity are temporarily stopped. This means the plants are not using energy, almost like a bear during winter.
All strawberries were Alpine or woodland grown until the mid 1700’s. These berries were very small but extremely sweet and full of flavour. Typically, winters would be cold and the plants would be completely exposed to temperatures below 0 degrees.
The cycle of strawberries growing in the wild would be as follows:
Plant flowers and produced fruit late spring to early summer.
the plant then enters dormancy through the autumn.
Cold winters break the dormancy.
The plant then wakes up quickly, ready to produce lots of flowers and therefore strawberries. This quick awakening enables the plants to use MOST of its energy in producing fruit. Rather than using more energy waking up.
Here in Cornwall we don’t experience cold winters like they do in the mountains. So, to break the dormancy of the plants sooner and top give them enough chilling units, we provide night-break treatment.
If we didn’t provide night-break treatment, the plants would still ‘wake’ from dormancy, but it would be slower. Think of night break treatment like caffeine. Without caffeine we can be groggy and slow to start, but after a cup of coffee you tend to feel more alive and ready to start your day*. This is a similar situation for the strawberries receiving night break treatment.
*Please note, no scientific research was involved with caffeine, we are just speaking from experience.
Night-break treatment benefits our plants in several ways. Some of which include: stronger plants, bigger crows which results in more flowers which in turn means more strawberries. We use incandescent lighting which is the old fashioned light bulbs!
If light treatment in horticulture is of interest to you, can you find out more by clicking here.
OK now the dramatics are over and we’ve got your attention, we are updating our software. Why? So we can tick all possible boxes when it comes to traceability and safety in the food chain. Who will be checking?
SALSA recognise small businesses who are able to demonstrate to an auditor that they can produce safe and legal food. Above all, the SALSA scheme exists to encourage and assist small businesses like Boddington’s Berries to help make sure food is consistently safe to eat.
SALSA will be doing their annual audit this March and we always like to be a step ahead. The rules of the supply chain in regards to traceability are ‘one step forward, one step back’. If every link in the chain follows this rule, then usually there are no problems. Our new software means we can be 100% sure that our ingredients, and anything else we buy in, like packaging, are all from safe suppliers.
How does it work?
Our new system includes the use of a bar code scanner. We know – a bar code scanner here on the farm? It’s actually pretty cool…
Ingredients, packaging, end products, labels EVERYTHING that is involved in the jam production is given a bar code that we randomly generate on the computer. The lemon juice has one, the glass jars have one – you get the idea.
Using our strawberry conserve production line as an example, we’ll explain how the new system will be used.
As our stock is delivered, we will generate a bar code depending on the batch of the product. So for example, if our Lemon Juice supplier were to deliver cases of lemon that contained 2 different batches, we would have to make sure each batch had a different bar code.
When Jeff, our cook, collects the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, he will scan the codes on each product he uses. In this example, our sugar is bought from Bako, which is sourced in the UK.
Next, the jars will be scanned along with the lids and label roll.
Our end product will then be placed into a box, labelled with a new generated bar code. This bar code will provide all the information on each ingredient and material used to that particular box of jam.
All of the bar codes and scanned information is automatically uploaded to our online software which records the movements of all our products and materials.
Why is this useful?
Unfortunately, problems with the food chain are still happening. Contaminants, undeclared allergens or inaccurate information are all examples of supply chain problems. If this were to happen, we would be able to find every single one of our products that contains the identified ingredients or material. Our system will also enable us to see where these products are should they no longer be with us on the farm.
So now you know. A transparent food chain is the final result. By taking small steps like this we can help to reassure the general public that their food is not only safe to eat, but is everything described on the jar.
All natural ingredients, made here on our farm in Mevagissey.
Should anyone want to know, our new traceability software is called NotaZone, Agrantec.