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Very bright youngsters at Hilltop Junior School, Wickford, Essex, had several questions for me during a visit this week. They wanted advice on stopping strawberry fruits being eaten and whether they could grow grapes and melons. Birds and squirrels could be eating strawberry fruit and netting is the best answer to stop them. We will be looking at building netted cages to protect crops in future weeks. Slugs and snails are also possible culprits and a thorough clean up of the garden at this time of year helps to reduce their numbers. Melons need the warmth provided by a greenhouse or cold frame and scholars from St. Michaels C. of E. Junior School were able to taste some grown in their greenhouse this autumn. (See photograph). Grapes could be grown outside in the South of England, but will need a warm south facing wall or greenhouse in colder parts of the country. They can be grown in pots, up on a trunk like a short tree and we will try to demonstrate this over the next year or two. You will need named varieties and if a parent has a good fruiting vine then hard wood cuttings 30 cm long can be taken this month. Pushed for half their length into either soil in a sheltered position or deep pot of universal compost they should be well rooted by this time next year.

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