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What we Grow

Our strawberries and raspberries are available from April until November. We choose varieties carefully because we aim to supply the freshest best tasting berries to our customers all summer long.

Some varieties we grow
    A M J J A S O N
Strawberries
Vibrant Sweet and early. The first to market!                
Elsanta The classic & widely grown favourite, juicy and sweet                
Sonata Wonderful flavour – an improvement on Elsanta?                
Driscolls Jubilee The best! Super-sweet, aromatic, heart-shaped, all a strawberry should be                
Driscolls Amesti Delicious sweet, juicy, rich red flesh; often large berries                
 
Raspberries
Driscolls Maravilla Versatile, plump and fine flavoured, freezes well and does not bleed                
Driscolls Cardinal Flavoured, well-shaped fruits                

All soft fruit crops at HLF are protected by tunnels for at least part of their growing season. Tunnels protect the crop from rain damage and from pests and diseases; as well as extending the picking season. They also create a favourable microclimate for plants, pollinators (bees) and the people working in the field.

We share our fields between the fruit and arable enterprises as we believe in having wide crop rotations. Some of our crops are grown out of the soil in pots or grow bags, while we continue to build the fertility of the soil through alternative crops or grass. The arable crops used in our rotation cycle are wheat, barley, oilseed rape, field beans and green manure crops.

We also have many hectares of permanent pasture and woodland. We are fully accredited members of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming). For more information about how farmers can care for the environment and biodiversity whilst running sustainable profitable farms please visit www.leafuk.org

 


Growing information
Choosing varieties

We select varieties to produce crops over a long season, thinking about their adaptability to our farm, and our customers’ needs.

Strawberry varieties are divided into short-day types (Junebearers) and day-neutral types (Everbearers). Junebearers make their flower buds under short days in the autumn in Kent, and produce fruit from these flower buds when they grow the following summer. Everbearers form flower buds whatever the daylength, so produce flowers and fruit all summer long as long as the plant is healthy and big enough.


Raspberry varieties are divided into summer-fruiting 'floricane' varieties, which produce berries from cane grown the summer before; and the later-fruiting 'primocane' types which produce fruit on first year canes. Some varieties can produce two crops each season.

We work closely with world-renowned plant breeders such as Driscoll’s, www.driscolls.com who use old-fashioned techniques to painstakingly create better-eating varieties of berry, such as the premium strawberry Driscoll’s Jubilee www.jubileestrawberries.co.uk and the raspberry Driscoll’s Maravilla.


We also require varieties adapted to Kent growing conditions and so many of them have been bred or selected locally, for example Driscoll’s Diamond; Driscoll’s Jubilee, Vibrant and Finesse.


Planting and pruning systems

For quality berries it is essential we start with good quality, pest and disease -free planting stock. We use many different types of plants grown for us by specialist nurserymen.


Strawberries
Raspberries

Tunnels

All soft fruit crops at HLF are protected by tunnels for the majority of their cropping life. This protects the crop from rain damage, advances and prolongs the picking season, and helps create a favourable growing microclimate to combat the spread of disease as well as encouraging beneficial insects which control pests, and pollinators such as bees. Our tunnels over rotational crops are moved at the end of the life of the planting bed. 100% of our polythene is baled and recycled. For more information on tunnels and their use in soft fruit crops, see http://www.britishsummerfruits.co.uk/html/news_polytunnels.htm


Growing in soil and substrate

We grow our soft fruit crops in both soil and substrate. We look after our soil by using wide crop rotations and ploughing in green manure crops. Some of our strawberries and raspberries are planted in pots or grow bags and grown under semi-permanent tunnels. The strawberries are often suspended on shoulder high 'table tops' which make for easier picking. The pots or bags are filled with coir, a peat-free growing medium which can support several successive crops and is then recycled as a soil conditioner.

 

 

Water

We have worked hard to make our farms almost self-sufficient in water for irrigation, collecting the run off and rainwater from our tunnels to reservoirs from which water is recycled onto our crops.

 

 

Pests and Diseases

The farm uses integrated crop management techniques, combining good husbandry practice with careful monitoring of pests and diseases. Chemical controls are only used when strictly necessary, as naturally-occurring beneficial insects are introduced into our crops to control pests. We also encourage beneficial insects by planting flower-rich field margins.



Harvesting

This is the most crucial operation at Hugh Lowe Farms. Berries are harvested continuously from April until November by groups of pickers under the supervision of skilled harvesting staff. High standards of food hygiene and crop handling are maintained.

Our pickers are carefully shown how to handle the plants and fruit so as not to damage the berries, as all are hand harvested directly into the final container (punnet).

Early morning starts ensure the fruit is picked when it is not too hot. The picked fruit is transported directly to the rapid coolers at the packhouse, where its temperature is reduced to 2-5 C to preserve shelf life.

All trays are clearly traceable back to the picker responsible, and the field it came from, thorough a bar coding system, so the field supervisor has constant feedback about the quality standards achieved. This traceability persists through the whole chain, on to the supermarket shelf.