Wimbledon 2017 is finally here, and there’s a strong sense of excitement in the air as the world’s best players get ready to battle it out on that perfect green grass pitch. But besides from the game of tennis and its champions, the immaculate pitch, and classic treat of Pimm’s and strawberries and cream, are arguably the things most commonly associated with the Wimbledon Championships.
It’s safe to assume that many of us can’t imagine attending Wimbledon without a bowl of strawberries and cream, and there’s a good reason for this; around 28,000kg of strawberries are consumed during each tournament, and these are served with over 10,000 litres of fresh cream!
Wimbledon’s perfect grass also isn’t just there to be aesthetically pleasing; each year, it’s meticulously grown and maintained so that the pitches improve play style, effectively awarding players with speed and power. It’s also sown with perennial ryegrass, as this ensures it’s able to withstand the impact of the game; this is tested with a machine that runs over the grass for a period of two weeks.
So, how does Wimbledon get its grass pitches and strawberries to a such a specific high standard, and how can you recreate your own Wimbledon 2017 with the perfect lawn, strawberries and cream, and pitcher of Pimm’s?
How to get perfect grass
The secret to Wimbledon’s perfect pitches (which contain three sub-species of perennial ryegrass), is that preparation starts early; this is something that should also apply to your own grass, if you wish to achieve your own perfect lawn in your garden or grounds!
Though you don’t need to be as meticulous as Wimbledon’s grounds staff, who start working on next year’s pitch the day after the current year’s tournament has finished, you should start preparing your grass in the early spring if you want to achieve a perfect lawn by the summer months.
As RHS advises, you should start using a fertiliser in late March (leading into April); this prevents weeds and moss from establishing, as well as promoting a rich green colour in your grass. Ideally, this should be applied when the lawn is damp.
According to research, a cut height of 8mm is optimum for the grass courts used in present-day tennis matches. Once the grass has reached this height, Wimbledon’s courts are cut 3 times a week, with this being upgraded to a daily mowing once the tournament has started. For your own lawn, this needs to be done once a week in Spring, and 1-2 times a week in summer.
When it comes to watering your lawn, this isn’t a big necessity in the warmer months. However, if you see a change in colour, water around once a week until the grass has recovered.
How to get perfect strawberries and cream
From being served together at the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877, strawberries and cream have now become a key highlight of the event, and the utmost importance is placed on ensuring this treat is of the highest quality.
According to the official Wimbledon website, they tend to use Grade 1 English strawberries from LEAF-registered farms in Kent, and these are picked at 4:00am. To ensure their freshness, the strawberries will be collected from the packing plant at 9:00am, and delivered to the club at 11:00am for inspection and hulling. This is to ensure they can be enjoyed by guests on the same day.
To grow your own strawberries, the first thing you need to do is source your plants from a trustworthy supplier; as RHS explains, this helps to ensure they’re free of disease. As strawberry plants are typically planted in autumn (though cold-stored runners can be planted in late spring and early summer), we’d advise buying potted strawberries, as these be planted straight away.
Once it’s been planted, growing up your own strawberries is actually very easy. All you need to ensure is that they have well-drained soil, and that they get 1-2 inches of water a week while they’re growing.
Also, don’t forget that strawberry plants need to be changed every 2-3 years; this ensures you get the best and tastiest crops!
The PHS Greenleaf team are already enjoying Wimbledon 2017, and we’d like to wish the best of luck to our British players!