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Exam commentaries
by Janet Prescott - Tuesday, 31 March 2020, 9:42 AM

Some of you may have more time at the moment for your studies  - or you may be extra busy with frontline or supply work, or trying to share broadband with home-schooling children, or even actually out in the garden getting ready to plant vegetables.

Because the RHS has postponed the exams until September, you do all have longer to prepare; but it's important to keep momentum with your studies if you plan to take exams this year, so we are starting the weekly exam question commentaries again to help you with the interpretation of RHS wording and deciding the amount of detail to include in your answers.

This first question is from February 2019  - level 2 Garden Planning, Unit  2113.

R2113 Feb ’19

Q5, Describe the production of strawberries under EACH of the following headings:

i)                 named cultivar;         1 mark

ii)                planting;                      5 marks

iii)              harvesting.                 4 marks


This question relates to the following part of the syllabus:

Outcome 4.  Understand the production of top and soft fruit for a garden or allotment.

  4.3 List the major types of soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, blueberries and grapes) and factors to be considered when choosing suitable cultivars, to include the fruit type; choice of early, mid and late season cultivars; flavour; and freezing capability.  

To include: fruit type (cane, bush, vine); purpose of fruit (dessert, culinary); flavour; late or early season cropping; potential for freezing or other storage methods. Named cultivar/s of each soft fruit listed.

4.5 Describe the production of soft fruit including raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries. 

Production to include: establishment (ground preparation, planting and support where necessary, mulching, pruning and irrigation); and maintenance (pruning, top dressing, weed, pest and disease control, replacement and tying in where appropriate). 

4.11 Describe the harvesting and storage of the fruit crops named in 4.4 and 4.5. 

To include: period of harvest;  ripeness /under-ripeness at picking; method of storage, period of storage; storage conditions (packing, atmosphere, temperature


You need to know examples of cultivars for six different soft fruits, and then further detail on the production and harvesting of just raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries.  This question is a straightforward one just on strawberries.

The examiner’s comments suggest the following as suitable examples for part i):

‘Cambridge Favourite’, ‘Elsanta’, ‘Malling Centenary’, ‘Christine’, ‘Florence’.

This sort of question is easier if you grow the crop yourself, then you can just learn examples of those you grow. Otherwise, learn some names that are easier to remember and perhaps easier to spell as well.

Half the marks for this question are allocated for planting. Approach this sort of question in a logical way; imagine you are going through the steps of planting out. The examiner’s comments suggest the following:

Soak well before planting

Plant August/September or spring

Plant in a sheltered situation in humus rich, fertile and well drained soil

Space 40 – 50 cm apart in rows 60 – 90 cm apart

Plant with the crown above soil level to avoid rotting

Firm well to prevent frost heave and drying out

For any question like this, there are certain points that it is important to include. These are soaking before planting, time of planting, situation and soil, spacing, method/depth of planting, and firming.


For harvesting, the following is suggested:

Pick on a dry day when fruits are pink/red all over

Pick carefully to avoid bruising

Pick by pinching stalk between fingers to ensure calyx is intact and not by twisting

Discard any damaged or mouldy fruits

Don’t pile too many on top of each other to avoid bruising and crushing

Harvesting methods vary quite a bit for the different fruits, but again, some points are the same for all. A dry day is always best, you always need to pick carefully, and you always need to discard mouldy fruits.