You know how everyone goes on about reaching peak oil? That point at which we’re going to produce as much oil as we’re ever going to? Apparently we’re not far off reaching peak water, too (some – including India – are already there).
Well it occurred to me the other day that I may have reached peak courgette. Not to mention peak runner bean. And peak cucumber (I have four in the fridge now and yet more on the plant: I’m at the point where I’m cutting large slices at random and pressing them on any passing child).
But I will never, ever reach peak strawberry. I love this fruit so much I have dreams about it when it’s not in season.
The briefness of the strawberry season is a bit of a myth, actually: there are strawbs in my garden from around the end of April right through till October.
I plant early, mid-season and late varieties (‘Honeoye‘, ‘Cambridge Favourite’ and ‘Florence’ respectively), cheat a bit by forcing strawbs in the greenhouse, and scatter the alpine strawberry ‘Baron von Solemacher’ liberally throughout the garden (season: July till the first frosts – I have pictures of this strawberry with snow on it).
Strawbs are so amenable: they grow anywhere as long as it’s sunny, and once you’ve bought your stock they reproduce like rabbits, so you need never be short of new plants.
I help mine along a bit, to avoid the strawberry bed descending into total chaos: you can just let them root any old where, but you end up with a stuffed strawberry bed full of choked, stunted plants and increasingly small strawberries.
Far better to intervene and impose some order by creating your own baby strawberries to plant at will. Here’s how:
You will need:
Bits of bent wire: I cut 7cm lengths from my roll of plant support wire but straightened-out paperclips work just as well
1: Identify your runners: these are the long stems which erupt from strawberry plants around now, each with its tuft of leaves on the end. Choose the two or three runners which have the sturdiest stems and the tuftiest tufts, and cut off the rest.
2: Fill the same number of pots as you have runners with good quality multi-purpose compost, and water it so it’s nice and damp. Sink the pots into the ground around your mother plant to about half their depth (for stability and to keep the roots cool).
3: Now press the tuft on the end of each runner onto the surface of the compost, one per pot. Don’t detach it from the plant: just hold it in place firmly against the compost with the wire, bent into a U and pressed down over the stem right by the tuft of leaves.
4: Leave for about two or three weeks and you’ll start to see signs of new growth. This means the tuft has now rooted and become its own little baby strawberry plant: you can now detach it from its mum (cut off the stem right by the tuft, and also right to the base by the original plant).
5: Grow on your little strawberry plant for another month or so till it’s filling its pot, then plant it out where it’s to grow in around November or December.
Strawberries need a frost on them to make fruit – though if you’re really strong-willed you should pick off every strawberry flower in its first year to help it establish. I am legally obliged to say that bit, or I get drummed out of the garden writer’s club and my keyboard gets melted down for plant pots, but between you and me – don’t bother. I’ve never been able to do this, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who has. You’ll still get strawberries. Just don’t tell anyone I told you.