I have been given a single plant of strawberry ‘Mieze Schindler’ – a strawberry in the woodland-berry vein of ‘Mara des Bois’, and with a hint of raspberry about its delicate flesh – and have been in the process of bulking it up in the greenhouse this summer. I love how active that sounds. I’m hoping it brings to mind images of me donning white coat, protective goggles and surgical gloves and setting about micropropagating it in the lab, then perhaps later potting up tiny, vulnerable plants and coaxing them through their tricky first few months of life courtesy of a strict misting regime.
Of course I did nothing of the sort, being quite lacking in laboratory facilities. Happily, bulking up strawberry plants is the simplest thing in the world as the plant does all the work for you. All you have to do is provide a place for it to grow, and it grows. Some time after fruiting, your one, original plant throws out those long growths that say ‘it’s time to make babies!’ and you’re away. The growths are tipped with little heels of green leaves that will root almost the second they touch the ground. They really can’t fail. If they find somewhere to put down roots they are very quickly able to start supporting themselves, but they always have the mother plant to draw on until they are ready to go independent. It’s touching, really.
So all I actually did was to pop the original pot on the greenhouse bench, keep it well watered and happy, and make a point to spot all those arching bids for immortality and pin them down in a bit of compost. Some of them I have pinned down into the original pot, others have received their very own little pot of compost and all are held onto it with a splayed hairclip or a small pebble. Come spring I should be able to sever these umbilical stems and plant up my seven or so little strawberry plants. They aren’t going to make me my strawberry millions, true, but I will keep in mind that seven times seven is 49 and 49 times 49 is 2401 and perhaps order a bigger greenhouse around October 2014.
These ones will stay in the greenhouse over winter simply because they are young and vulnerable, and could really do without being tested by heavy frosts and pelting hail while they are trying to get started in life, but there is another reason to put strawberries in the greenhouse. If you have other strawberries that you are already growing in pots you can bring them indoors in order to force them into growth and coax them into flower and fruit early. Unlike the little ones though, these bigger, established plants don’t want to be indoors all winter. Like rhubarb and apples, strawberries need a set spell of cold weather if they are to flower – and then fruit – well the following season. A warm winter is no good for fruit (witness shocking fruit yields after last year’s mild winter) so leave them out for most of it, to catch every drop of frost they can. The time to move these bigger ones inside is after the slings and arrows of winter weather have worked their magic, perhaps around February. They will love the warmth and protection after a winter out of doors, and will leap into life early and the growing, flowering, and fruiting will all happen at a far quicker pace than on those berries outside, giving you strawberries in late spring.