Speak to an allotmenteer and they will tell you that no shop bought veg or fruit will ever compare to the taste of their own, fresh grown produce. Whilst this may not be the case for all home-grown foodstuffs (we’ve been responsible for some of the blandest tasting spuds that have ever disgraced a Sunday dinner) there can be nothing that tastes more strawberry-er than a home-grown strawberry.
Home-grown strawberries are one of the easiest fruits you can cultivate and deserve to be on the ‘must grow’ list of any self -respecting allotmenteer. If you play it canny, you can even cultivate a continuous supply of strawberry plants off a single specimen by propagating the ‘runners’ (or stolons) that shoot out from the mother plant.
Cultivating runners is a simple process. First of all, select two or three runners closest to the mother plant as these will develop into the strongest, healthiest strawberry plants. Pin each runner down with a tent peg to prevent them from blowing around in the wind before they are properly established. Alternatively, using a small stone to weigh down the stems should do the trick.
Once each runner has taken root – which should take around 4 to 6 weeks – carefully cut the stem from the mother plant (a bit like an umbilical cord) and your new plants should begin to thrive on their own. You can use this technique to populate large areas of bedding in-situ or, if you wish, you can train individual runners into plant pots to then transport and plant elsewhere.
To maximise your fruity crop of home-grown strawberries, feed your new plants liquid potash every couple of weeks during the growing season. Also remember to pack the base of the plant with straw before the strawberries start to develop to protect the fruits from resting on bare soil and the diseases it may harbour. Straw will also help suppress weeds and will hopefully deter slugs that wish to get their slimy chops on your crop before you have chance to harvest.
A home-grown strawberry plant should give four years good service before it exhausts itself but, by cultivating suckers, you can keep your fruit supply ticking over infinitely. In the (slightly mangled) words of John Lennon, strawberry yields forever…
Three fine strawberry varieties to try
Plant these out in Autumn or early Spring for sweet treats next Summer…
A small, alpine variety that produces masses of small fruits with a delicate, almost almond-y taste. Perfect for plunging into a glass of prosecco.
Mara de Bois
A ‘perpetual’ variety – meaning they produce a steady, continuous crop throughout the growing season. They have the same intense fruity punch as wild strawberries but provide a bigger mouthful to chomp on.
These fruits will grow as big as a billiard ball, but still retain a sweet, intense flavour. Easy to grow, even easier to spot amongst the foliage.