|Sowing to harvesting||6 to 10 Months|
|Size||15 - 30 cm (6 -12") spread by 15 - 20 cm (6 - 8") high|
|Yield||About 115 - 450 g (4 -16 oz) per plant|
Growing Strawberries - Early Cropping
Strawberries can be grown under cloches or plastic tunnels in the open, in a greenhouse or even on the kitchen windowsill. An unheated greenhouse has no major advantage over using cloches, except perhaps ease, however, a heated greenhouse will give a crop from mid-spring.
If using a heated greenhouse you will need to hand pollinate for best results, as the pollinating insects are not that active at this time of year. To hand pollinate, use a camel hair brush and gently dab the flowers daily once they have fully opened.
Plants outdoors and protected by cloches or plastic tunnels will give a crop three to four weeks early. Allow 90cm (3 feet) between the rows to enable easier placement of the cloches or tunnels. Cover the plants with your chosen system from late winter onwards, weed the bed well before covering you may also want to spread some slug pellets around the plants at this time.
As with growing outside without the cloches, the plants must be protected from birds etc. with netting when the cloches or tunnels are open for pollination or ripening. During the middle of the day when the flowers are out open up the tunnels or adjust the cloches to leave gaps so that the pollinating insects can get access to the flowers, otherwise, you will not get any berries.
For forcing in a greenhouse, plant rooted runners singly in 15cm (6")pots filled with potting compost. Do this in early summer, leave outside until early winter making sure that the plants have sufficient water and have not been damaged by frost.
When you bring the strawberry plants into the greenhouse keep quite cool until you can see signs of growth normally about two weeks later. Gradually increase the temperature up to 10 degrees C. (50 degrees F) and at the same time increase the humidity.
Once the flowers have set and the strawberries have started to swell gradually raise the temperature to 18 degrees C (65 degrees F) and maintain moist conditions until the fruit starts to colour, when the air should be drier. An occasional feed with dilute liquid manure or fertilizer will encourage the strawberries to swell. Use sticks or wire to keep the berries of the compost.
Once forced strawberry plants cannot be used again so before forcing ensure that you have a good supply ready for the following year.