The layering of strawberries should have been done last month but the plants have only just started throwing out runners. These are whip like vines growing from the crown and if pinned down to the soil will produce more strawberry plants. On Pig Row, I select one or two of these runners and pin down the new growth with wire on either side of the forming crown, sections of the runner throwing up leaves. The wire doesn’t have to be posh, I use discarded plastic coated wire left over from other projects. As a gardener I advise you never throw anything away. I pin down the new crown in a small three or five inch pot. Make sure the pot’s rim is flush with the soil level as it stops the new plant from rocking around in the wind if the pot was left loose on the surface. Also, burying the pot up to the rim saves moisture and leads to less watering. In both cases it prevents putting the mother crown under too much stress. I then pinch off the runner beyond the pot but leave it attached to the mother plant. I advise you do not separate it from the original mother crown or else you will kill the new plant. As yet this new crown has no roots and gets all is sustenance through the runner.
After the strawberry harvest at Pig Row, something that is now making all our mouths water, I will take my secateurs to the runner off and snip it off from the mother crown. I will then pull the pot up, which by the end of August, will contain a good sized strawberry crown. I always advise labelling new plants. This is something I always do on Pig Row but didn’t a Drovers, which meant I lost the location of many plants and over watered some that didn’t need it. At Pig Row, I am growing from scratch and even by July my new stock of plants, lupins, hollyhocks, clematis, strawberries and many more are growing fast. I am a whirling dervish in the garden as I divide, grow and get new fruit from runners. Therefore, it is always best to label your plants, with the best will and memory, you will forget, I do. I even back up my labelling now by keeping a gardening journal, in which I write down all the tasks I do over the growing year and the location of all the plants in the garden. I do this because labels get lost and keeping a journal helps me record the year and how my garden grows. This is satisfying to any gardener when creating a new garden from scratch or developing an established garden. The best advice I ever got was to use a digital camera. In my journey around Pig Row, I am snap happy without the worries of developing film. This gives me a visual record of Pig Row from spring to winter and more importantly, in those despondent moments when the weeds are winning, I can look back at them and see my progress. It is easy to forget how far you have come in a garden or as a gardener. So, keep a digital camera if you don’t keep a journal.
The new strawberry plants, labelled, recorded in the journal and photographed are stored in a sheltered spot by the glasshouse awaiting planting for later in the year. This I even write in my journal as a reminder. Things for me to do in months to come, the blank spaces in the journal are quickly planted with things to do.
The great thing about runners is that they are not confined to strawberries, raspberries do it and so do blackberries. This is a way of increasing your soft fruit stock quickly. In one year I have gone from thirty six strawberry plants of three varieties, Marshmarvel, Marshmello and Amelia, to over one hundred new plants. Remember that each strawberry crown can throw out two to three new shoots, which become cropping strawberry plants in the following year. I always advise only taking two new runners from an established plant, anything more and you will exhaust the original mother plant and end up with weak new crowns that will never thrive.
It is advisable to change your strawberry plants and their location every three years, though I have been know to run to five years with continued mulching and feeding. Changing location and growing on new crowns each year will give you successive crops year in year out and you will never have to reach for the catalogue. Changing location of your strawberry bed every few years will keep down the diseases and pests. Though I must admit the only way you will keep the birds off is to net your strawberry bed or sit out there throughout the growing season flapping your arms each time a blackbird lands.