Q.Last year we got a greenhouse. We love strawberries. I have had mixed answers about this, but are strawberries a good fit for inside a greenhouse?
(K.K, 26 July 2009)
A.There are three basic types of strawberry plant; perpetual fruiting (cropping around twice a year), summer fruiting and alpine. They can be grown in a variety of ways, including in containers, on strawbales and in gravel or other inert growing mediums such as perlite.
Strawberries can also be grown in our relatively mild British climate both outdoors and indoors, with summer-fruiting strawberry plants proving most popular amongst British growers. However, growing a successful, healthy and large crop of strawberry fruits will depend on a number of factors.
Firstly, as they’re shallow-rooting plants, they’re most suited to weed-free, well-drained soils so that they don’t have to compete with other plants. Strawberries thrive in sunny conditions – in fact, the more sun, the better. This is why greenhouses can afford an ideal growing environment for mature strawberries, as they provide a well-lit, relatively hot and dry growing conditions.
Remember that although strawberries thrive in hot, sunny conditions, the roots need to be kept cool. This is why mulching is required, taking care to keep the mulch about one inch from the crown of the plant. This avoids the crowns becoming damp and damaged.
Because strawberries can also be damaged by frost, a greenhouse will help reduce this risk. Strawberries can also be grown in greenhouses provided the fruits can be kept free from damp. If the fruits are left in contact with moist or wet earth or growing medium, then the chances are that the fruits will become mouldy or rot. Of course, this can be overcome by growing strawberries on straw bales, or laying a bed of straw over bare earth. But remember that the straw used during the ‘growing’ season should be removed and replaced with fresh mulch over the winter and into the spring.
Growing from Transplants and Runners
Growing strawberries from runners is a slightly different matter. The seedlings or runners won’t favour the hotter conditions that the mature plants prefer, so any transplants or young plants would benefit from being placed inside a clear bag or humid propagator. The humidity levels will need to be kept fairly high until the plants have established their roots.