The old ways of forcing Strawberries do not cost the airmiles that our imported fruit now consume. Nor do they sacrifice flavour for an early crop. Old gardeners fashioned different ways to get Strawberries 4-8 weeks early than your normal summer crops.
Way to Force Strawberries in the Greenhouse
- One and two year old strawberry plants are likely to produce better fruit. Current plants and three years and older are unlikely to have the vigour.
- Lift at the end of January or February and pot up in John Innes No 2. Water well.
- Bring potted up plants into the greenhouse, water regularly and do not allow them to dry out.
- Strawberries hate to be too hot so keep well ventilated. But, if frost is forecast cover plants with newspaper.
- When flowers start to appear fertilise with potash rich tomato feed.
- Pollinate by gently rubbing the flowers to move the pollen.
- The less foliage a plant makes the better the crop.
Way to Force Strawberries Under Cloches
- Cover healthy vigorous plants in February with plastic or glass cloches for an early crop. You can also use old fashioned Dutch lights.
- As the weather warms up pay attention to watering ventilation and allow pollinating insects access to flowers.
- Botrytis fungus loves cold damp still air and large old plants may be prone to attack.
- Protect from hard frost with horticultural fleece. if flowers turn black in the centre rather than lime green they have been frosted off.
Pick your strawberries by hand in the old fashioned way but with care you will be several weeks earlier than your neighbors.
Old Fashioned Varieties for Forcing
- Under glass you want a strawberry with a compact habit and mildew resistance. Try one or more of the Cambridge varieties Favourite, Regent, Rival, or Vigour.
- Royal Sovereign is still a top forcer
- Gorella and Aurora
- Regina, Wandenswill 4, and Reine des Precoces
Tips for Forcing Strawberries
- Try the early maturing varieties named above. Build up young plants first by heavy mulching with compost.
- Before plants are covered give them a through watering especially after a period of frost.
- Increase watering after mid march but allow time for surplus to dry off before evening.
- Use Glass or cloches to protect from wind and cold not to force by heat.
- Set plants in rows north to south to get even ripening
starwberries by saraicat CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
California Strawberries by pixieclipx CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
strawberry fields forever by Niels van Eck CC BY-NC-SA 2.0