Strawberry plants will flower and then fruit in the early summer. But over the summer months, your strawberry plants will usually also begin to propagate by means of ‘runners’. Strawberry runners are the long shoots sent out from the base of the main plant. At the end of these long shoots, roots will form, and a new strawberry plant will be created. The problem is that plants may sometimes produce runners at the expense of ripening fruit. Often, if you are enjoying your strawberry harvest, it is best to remove all early-forming runners from your plants in order to prolong the harvest.
Remove Unwanted Runners
Removing early strawberry runners from your plants will allow the plants to put all their energy into remaining healthy and producing a bounty of fruit. Simply keep your eyes open for runners forming and cut off unwanted runners so they can’t take too much energy from the plants. Simply pop these onto your compost heap.
Propagate Strawberry Plants With Strawberry Runners
Later in the season, once you have harvested the fruits, you will likely want to allow your plants to propagate and will want to leave runners to grow. Rather than removing these you will allow them to form into small plants attached to the parent plant. You will see roots beginning to form beneath a small amount of foliage. Each of these will become a new strawberry plant to increase your plant stock, or to give away, perhaps, to friends or family.
You can simply allow your strawberry plants to self-root at will in the strawberry patch or growing area where parent plants are located. This can create a strawberry thicket, but such a growing area can become congested over time and become untidy. While it can be a wonderful way to create ground cover in an informal kitchen garden or forest garden, it may not be suitable for smaller polytunnels, where space may be at a premium. To bring some order to your strawberry patch, you can gently guide strawberry runners into suitable locations close to the parent plant.
Sometimes, however, you may wish to deal with strawberry runners differently. You may wish to root strawberry runners in pots, for later transplantation to a different location. It is best not to detach strawberry runners from the parent plant too soon. They receive nutrition from the parent plant until the roots are properly formed.
In order to get healthy new strawberry plants, keep runners attached to the parent plant. Take the new plant forming on the end and press it down into the soil where you want it to grow, either in the ground or in a pot. Use a twig or peg to gently hold the runner down and allow roots to form in the growing medium. Once the roots have formed, (which you will be able to tell because the plant will be firmly held into the growing medium) you can simply cut the runners from the parent plant and (if required) move them to somewhere else in your garden.
Comment below to let us know what you do with your strawberry runners in your polytunnel.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.