Taking care of your strawberry plants at the end of the season is important for your field or patch to make it through the winter.
Strawberry plants are fragile things that do not handle hard frost well at all, which can make them tricky to keep alive. However, with the right precautions, your strawberry garden can last and produce well for several years.
We live in an area where our winters usually hit -35 degrees celsius at least once during the winter. Unprotected strawberry plants will not survive that extreme cold.
However, we have the added blessing of a thick layer of snow, usually, so this provides its own layer of protection.
During winters where there has been little snow, and still very cold, strawberry plants will not survive.
At the end of the strawberry season, the first thing you will have to decide is if you need to renovate or rejuvenate your strawberry field. If the weed pressure is too much, starting new plants the following year will be your best option.
Proper care with strawberry plants will help them produce berries for 4-6 years.
When planted in the proper type of soil, strawberries usually produce the most berries in years 2 and 3. This is the main reason many strawberry growers will replant every two to three years, especially if they are selling them as a means of income.
What to do with Strawberry Plants at the End of Season
Still haven’t planted your strawberries? Then check out this guide to planting strawberries.
1.Decide if weed pressure allows another growing season
If the weed pressure is too high, you might be better off plowing down your field and planting a soil boosting cover crop. Allow one or two years of planting a different species before planting strawberries in the same location.
2.Using a Rotary or sickle bar mower, mow immediately after harvest is over.
If you decide your plants look healthy enough to produce for another season, use a rotary or sickle bar mower to mow to 1-2 inches above the crowns.
This has to be done right after harvest, and before the plants start producing runners vigorously.
Strawberry runners are new plants that will produce fruit the following year, and if you cut these off you will get few berries the following year. Also critical is that you do not damage the crowns.
Be extremely careful when mowing that your blade is set high enough not to damage the plant crowns.
3.Thin, and tidy rows, remove unhealthy plants
Go over your rows and thin them where needed. Remove any unhealthy plants, and tidy them up as much as you can. This will help you next year.
4.Add one inch compost, and water well
Once everything is weed-free, and looking well, add one inch of compost, and continue watering.
Give them an inch of water every week that it doesn’t rain. You need those runners that are starting to grow to establish well.
5.Keep your patch weed free as new runners get established
Still not done with weeding! Keep weed-free as the new runners get established.
You will thank yourself next year. The more weeds you control this year, the better it will be for the next.
6.Guide the runners into your row each week
Something a lot of growers miss is the importance of guiding the growing runners back into your row.
Strawberry plants are like a rebellious child, they will grow everywhere and completely fill out your field.
Not a problem when you have designated planters, but when you want orderly rows, you need to guide the runners back into the row each week.
The runners grow rapidly in the fall, especially Kent strawberry plants.
There you are, all set for winter. Except not quite….You still need to protect your plants from the frost.
7.What to do with strawberry plants in winter?
Strawberry plants need winter protection, no matter where you live.
Strawberry crowns are home to the buds that will be next year’s crop and can be easily killed at temperatures below -12 degrees celsius (or 10 degrees Fahrenheit).
Frigid temperatures can damage leaves and fewer flowers and fruit the following year.
Extreme cold is what will kill your strawberry plants and prevent them from producing the following year.
As I write this, we have had a week of -40 degrees celsius over here and I am wondering how my strawberry plants will fare.
To prevent frost damage to your strawberries, you need to apply an insulating layer every year such as weed free straw.
This mulch provides an insulating layer that will protect them. Straw works very well. You can also use a floating fabric row cover and is usually used in plasticulture systems.
One thing to remember when applying mulch for winter protection is that you do not want to apply it too soon in the fall.
Applying mulch too soon can delay and even prevent dormancy. This will essentially kill all your plants.
To be on the safe side, apply it after several hard touches of frost.
You want your soil temperature to drop to 4 degrees celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 3 days in a row.
A good six inches of straw is not too much.
In the Spring, mulch should be removed at the first sign of new growth.
Proper care of your strawberry plants at the end of the season will help the plants survive another winter, and it will also help them produce longer.
Strawberries are a plant with shallow roots, and they need proper care to survive our harsh winters, but it is not impossible.
Make sure to keep them weed-free as much as possible, and provide an insulating cover during the fall. Proper mulch at the end of the season will prevent frost damage and also help with weed control.
How do you take care for your strawberry plants at the end of the season? Have any of these tips helped you? Let me know in the comments below.