Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits.
Growing up, we had a strawberry patch that came up each year, even though we lived in a cold weather area.
And we always enjoyed eating things like strawberry rhubarb pie before of our great strawberry harvest.
So, what do you need to do to winterize your backyard strawberries? You will need to clear away dead leaves and debris, apply a thick layer of mulch, and cover with bird netting.
Why you should winterize your strawberries
Strawberries are perennial plants, meaning they will come back every year with new fruit.
And they will continue to produce for you year after year if you take care of them.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have fruit that grows out of the ground each year for you?
And strawberry plants, if you want a good crop the next year, need to be taken care of before it becomes winter.
Cold injury is particularly problematic for strawberry plants since they produce fruit by means of perennating buds. In short, the flowers that become strawberries aren’t formed in the spring. They get their start during the waning warm days of the previous year in the form of flower buds in the crown of the strawberry plant. If strawberry plants have poor care or nutrition during the end of August, September, and October, they won’t form many buds.Winterizing Strawberry Plants – Strawberry Plants . org
If you really want to have a good strawberry harvest in the spring and summer, you need to take care of your strawberries before the winter.
So, if you take care of them during the cold months, they will come back in the spring for you with little effort on your part.
If you do not take care of them, then the plant will die and you will have to replant them next year if you want strawberries again.
Clear away dead leaves and debris
Your first step is to clear away anything from the area that might impede the growth of the strawberries in the future.
This includes clearing away the dead leaves and any kind of debris that is laying around.
Later, we will talk about applying the mulch and as part of that, we do not apply mulch that compacts tightly or does not let air through.
This is the main reason we remove dead leaves and debris from around the strawberries plants.
We do not want anything around that is going to “suffocate” the strawberry plants.
So be thorough while clearing the leaves and debris.
Use a rake very carefully, if needed to remove all the items.
Apply a thick layer of mulch
Mulch becomes a very important part of winterizing your strawberries and also knowing when exactly to apply the mulch.
Applying the mulch gives you a thick layer of protection, that not only protects the strawberry plants from the harsh conditions of the winter, including wind but also provides warmth to the strawberry plants.
Mulch should be applied before you have too many nights in a row of cold temperatures.
The strawberry plants can survive a few nights of frost, and it might actually be a good thing for them.
So let them remain uncovered the first few frosts.
After that, it will be a good time to apply the mulch.
HGTV.com gives the following advice:
It’s safe to apply winterizing mulch to strawberry plants when the top one-half inch of soil has frozen and daytime temperatures stay consistently in the 20s. In mild winter areas, apply mulch once soil temperatures hit 40° F for three days in a row. Definitely winterize strawberry plants before temperatures dip below 20° F. Precise timing varies depending on region. Fine-tune the timing with a call to your local extension office.Winterizing Strawberry Plants | HGTV
You will want to make sure to apply mulch that does not compact very well and that is breathable.
Grass clippings are not a good choice because they become very compact once they have settled and can also be wet and clumpy.
The wet and clumpy mulch can harbor fungus and other bacteria that could hurt your strawberry plants.
Hay is an option, but not one of the best options.
Hay typically contains seeds of other plants or weeds, which could gather around your strawberry plants, making it hard to weed during the right time.
Weeds from the hay could also take over the area and keep your strawberry plants from growing in the appropriate manner.
Pine straw, bark chips, or evergreen branches are good choices for mulch, as they give the strawberry plants protection from the code.
They are also breathable options, so your strawberry plants are not suffocated by them.
They also push away any moisture from the strawberry plants.
You can also find some good options for strawberry mulch on Amazon.
Once you have decided on what you are going to use, apply 5 to 6 inches of mulch, which, when it settles, will be about 2 to 3 inches.
Cover with bird netting
Once you’ve removed all debris and applied the mulch to the strawberry plants, you might want to put something in place that will keep the mulch from blowing away in the wind.
In our area, the wind can pick up pretty strong.
It is strong enough around here that we have seen logs of wood rolling around our backyard.
So, applying some bird netting to the strawberry plants and mulch will keep everything in place.
Visit Amazon to find some different options for bird netting.
Some bird netting will come with pegs to stabilize the netting into the ground.
That kind can be found here.
Some do not come with pegs, so you have to purchase separately.
Good netting without pegs can be found here.
The bird netting will go over the mulch and strawberry plants.
The netting will keep the mulch in place and also protect the plants from any rodents or animals that might want to dig out the strawberry plants.
Now wait for spring
Uncovering the strawberries too early can cause premature growth.
Premature growth in the strawberries can cause the strawberries to grow while the frost is still on the ground and freeze the strawberries to death.
So leave the mulch on top of the strawberries until it starts to warm up outside.
Once it has finally warmed up, slowly remove a portion of the mulch over the strawberry plants and see if there is any growth.
If there is no growth, put the mulch back over the strawberry plant and check back every few days.
If there is growth, remove the mulch slowly with the growth of the strawberry plant.
When all the frost is gone, use a rake to remove the rest of the mulch.
Strawberries are perennials, so they can come back each year without re-planting.
You just need to make sure to take the appropriate steps to protect them during the winter.
That includes clearing away dead leaves and debris, covering the strawberry plants with mulch, and possibly covering the mulch with bird netting so the mulch does not fly away.