What you do with your strawberry plants before winter can play a huge role in both your plant’s health and overall production next year – no matter how you grow them – and that is exactly why fall strawberry plant care is so vital to their success!
Whether you grow your strawberries in a traditional garden, raised beds, or in pots or containers, as the fall air begins to settle in, it’s time to begin preparing your strawberry plants for winter.
Strawberries are one of the easiest perennials to grow. Once planted, they can produce a sizable harvest for years – all with minimal effort. But if there is one area where many gardeners struggle, it is how to properly prepare strawberry plants for winter.
Although strawberries are a hardy perennial in most climates, they do require a bit of assistance to survive winter’s fury. Especially if you happen to live in a climate where the temperatures can plummet. Without protection, plants can not only be damaged, but in some cases, freeze completely out.
With that in mind, here is a look at how to properly prepare your strawberry plants for winter – whether you grow them in the ground, or in containers!
How To Prepare Strawberry Plants For Winter – Fall Strawberry Care
Pruning Strawberry Plants Before Winter
To prune or not to prune strawberry plants – that is the question. When it comes to strawberries, pruning does help to revitalize and re-energize plants. But one thing is for sure, never mow or prune back your strawberry plants in the fall. Especially June-bearing strawberry varieties. It is simply asking for disaster!
For one, next year’s fruit is in process within the plants. Cutting them back at this point can eliminate most or nearly all of next year’s fruit. But even more, it leaves plants with little to no protection. Unfortunately, cutting your plants back in late fall will most likely will result in a total loss from freezing out.
Pruning should only be performed right after the last fruiting in the early summer. This gives the plants time to regrow before going into dormancy. This growth then helps to protect the plants throughout winter.
If you did not prune your plants back this year, it is okay to leave them be. Simply mulch them in late fall, and then next year, prune them back in early summer as soon as they finish fruiting.
Planted Strawberry Plants vs. Container Plants – What To Do With Strawberry Plants Before Winter
How you grow your strawberries plays a big role in how to protect them for winter. First and foremost, all strawberry plants need to be protected from the cold, no matter where they grow.
For plants that grow in a garden or raised bed setting, that means applying a heavy 4 to 6″ thick mulch of over plants in late fall. When it comes to mulch, the key is choosing a material that allows air to still get to the plants and roots below.
Mulching Options – What To Do With Strawberry Plants Before Winter
There are several options that work well for mulching strawberries. At the top of the list is straw. Straw provides good protection for the roots, but still allows plants to breathe and take in moisture over the winter.
Shredded leaves are another excellent choice. When using leaves, shredding is a much better option than whole leaves. Whole leaves can become soggy and thick, which will smother plants out. This is one time where oak leaves are an excellent choice as they provide a bit of acid to the soil as they break down, which is perfect for acid-loving strawberry plants.
Pine needles are another mulching option, and also can give a little acid back to plant. Be careful with adding too many as they can mat down much like whole leaves. The best option for pine needles is to mix them in with straw or shredded leaves. (See: How To Select The Best Mulch For Gardens & Flowerbeds)
You should mulch your strawberries in late fall, once they have gone dormant for the season. Check near the crown of the plants, and if there is no new green foliage growing, they are ready for mulching.
Potted Strawberry Plants
Potted strawberry plants are a bit more susceptible to the freezing temperatures of winter than those planted in the ground. Unless you live in an arid climate with warm winter temperatures, potted strawberries need protection from freezing out.
But with that said, winter care is pretty simple and straightforward – that is – as long as you bring them in out of harms way!
How To Protect Potted Strawberry Plants
An unheated garage, barn, or shed are all great options for giving potted strawberries protection. Bringing them out of the direct cold is a great start, but providing a little extra cover is a good idea. This can be done easily with a few different methods.
Placing pots inside a burlap sack, or wrapping them in burlap and then filling with straw will usually do the trick. The burlap and straw provide protection, while still allowing the plants to breathe.
Another option is to place pots in a 5 gallon bucket and surround with straw or shredded leaves. If none of these options are available, you can also bury the pots in the soil outside, and cover with 6 inches of straw.
Be sure to not allow the soil in potted plants to completely dry out over winter. The plants still require moisture to survive, even in their dormant state. Check soil every week or so and water as needed. Once spring arrives, you can uncover and take back outdoors.
Here is to providing your strawberry plants with some great fall care, and preparing them for winter and for a great growing season next year!
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