I got an email this week from one of my readers about her three rows of strawberries. She asked if there was anything special they would need to do for the winter months for her new strawberries to do well.
When I married my first wife, my in-laws had an amazing amount of sun in their back yard and there was a space for a huge strawberry patch. I enjoy strawberries and decided to take on a challenge. I bought 50 plants of 10 species of strawberry plants and made mounds in the soil going down the rows.
The first year I placed a lot of straw in between the rows and around the plants. It was a lot of work, but I was able to pay off the cost of the plants in the third year.
If you try this yourself, keep in mind you need to pinch back the first year’s berries to encourage their growth. For a full three years I tried to keep the straw around the plants, which is how I treated my strawberries for the first three winters.
As per the way I normally do things, I looked into the ways you should raise strawberries, and I believe these basic ideas are still sound.
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Care can vary by type and growing method
Let’s talk more deeply about this. You need to know the variety of strawberry you grow. Very easy question in that you either have June bearing or everbearing. Also, how are you growing your strawberries — in a garden, raised beds or a container?
June bearing strawberries were the workhorse of the strawberry patch I had. My personal opinion was the June bearing were bigger than the everbearing and produced massive amounts of strawberries. The June bearing had a limitation of being in production around June and that was it. The June plants are bigger, so putting them in raised beds or containers never crossed my mind. Everbearing strawberries are a smaller plant and can be grown in raised beds or in containers easier.
The June bearing strawberries I would trim back by mid-summer — the green parts of the plants — and allow the stolens or runners to remain, encouraging the growth. The runners would take off and some of the plant would begin to grow some for protection during the winter.
If you cut the plants back this time of year, they likely will not make it. Just leave the plants alone whether everbearing or June bearing. The freezing and thawing can be hard on the strawberries.
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Protecting your plants with mulch
I would mulch my plants before the bitter cold of winter would set in. Seems like we may have just a little more time, but not much.
As a landscaper and keeping this strawberry patch for a few years, I have learned the mulch can reduce the number of weeds you have to get rid of next year. Otherwise, the weeds will reduce the nutrients available for your strawberry production next year.
Straw is the standard for mulching everbearing and June bearing strawberries for which these plants are named. I have seen leaves — which can smother a strawberry easily — shredded leaves, pine needles, newspaper print and grass used for mulch. Each has good qualities and bad qualities. One important thing you don’t want to do is to bury your plants. Plants will be smothered under too much mulch. Fall is the best time to mulch strawberries.
When the foliage on the strawberries begin to turn, you can begin to mulch a few inches deep. If you have a pot of everbearing strawberries, you have to keep in mind that the roots of this plant will freeze. Remove the strawberry from the pot and plant in an open bed for the winter and mulch. A frost-free garage that gets cool will be a good alternative if you can’t plant it.
Have a great stroll through your garden this week. It will take more effort to enjoy the color in your garden, except for those amazing colorful leaves. I still saw some hydrangea flowers in bloom that were beside a building and underneath leaves.
If you have a challenge in your garden as you go on your stroll, drop me an email at [email protected]. Soon you can leave you comments on the blogs I will leave at my website, ohiohealthyfoodcooperative.org. Thank you for participating in our column.
Eric Larson of Jeromesville is a veteran landscaper and gardening enthusiast and a founding board member of the Ohio Chapter of Association of Professional Landscape Designers. He encourages your gardening questions by sending an email to [email protected].