Let’s get your strawberries ready for winter!
One of the most common questions we get here at Nourse Farms this time of year is: “What do I need to do for my strawberries to make sure they survive the winter?”
Whether you grow strawberries for your home garden or for a large-scale farm operation, mulching is necessary in most northern states for protecting strawberry crowns over the winter.
Before we go any further, let’s be sure we’re all on the same page: strawberry crowns are the thickened part of the strawberry plant’s stem at its core, where you find the growing point at the upper end and the roots at its base.
Why is it important that we protect the crowns in the winter? Because quick freezing and thawing can cause serious crown damage, which may not only impact yield, but also plant survival. If temperatures drop below 20 degrees F, your strawberry crowns can sustain damage, which can cause your plants to have poor vigor, low to no blooms, or even be killed outright. We don’t want to see that happen, so let’s talk about what you need to do to protect your strawberry plants.
The experts here at Nourse Farms recommend applying approximately 4” of clean, seed-free straw or salt marsh hay after plants have started to go dormant or after 6–10 hard frosts. This adequate layer of mulch will help mitigate fluctuating temperatures.
We specifically recommend straw for a couple of reasons:
- Straw won’t smother your plants. Other mulches can.
- Straw can reduce the chances of injecting insects or other pathogens into your strawberry bed.
You’ll remove the mulch in early spring before the new growth starts. To determine if your straw should be removed, check the plants toward the middle of your planting. If you see signs of new growth or yellowing, remove the straw immediately. Removing the straw that is on top of the plants exposes them to sun and air.
Straw is a worthy investment for winter protection, but there are additional benefits that support plant and berry growth throughout the growing season. We recommend keeping some straw beneath the plants to help suppress weed development, to have an optimum surface for strawberries to sit while ripening, and to keep mud from splashing onto the fruit.
It is important that we mention, if cold temperatures are forecasted after you’ve removed the mulch, you must cover the plants again. A frost blanket or row cover can provide some degree of protection in the spring, but they must be removed by the time plants begin to bloom.
If you take care of your strawberries through all seasons, you’ll be rewarded with the “fruit of your labor,” year after year.
Have questions about protecting your strawberries over the winter? We’re here to help! Call us at 413-665-2658 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also invite you to refer to our Planting and Success Guide anytime.
Want to add a new variety of strawberry to your garden? Order now for next season!
Strawberry plants need to experience a little cold before being covered with straw.
Covering strawberry plants with straw in the winter helps to protect your crowns from the elements.
Uncover plants when temperatures warm, so plants are not growing under straw.
Leaving mulch beneath plants has multiple benefits other than impeding weed development.