When should you pull your strawberries up?
After reading our post about the perennial powers of strawberries, many of our friends were fired up. One pal in particular wrote:
You’re right. A post on this would be awesome. Thanks for your questions/suggestions. We’re gathering resources as you read. First, let’s talk about strawberries.
For sake of clarity, we want to point out that strawberry plants won’t necessarily provide fruit year-round in areas that aren’t blessed with temperate, sunny days all year long as is many parts of California. Gardeners who don’t enjoy a 12-month growing season can expect shorter production cycles, averaging about five months (but being as short as a few weeks in some areas). June-bearers (a.k.a. short-day) will fruit once each season, generally from mid-May to late June, and do well in the Midwest. Everbearing strawberries (a.k.a. long-day) generally fruit two to three times a year in most zones, usually intermittently during the spring, summer and fall. Things get murky about day-neutral strawberry plants: some people characterize them as everbearers, some don’t. At any rate, day-neutral strawberries produce flowers and fruit without regard to the length of daylight hours; as a result, fruiting and harvesting lasts as long as there is mild weather. (Side note: Everbearing is a pretty misleading title for a category, and as we mentioned in our other post, it might be easier to think in terms of photoperiodicity: short-day, long-day, day neutral. There.)
So, back to where we started. We know the plants are still kicking come wintertime, what should disposable-smiles (or anyone living in an area that gets cold) do with her strawberries when yonder winter comes? There are variables to consider: Winter temperatures and whether said strawberries are in containers or the ground. Let’s begin with a little background, though. In colder areas, strawberry plants go dormant until temperatures warm up (anybody else have that feeling?). Dormancy is marked by the plant’s leaves turning brown and dying (you can remove them if you like). It’s important to let the strawberry go dormant before taking winterizing action. If not, you run the risk of causing the crown to rot. Keeping your plant’s roots and crown healthy is the name of the game here, so don’t do that. Moving on.
Temperature (we’re talking Fahrenheit): Strawberry plants in zones 2-7 need winterized because the winter temperatures are just too dang cold. Strawberries are tough, but who wants to stand around naked during a blizzard in Iowa? Seattle, Wash., is somewhere in a zone 7 or 8, which means, as disposable-smiles pointed out, temperatures can drop into the teens or maybe even lower. Folks living in zones 8 and higher generally don’t have to make any preparations for their strawberry plants during winter. If you’re unsure what to do, a good bet is to give your plants some extra attention before the temperatures regularly start dipping below the 20s at night. OR: see what your neighbors are doing.
Winterizing your strawberries — container edition: After the plant has entered dormancy outside, move it to a garage/shed/basement/place where the freezing temperatures don’t occur. The protected area shouldn’t be warm enough to disturb the plant’s dormancy, so inside the house, next to the Christmas fire is a bad idea. If your location has dry air, you might consider giving your plant a little — little! — drink of water after three to five weeks. Put your container back outside once temperatures have reached the 30s.
Winterizing your strawberries — ground edition: Temperatures are creeping toward 20, the plant is dormant. Check. Next you’ll want to mulch your plants to insulate them (leave your runners, if you have ‘em); this protects them from the cold and also against heaving damage (alternate freezing and thawing can push them out of the ground). You can use wood chips, weed-free straw, chopped cornstalks, etc., for the mulch, just put down about two or three inches of it. Add more if and when it settles. No need to water. Remove the mulch once spring temperatures and growth begin.
- sproutrobot posted this