How and when do you prepare strawberry plants for winter?
Strawberry plants don’t like cold temperatures. Cold winter temperatures and freezing + thawing of the soil are the main threats to strawberry plants. Strawberries should be mulched in fall before temperatures drop below +20 F (-6C) because the frost may destroy them: kill flower buds, damage the roots and crowns. Repeated freezing and thawing of the soil can heave plants out of the ground.
So, first of all winter care for strawberry plants must include mulch. Use any natural mulch such as pine needles, wood chips or straw. Some use shredded newspaper as mulch. Oat, rye, or wheat straw are the best mulching straw types because it isn’t heavy, is loose, and won’t smother the plants.
Allow the strawberry plants to harden or acclimate to cool fall temperatures before mulching. Let your strawberry plants go dormant. Plants can usually be identified as dormant by the older leaves, which will turn brown first. The younger leaves will turn from a bright green to a dull green or gray color. The ground should be frozen with sustained daytime temperatures very cold and close to freezing. If you cover strawberry plants too soon they may rot.
Apply loose straw to the row of strawberry plants 3 to 6 inches deep. It is also good to cover any exposed soil between rows or in the planting.
It is important to remove the straw mulch from the plants prior to them beginning to grow (before springtime as soon as the top 2-4 inches of soil have warmed to 4o degrees). Leave just a thin layer of straw over the plants. This will help to keep the strawberries clean and minimize contact with the dirt beneath.
In the fall check the strawberry beds and decide which plants you can move or remove entirely. Leave only strong and healthy plants. You should keep approximately 5 plants per square foot, with more space given to plants that produce vigorous and plentiful runners. Transplant healthy plants to extend the existing strawberry bed.