Strawberry Plants/Runners Season Wrap Up - Winterizing Suggestion

topnotchveggieSeptember 29, 2007

This was the first year I purchased strawberry plants from the garden center and transplanted them in pots/planters. To the best of my knowledge it seems as if I did fairly well with the mother plants establishing strong root systems in addition to the amount of runners that were produced throughout the growing season. I kept "replanting" the "runners" in the dirt in hopes they would root. So now I have a few questions.

1. How/when do I know when to cut the runners off from the original (mother) plant so they will survive on their own? How close to the mother plant do I make the cut?

2. The fall season is here (September) and I would like these plants to thrive next season, so what's the proper technique/procedure to winterize them to keep them viable for years to come?

3. I presume because its the "end of season," a number of leaves are beginning to brown, do I keep them on, and let nature takes it's course, or do I remove them?

I may have other questions in the future, thanks for taking the time to help me out.

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1. Did the runners you stuck in the dirt root or not? I assume you know that they root beneath the rosette of leaves at the end of a runner. If there are roots under these new rosettes, you can remove the rest of the runner completely, and you will have a stand-alone plant. If you buried the runners before leaf rosettes formed, you may have prevented the formation of new plants.

2. You don't really winterize containerized strawberries. You move them to a location, such as a garage, shed, or basement, where the roots and the soil will not freeze solid. There is no need to do this until night temperatures fall significantly below freezing, and stay that way. Let the plants go dormant outdoors before moving them into a protected area, which should not be warm enough to break them out of dormancy. Put them back outdoors when temperatures are just creeping back up to 30 degrees or so. Strawberries are tough, and can stand a lot of cold, but they can't be allowed to freeze solid.

3. It is normal for strawberry leaves to die and turn brown as the plant enters dormancy. You can remove them if you like. The important thing is to keep the roots and crown healthy, and protect them from a very hard freeze.

4. It is difficult to keep the same containerized strawberry plants going for years. At least every two years, you should dump out and renew the soil, and replant the younger, more vigorous plants. Do this in very early spring, before the plants come out of dormancy. Throw out plants that have elongated crowns and have been around for two years or more, since their berry production and size will decline substantially.

5. Did you get any strawberries this past season, and what type of strawberry are you growing?

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 10:00PM
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Thanks Jellyman!

Answers (and some more questions) to your questions:

I figured out that the roots form below the rosette of leaves and planted them throughout the growing season in the dirt. What a pain it is sometimes to keep those runners in the ground without popping up.

How far/close to the mother plant(s)/daughter plant(s) do I cut the runners off?

I did get a few miniature berries throughout the early part of the season, but without much (human) assistance they spent the past season establishing the root system. I have heard some say that you should pinch off the first set of flowers, while others say it doesn't matter? I can understand the theory about you wanting the plant to use all its energy to establish a solid root system. What's your experience with this topic?

Dormancy: Is there a general rule of thumb to how long it takes the plants to become dormant? What are some of the visible signs? At this point (early fall), most of the plant leaves are green, with the rest turning brown and becoming dust.

It was mentioned that strawberry growers cover the plants with mulch or hay for the winter? What's your take?

Thanks for helping me out.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 2:27PM
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crabjoe(z7 MD)

I have strawberry plants I planted a couple years ago and I don't do anything other then thin them out in late fall. I've got plants I got from Don (Jellyman) earlier this year and they're doing great too.

With that said... All I do when I want to transplant is just cut the runner with a shovel. I don't trim or cut closer to mother or baby plant. A cut then I moved the rooted runner.

I hope that helps and I hope you get a bumper crop next year. Personally, I can't wait to get fruit from the plants I got from Don. Don says the berries aren't good because they're not tart enough, but for me, I like LARGE sweet berries! :)

Thanks again for the plants Don!! BTW, how did your sweet potatoes turn out?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 8:29PM
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Each sweet potato plant on the berm now has big potatoes underneath, and there are 20 plants. So far, I have dug 6, working with my hands only in the soft soil, and each hill has at least 1 or 2 potatoes over 5 lbs. each, plus several medium size potatoes of a pound or two. Largest one so far is a little over 7 pounds, but they are orange and stringless all the way through. You could feed a family for an entire week with one of these big guys.

If you are in the area, please stop by and get some. There is no way we will be able to deal with all these sweet potatoes even if we eat them all winter and give them away to our children and neighbors. The variety is Beauregard, from LSU, and the dry summer does not seem to have slowed them down, and may actually have improved their quality.


Sometimes I am not sure I am getting through to you. Containerized plants have different requirements from those grown in the ground. You must protect the container from freezing solid. Mulching them on top would make little difference. Mulching is only useful in very cold climates to prevent freeze/thaw cycles, and I never use it here. Crabjoe is correct that it makes no difference where you cut a runner, or whether you cut it at all. If the new runner has rooted, you have a new, independent plant.

Plants will become dormant when temperatures tell them to do so. There is no rule of thumb for that; it depends on your climate.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 10:29PM
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Crabjoe and Jellyman,
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Your right, Crabjoe, I can't wait until next year to have the fruits of my labor. Let's all hope for a bumper crop.

Jellyman, Thanks for clarifying the follow-up questions I had asked earlier. Being a first time grower, I guess we all learn by going out in the field and experiencing things first hand.

Til the next time.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 9:32AM
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My strawberries have produced their fruit for this year. I have noticed the soil is in poor condition (hard) and i must add its time to replacing with new runners, the runners and just now coming on, im wanting to dig up the plants and add some peat moss and sand to help the soil, in hopes this will loosen up soil... when is a good time to do this? Plus is the peat moss and sand a good idea?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 12:33AM
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