When to cover strawberries for winter?

molanic(Zone 5 IL)November 20, 2007

I started a new strawberry bed this year with mostly the Cavendish variety I think. Some were new plants, some were transplanted from a failed container planting of them. I got some straw to cover them with for the winter, but am not sure at what point to apply it. We have had several frosts without snow but the leaves are for the most part still bright green and going strong. From what I read you are supposed to cover them before it gets down to 20F which is supposed to happen later this week with our first snow. Is it okay to cover them in preparation for the big chill even if they are still full of green leaves, or will that cause them to rot. I am in zone 5, near Chicago and the temperature swings can be pretty significant in winter. One day you need a parka and long underwear, then a few days later you can go without even a jacket.

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Don't cover them. They don't really need it. You will cause more problems with rot and rodents.

Put the straw down ~late March/early April to keep the berries/aisles clean if you want.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 6:00AM
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alan haigh

Covering only causes a problem when applied too early. You will generally increase your yeilds if you protect your plants with salt hay or leaves but you should wait until the soil first freezes a couple inches down. At least that is the residue of my long past experience. I stopped growing strawberries when my fruit trees started pumping- got tired of pulling weeds.

At the end of hard frost (below 28 degress F.) you must remove the mulch and cover with floating row cover until plants begin to bloom than use cover only on frosty nights.

I believe this will greatly increase your harvest.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 6:25PM
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I pulled my share of weeds too.

For real frost protection for strawberries, you need a temperature alarm and overhead irrigation/watering. A row cover may be marginally effective if you don't have many plants.

In our location, the alarm usually began to ring between 4 and 6 am and the water/irrigation was run until the sun was shining on the leaves (7:30-8 am).

I don't know what was worse, getting up early or turning on the 50 HP electric pump (I always thought it was going to blow). Thankfully no more berries for me.

At home we grow day neutral and everbearing and don't have to worry about frost protection much. Of course, the berries trickle in over the spring and fall versus all at one like the junebearers.

My uncles had/have PYO berries in Nebraska and don't mulch for winter protection- it is for looks and city folks who show up in nice clothes, lol.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 7:57AM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Well, I'm thinking I'm going to try the simplest method this year and leave them uncovered. Many of the plants that are in the bed now are ones that had cascaded over a barrel planting and attached to the ground. They made it through last winter fine. It is a small bed, not a large operation so losing it would not be all that bad. I was reminded today that some of the best strawberries I ever saw and ate were from an Amish pick your own operation near my family in Wisconsin. They had huge fields and I don't think they did any mulching, row covers, and certainly not anything high tech. The soil there was probably more suited to strawberries than ours though.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 1:02PM
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alan haigh

Jeez, first you ask the proper time to mulch and we go to all the effort to clarify things (though I think Kurt was a bit over the top- most people harvest strawberries with no protection at all in my climate) and than you say Oh, never mind. I think maybe I'll go back to giving people advice only when they pay me. Nahh, I can't help myself.

Of course you can grow strawberries without protection- it's not about protecting the plants from dying. It's to keep them from being heaved out of the ground during the winter which sets them back but won't usually kill them.

In the spring, blossum killing frost only reduces your crop it usually doesn't destroy it. With June bearing berries the earlier you can get them to fruit the better because the first hot spell quickly ends the harvest season.

You're welcome for the free advice, I'm actually doing this to hone my writing chops and to serve my ego. Best, Alan Haigh

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 4:47PM
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I planted my first strawberry bed last year, they grew like mad I picked the fruit right away so as to encourage growth and and abundance in the bed. I covered with straw last year, now when I uncovered yesterday there is only 1 plant. Could they be underground, will they sprout, or do I need to start all over again? Any help is appreciated. Additional note, there is no sign of rodents so I don't think the several missing plants were eated? Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 5:30PM
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You prob need to start over, I've never heard of crowns that were not visible and came back.

I stand by the mulch advice above- generally not needed and brings problems.

Also, commercial/pyo growers no longer are debudding plants as was practice in the past. At one time we had special rakes made from sticks and combs for picking off buds, that hasn't been the practice for 10+ years now. You'd be better to increase plant density than try to promote runner growth by picking blossoms.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 3:40PM
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greenhaven(SW MI z6)

If I may be so bold, I have a question to throw in here:

I also put in a bed last year, I think it is a mix of Ozark Beauty and Sparkle Supreme berries. One of those pyramid beds, which was a MAJOR mistake. Bleh.

I digress. Anyway....I didn't mulch or cover mine at all so I got a lot of leaf dieback, but the crowns all lok just as insanely healthy as they did in the Fall, and there is already new green coming up. The question is this:

What in the world do I do with those browned and half-browned leaves? Leave 'em? Trim them carefully to avoid the new growth? Or shave the whole dang thing down now, while there is still a month before our last frost date?


    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 3:48PM
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