Since they are perennial plants, overwintering strawberries is the best thing you can do to ensure their survival throughout the cold winter months. As temperatures drop, your strawberry plants can suffer from cold injury or even die.
If you are looking for guidance on ensuring that your strawberry plants survive winter, look no further. Our gardening experts have created a comprehensive guide on overwintering strawberries, whether they’re in the ground or in containers.
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- How to Overwinter Strawberries: A Complete Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Overwinter Strawberries: A Complete Guide
As the cooler months approach, beginners wonder how to protect their strawberry plants over winter. For most gardeners working in harsh climates, overwintering strawberries isn’t a choice but a necessity.
That’s why we have put together a complete guide on how to overwinter strawberries. If you’ve been wondering about the basics of wintering strawberries, you’re in the right place – keep on reading for more information.
Overwintering strawberries is a very involved process. The care these delicate plants require actually begins in late summer, before the official wintering process. If you’re wondering how to store strawberry plants over winter, we can break it down into five simple steps. Let’s discuss each in detail below.
– Finding Out the Type of Wintering
Some of us grow strawberry plants in the ground while others grow them in containers. Because these plants are so delicate, there’s a different way of overwintering strawberries in each case.
– Wintering Strawberries in the Ground
Once you know the steps, overwintering strawberries in the ground is a relatively simple process. Strawberries as a whole can survive mild winter temperatures because they are so cold-hardy. However, they require more care in locations with harsh winters. When wintering strawberries in the ground, this is done via mulching.
If the temperature where you live falls to the low twenties in Fahrenheit, you need to overwinter strawberries with mulching. Layer either pine needles or straw mulch about two to three inches thick. If you live in an extremely cold climate (lower USDA Hardiness Zones), you will require more insulating mulch.
Whichever mulch you end up choosing, make sure that it isn’t too tightly compacted. Overwintering strawberries requires mulch with airflow. If there is no airflow, the mulch will trap moisture and breed bacteria that can damage your beloved strawberry plants.
– Overwintering Strawberries in Containers
If your strawberry plants are in containers instead of in the ground, don’t worry – you can still overwinter them. The main thing to remember here is that while the shoots are tough, the same can’t be said for the roots. The roots are extremely delicate and need to be taken care of; if they die, the entire plant will die.
Since most containers don’t provide insulation, they’re susceptible to cold drafts. In order to manage this, it’s essential to control the temperature. It should be low enough that the strawberry plant is cold and alive but not so low that it freezes.
– How You Can Do This
The way to do this is to gradually lower the temperature and allow the strawberry plant to make its own version of antifreeze. The roots and stems will produce sugars and prevent the plant from freezing. Keep the plants in their containers for many weeks before exposing them to the cold so they have time to strengthen their roots.
For example, if they will be exposed to the cold in November, they need to be in containers and shelters starting in October. Shelters can consist of thermal blankets, fleece plant blankets, plastic coverings (with wood frames), or unheated Quonset poly houses covered with polyethylene.
You can also use mulch, but you will require much more mulch because a larger surface area is exposed.
– Renovating Strawberry Plants
Once you’ve harvested the fruit from strawberry plants, it is time for them to be renovated. This is usually done in late summer or early fall. Once you notice that the strawberry plants are no longer producing fruit, it’s officially time for pre-winter renovation.
This includes cutting the plants back and removing the trimmings. As a rule of thumb, you should cut the plants back to just 5 cm (2 inches) high and take off the trimmings. By doing this, you’re preventing diseases and ensuring that insects don’t use your strawberry plants as a home.
You can remove the trimmings using hedge clippers for smaller strawberry patches and strawberries in containers. For larger areas like fields, you can use a lawnmower. However, it’s essential to keep the crown intact. Therefore, if you use a lawnmower, it will have to be with an elevated blade.
– Fertilizing Strawberry Plants
After renovating the strawberry plants, it’s time to fertilize them. The best time to fertilize them is at least one month before you expect frost, usually in the late summer or early fall months. This way, no new growth will be damaged by the frost. Any new growth that occurs will have the chance to mature before you experience the winter months.
For this, you can use late-season fertilizer and scatter the pellets over the ground. Rake these gently and water the plants with a drip instead of a sprinkler to prevent fungal diseases. If you’re growing strawberries organically, use aged compost and foliar mineral sprays instead. Use one pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 25 plants.
– Watering Strawberry Plants
After renovation and fertilizing, continue watering your strawberry plants until the first frost. Once the frost arrives and the plants become dormant, you won’t need to water strawberry plants growing in the ground.
However, when trying to overwinter strawberries in containers or garages, you’ll have to continue watering them to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out.
– Wintering Strawberries
The wintering strawberries process will start with dormancy. This process should start with a few light touches of frost.
If your strawberry plants have already stopped blooming, there’s no need to cover them up. However, if they’re still blooming, we would advise protecting them from the frost by covering them with a thermal blanket.
Temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-10C) can kill the flower buds, making it essential to protect them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly-asked questions and expert answers with regards to overwintering strawberries.
– Why Is Overwintering Strawberries Needed?
Overwintering strawberries is needed because without this dark and cool period, the plant will become weaker and more vulnerable to disease. This dormancy period results in decreased activity but doesn’t equate to total inactivity. The strawberry plant takes this time to rejuvenate and set its fruits.
Strawberries are perennial plants and produce fruit year after year. Despite setting flower buds in the fall, they’re not ready to pick until the spring. In the meantime, the lower temperatures and dormancy period help the strawberry plant build sugars in the stems and stolons to fruit in the spring.
Strawberry plants face another major problem. They are forbs, and thus don’t have thick barks to protect them. As a result, they’re especially vulnerable to cold injury and death in the winter months.
If this happens, you won’t be able to enjoy fresh strawberries in the spring, so some people deal with this by pulling out the strawberry plants and planting them again in the spring.
However, the cost of new plants and the time and effort that goes into replanting isn’t necessary – there’s another way. Some strawberry plant species can survive the winter months and remain productive.
These are called June-bearing strawberries and require care during the winter to maximize production. Strawberry varieties you can care for during the winter include Chandler, Surecrop, Honeoye, Allstar, Earliglow and more.
Day-neutral varieties like Fort Laramie, Tristar, Jewel and Albion aren’t suited for this. They get weaker and don’t fare well during the winter. However, if you have June-bearing strawberries, you’re in luck – overwintering strawberries can help protect them from the harsh winter and ensure you enjoy a high yield every year.
Therefore, overwintering strawberries is necessary if you intend to keep your plants healthy and enjoy their fruit.
– What Are the Benefits of Wintering Strawberries?
There are many benefits associated with overwintering strawberries, including improving their lifespan, saving time and money, and increasing yield. We will discuss some of the most important ones below so you can understand their importance.
– Increases the Plant’s Lifespan
Strawberry plants have a dormant phase in their life cycle. This phase is essential for the plant’s lifespan.
Strawberries can be kept indoors or at warmer temperatures, but this shortens their lifespan.
– Saves Time and Money
When you don’t overwinter strawberries, you have to plant them again year after year. However, by wintering strawberries, you save time by not having to do it again the following year. In addition to this, you will also save money since you don’t have to replenish the plant as often since it will live longer.
It’s also important to note that since overwintering strawberries increases yield, it will also save money you might have otherwise spent on getting fresh strawberries from the supermarket or farmer’s market.
– Increases Yield
Since strawberry plants are perennial, letting them go through a dormant stage optimizes production capability. This natural stage increases production in the plant’s second, third, fourth and even fifth years. Overwintering strawberries makes sure that the plant has a higher yield the following season.
When Is the Right Time to Overwinter Strawberries?
The right time for wintering strawberries is when the temperature has gotten cold enough to damage them and the plants have become dormant. However, this can be difficult to pin down since it varies from place to place. Depending on the daylight and temperature conditions, this can be in November or December in North America.
Most zones will see dormancy in either November or December. USDA Hardiness Zones 5 and lower usually see strawberry plants entering the dormancy stage by late November. However, strawberry plants go dormant in USDA Hardiness Zones 6, 7, and 8 in December.
You should also note that overwintering strawberries isn’t as important in places with mild winters. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 and higher, you likely won’t have to put in much in terms of winter care or mulch for your strawberry plants.
In essence, overwintering strawberries should begin after dormancy. This can be seen when the temperatures drop and you start noticing wilted vegetation on plants.
Growing strawberries in winter or maintaining strawberry plants in winter isn’t an easy process, but it is definitely possible by overwintering strawberries. Here is a summary that encapsulates everything we’ve discussed in the guide above:
- Preparing strawberries for the winter consists of a process including renovating, fertilizing, watering, and wintering strawberries, but the process will be different depending on your plant’s location.
- Strawberry plants are perennial and undergo a dormancy period to rejuvenate and set fruit.
- Since these plants don’t have thick bark to protect them, they are vulnerable to cold injury and death during harsh winters.
- Overwintering strawberries is primarily achieved through mulching and shelters.
- Overwintering is an important process that extends the plant’s life, protects it from harm, saves you time and money, and maximizes yield.
We hope you’ve learned how to care for strawberry plants over the winter from this guide and wish you a successful harvest of delicious strawberries come spring!