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How To Prepare And Protect Your Strawberry Plants For Winter!

Winter is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to start preparing and protecting your strawberry plants for a long winter’s nap!

Whether you grow strawberries in the garden, raised beds, or pots and containers – they need protection from winter’s fury. Not only for their survival, but for strong growth and production next year too.

protect strawberry plants
To get your strawberries to come back strong in the spring, it is important to put them to bed properly this fall.

But how you protect them correctly depends on two important factors.

The first is knowing which variety you grow – June bearing or everbearing? While the second depends on where and how you grow your strawberries – whether it be in a garden setting, raised bed, or in containers.

With that in mind, here is a in-depth look at how to properly protect your strawberry plants. No matter how or what variety you grow!

How To Prepare & Protect Strawberry Plants For Winter

Protecting June Bearing Strawberries

June bearing strawberries get their name from their intense production that most often occurs (depending where you live) near or around the month of June.

They are almost always planted in garden settings or permanent raised beds, and rarely planted as a container plant.

June Bearing
June bearing strawberries produce their entire crop over a two to three week period. Because of this, their care is different from everbearing strawberries.

June bearing varieties produce all their crop at once. Because of this, they require different care than everbearing varieties of strawberry plants, both in the summer and to protect them for winter.

Once June bearing plants have completed their fruiting cycle, they should be cut and trimmed back. This usually takes place in the month of July.

Cutting back plants after they have completed fruiting helps regenerate new growth for the following year’s crop. And by doing so in mid-summer, it also allows them enough time to grow a bit of foliage for winter protection.

protecting strawberry plants
June bearing strawberries should be cut back in July after their harvest.

If you did not happen to cut back your plants this summer, whatever you do, don’t cut them back in the fall!

It is far better at this point to simply leave their foliage in place. If not, they simply can’t grow enough protection back to survive the freezing and thawing of winter, and most likely will perish.

Fall Care For June Bearing Strawberry Plants

June bearing strawberry plants, even with their late season foliage growth, need to be mulched before the bitter cold of winter sets in.

mulching strawberries for winter
Straw is one of the best mulches for strawberry plants. It is loose enough to allow water and air through, but keeps plants protected.

It not only protects the strawberry plants from freezing plants out, but keeps competing weeds too. Weeds that can steal nutrients and impact production levels next year.

For mulching, straw, shredded leaves, and pine needles are all great options. Apply a few inches of mulch around and over top of the plants, being careful not to smother them too deep.

spring growth
June bearing strawberries emerging from the mulch as spring arrives.

Avoid using whole leaves as they can compact and snuff the oxygen from the plants below. Mulching should take place in late fall, as the plants go dormant and begin to lose their leaves.

One last note, as with all perennial plants, avoid fertilizing in late fall. The new growth that could result will actually put the plants in more danger of freezing out over winter. (See: Why Not To Fertilize Perennials In The Fall)

Protecting Everbearing Strawberries

Unlike June bearing strawberry varieties, everbearing strawberries produce their fruit all season long. They can grow in traditional garden settings, raised beds, and are also excellent choices for container plantings.

And how you grow your everbearing strawberry plants determines just how you need to protect them.

Protecting Bed Planted Everbearing Strawberries

Because everbearing varieties produce all season long, they are never cut back. But even though they keep their foliage in-tact up until the first frost, they still need a bit of protection to get them through winter.

Just as with the June bearing plants, garden or bed planted everbearing strawberries should get a few inches of straw or shredded leaves in late fall.

Bed planted everbearing strawberry plants still need to be mulched before winter.

As the plants go into dormancy and their foliage begins to turn, it’s time to mulch! Again, straw, pine needles or shredded leaves a few inches deep is the best option for protecting the strawberry plants.

Protecting Everbearing Strawberries In Pots & Containers

Potted everbearing strawberry plants simply can’t protect their roots from freezing without a bit of extra insulating help.

You really have two option when it comes to protecting potted strawberries – bringing them indoors, or digging the pots into the ground for winter.

potted strawberry plants
Potted plants need additional protection for their roots to keep from freezing out.

If you have an open flowerbed or garden setting, you can dig out an area the size of the container. Then, simply “plant” the pot into the soil, and apply a few inches of mulch over top.

If that is not an option, bring plants into a garage or basement that is cool, but does not freeze. When bringing into a garage setting, always place pots against an interior heated wall to help give them a bit of extra protection.

There is no need for additional mulch for plants brought indoors.

Here is to protecting your strawberry plants this winter. And to healthy plants and a big harvest next year! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.

For more on strawberries, see our How To Plant & Grow Strawberries

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