KC Gardens

Mulching strawberries for winter

Tip of the Week

Winter officially arrives later this week, which means colder days are ahead of us before we see spring. For those growing strawberries there is one last season-ending chore: make sure your strawberries are protected in some fashion so they can make it through the winter.

Young plants, as well as established beds, need mulch for winter protection. Severe cold temperatures can kill fruit buds and injure roots and crowns. Winter mulch should be applied after plants have been exposed to several frosts and growth has stopped. Usually, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a good time to cover strawberries with mulch. The layer of mulch will insulate the plants from extreme temperature fluctuations.

Wheat straw makes good mulch and is widely available. The straw should be spread over the plants to a depth of 3 inches. Shake the flakes of straw apart so that heavy chunks don’t smother plants. If you don’t have straw then fallen leaves can be used.

Mulching plants helps protect strawberries not only from low temperatures but also from frost heaving damage. Frost heaving damage occurs when the alternating freezing and thawing soil surface temperatures common in Kansas’ winters heave plants out of the ground where they can die.

This straw mulch not only helps protect the plants over winter, but can also help avoid damage from late spring frosts by delaying blooming a few days in the spring. During spring, as plants push through the straw, remove part of the mulch from the top of the plant, leaving the rest to conserve moisture and to keep the fruit off the soil.

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