What to Do With Strawberry Plants at the End of the Summer?
Strawberry plants grow low to the ground and produce runners. They self-propagate through "daughter" plants. Self-propagation assures several years of continued growth, with three to five years of continued fruit production. Like all perennials, though, strawberry plants need specific fall and winter protection for survival.
Successful strawberry patches begin with the right planting area and soil for long-term success -- and also makes protecting the plants during the winter an easier task. Plant strawberries to receive full sunshine and quick drainage all year to keep them healthy in both summer and winter. Use a generous amount of organic compost at planting to maintain soil quality, and keep the soil from flooding or freezing in fall and winter.
According to Purdue University, strawberry patches require yearly renovation in the fall to continue efficient growth and fruit production. Renovate your strawberry patch in late summer or fall, depending on the strawberry cultivar. Always start immediately after the last fruit harvest. This renovation eliminates old, finished plants and encourages new growth.
Give the strawberries 12-12-12 fertilizer at a rate of 4 to 6 lbs. per 100 feet of row. Mix the fertilizer into the top 2 inches of soil to encourage new runner development. Mow all foliage down to within 1 inch of the soil, and pull up excess growth to narrow the rows to 6 to 8 inches. Cover the rows with 1/2 inch of soil and water as usual, to allow for new growth.
Mulching and winter protection must follow renovation, to protect strawberries through the cold season. When new plants emerge from your renovated soil, water and weed them as usual until two to three weeks before the first frost of the season. At that time, give the new plants 12-12-12 fertilizer per manufacturer directions, then spread 4 to 5 inches of organic mulch, straw or shredded paper over the path. Maintain this layer through winter and turn it into the soil in spring.