How to Care for Strawberry Plants in Winter
Once the growing season slows and strawberries (Fragaria x _ananassa)_are no longer being harvested regularly, start planning for winter. Since strawberries grow throughout the United States, from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10, many growers in many regions must prepare their plants for winter. If your region experiences winter, then avoid fertilizing plants late in the season; instead, prepare to mulch and cover the plants for winter.
When to Winterize
Strawberry plants should be exposed to two or three frosts before being put to bed for winter. Exposing them to these frosts helps harden them for the winter ahead. Waiting for frosts also ensures that the plants have stopped growing and that the soil is cold enough to prevent further growth.
Putting plants to bed too early can cause premature growth. Premature growth dies off, preventing successful summer harvests.
Protecting Strawberry Plants
Whether old or young, strawberry plants require the same type of winter protection. They should be covered in 4 to 6 inches of straw -- this is mulch -- and then covered over with heavy boards or soil to keep the straw in place.
For fruitful harvests, replace strawberry plants every three to five years. After three to five years the plants become too old to produce worthwhile harvests.
Wait for Spring
The purpose behind mulching and covering the plants is to maintain a steady rate of moisture and temperature. Mulch protects plants from drying winds as well as helping to retain heat.
Varying moisture and temperatures could cause the plant to grow prematurely, making it susceptible to frost and death. When the soil begins to warm, move back a small amount of mulch and cover to check for growth.
Once growth begins, remove mulch simultaneously with the rate of growth. This keeps exposure to a minimum but still allows the plant to thrive. As you gradually remove the mulch, leave some straw behind so that the strawberries aren't resting directly on soil. Once the threat of frost has passed, rake back the mulch.