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How to renovate, renew, and maintain a strawberry bed

Feb 08, 2012 -
   
  How to renovate, renew, and maintain a strawberry bed
Strawberries are a beautiful and delicious addition to your garden. Follow our easy steps to keep your beds in top form.
 
   

Once you have a strawberry bed going, you need to renovate and renew it every year, to maintain healthy yields.

June-bearer and Everbearer beds should be renewed. Day Neutral strawberries should simply be replaced after three years.

STRAWBERRIES ARE VIGOROUS PLANTS

As the strawberries increase you want to keep the beds from becoming overcrowded (which would reduce yield and could encourage diseases).

It sounds rather sedate when you read that “strawberry plants spread by sending out runners”.

To get the real sense of those runners, think 50-yard dash if you have June-bearer strawberries. Enjoy these athletes of the vegetable kingdom, but do some post-season training to keep them in check.

Everbearer strawberries produce runners too, in the Junior Varsity for speed, but they also need supervision.

Your coaching duties begin after the last strawberry harvest.

STRAWBERRY HARVEST DATES

June-bearers or Short Day will produce over a 3 - 4 week period. It won’t be in June if you live in Southern California or Florida; your strawberry season could be as early as March. For cool climates, harvest will be closer to June.

Everbearer strawberries produce throughout the summer, either in distinct crops or continuously.

DO A SOIL TEST AFTER THE FINAL HARVEST

Strawberries grow best in slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.0 - 6.5. Test your soil at the end of the harvest. If you need to make your soil more acid, add a phosphorus rich fertilizer. Since strawberries are also fond of potassium, look for a fertilizer that is high in the last two numbers, like Dr. Earth Bud and Bloom Booster.

Many organic fertilizer options are waiting for you in the Find Fertilizer Solutions guide on our Fertilizer page; for instance, click on Potassium or Phosphorus for your range of choices.

CUT & THIN STRAWBERRY PLANTS RIGHT AFTER HARVEST

Blow the whistle after the last harvest.

All varieties of strawberry plants should be cut back to a height of 2 inches. How you cut depends on the planting method you’re using.

Pull any weeds before you start renovation.

Matted Row Method

June-bearers are often planted with this method, and the runners spread all over the bed. If planted on the ground, it’s easy to cut the plants back with a lawn mower set high enough to leave 2” of stems above the crowns.

Matted rows in a raised bed should be cut back by hand.

Popular row widths on the ground, for easy picking, are 18” - 24”, with 24” paths between the rows. By the time of harvest the rows will have runners making them wider than 24”. Narrow the row to a pickable size again by hoeing the runners from the edges, reducing the row to about 12” across. Or if the “mother” plants in the center of the row are declining in vigor, hoe out the center of the row and leave two rows of “daughter” plants on the edges, as the basis for two new rows.

After you hoe, pull out the least healthy plants, leaving 5 or 6 robust plants for each square foot.

Hill Method

Hilling is popular for Everbearer strawberries. You will not have as many runners to deal with here. Use garden scissors or shears to cut the plants back to 2” above the crowns.

*Whichever cutting method you use, rake away the cut leaves and compost them, if your plants are disease-free.

FERTILIZE

Choose your fertilizer according to your soil test results, apply, brush off any on the leaves, and water in well.

CULTIVATE

If you’ve been using organic matter for mulch, turn it in to the soil (if you can do so without damaging shallow roots) or add it to your compost pile.

Add 1/2” of compost around the crowns to encourage new roots.

Keep the bed weeded and then mulch it before the first frost.

ROTATE

Follow good organic gardening practices and rotate your crops regularly. Strawberries are particularly susceptible to the soil disease verticillium wilt. To avoid this disease:

1) Rotate the strawberries to a new location every 3 years.
2) Do not plant strawberries in a bed where you recently grew solanaceous plants (tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, peppers).

FOR MORE INFO on starting a new bed, watch our video of Tricia setting up irrigation and red plastic mulch, then planting out a strawberry bed.

We send a Strawberries Planting & Growing Guide with each purchase of our strawberry plants, with details on how to heel in, plant, and harvest the many kinds of strawberries we carry.

We read all the new books on organic and edible gardening, and for strawberry growers we especially recommend two books:

* Grow the Best Strawberries, an all-strawberries-all-the-time 32 page booklet in the reliable Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin series.

* The new guide to all things fruity, The Fruit Gardener’s Bible, is a big, colorful tome. If you already own The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible you’ll understand why we’re excited about this hot-off-the-presses book.

Valuable university articles are Growing Strawberries from Purdue, Growing Strawberries from the University of Illinois, and Strawberries in the Home Garden from North Carolina State.

Keep your team of strawberry plants thriving, year in and year out.


Categories: Berry Plants, Strawberry Plants, Fruits & Berries, Edible Landscaping, Urban Gardening & farming


Sandra Trank Says:
Feb 9th, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I had decided last summer to make a strawberry hill. Not quite like yours, it was just an idea I had. I didn’t cut them back though and wonder as it is still winter here in NY, can I cut them now or should I leave them alone? They were all pretty healthy and I had lots of daughters that I had to help find a spot to root in. I planted late but still got some nice berries. I look forward to this year as its their second season and should produce more but now I wonder if by not cutting them back, it will hinder the yeild. Thanks for any advice you can give me.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Feb 14th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Sandra, It sounds like you already thinned the strawberries to some extent by moving the daughter plants around? In any event, do not cut the plants back now. Wait until after the harvest of 2012. Sounds like a nice hill you have going!

Donja Garvey Says:
Feb 19th, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Charlotte, I read about successful plantings of strawberries in half-barrels. Is this a worthwhile planting container? I gravitated toward this idea since I live in Granite Bay, CA, outside of Roseville, and the soil is so full of clay that I’ve had trouble with keeping my plants robust. I also thought the barrels might deter the snails. Thanks for any advice.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Feb 20th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Donja, Yes, that sounds like a great container for strawberries! Container gardening is a wonderful answer to the tricky soil problem. If the snails do find your containers, go to our Pest Control page and click in the Solutions Finder (left side bar) for Snail & Slug controls http://www.groworganic.com/weed-pest-control.html

Rachel Says:
Mar 21st, 2012 at 7:37 am

Donja, do you know anyone who has rabbits? I’m in New Hampshire, but my soil was so heavy with clay that weeds wouldn’t grow up on their own because the roots couldn’t push through the ground. Well, anyway I have a rabbit who uses organic corn cob as his litter mixing it deep, has helped a ton.

DeAnna Says:
Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Charlotte, I was wondering if strawberries would work on a trellis?  I have just one, with a rectangular container on each side, and I was thinking maybe strawberries might work. Can you help? Thanks!

Donja Says:
Apr 23rd, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hi Rachel! I hadn’t checked back on this post for some time and so I just saw your suggestion about rabbit litter from organic corn cobs to break up the soil! I had to laugh because I’ve had two house rabbits for a couple of years and have dutifully changed their litter and thrown it away in the trash. I never thought of using this as an effective compost for breaking up heavy clay soil.
Charlotte, is there any reason why this wouldn’t work in my garden from a health standpoint? I know people who mix in horse and chicken manure from friends who have bountiful supplies, but is it safe to mix in rabbit pellets?
Thanks for the great tips!

Trina Delamare Says:
May 14th, 2012 at 8:33 am

I aquired strawberries from my neighbors. These produced berries for me last year with our mild weather June thru October! And the berries were nice and large. I have a garden made out of landscape bricks wich have V shaped pockets that I filled with dirt and put all the strawberries in so the can hang over, I can reach them easily and the plants make the bricks look nice.

Sharon Mickelson Says:
Nov 12th, 2012 at 4:16 pm

How do I recognoize an “old” strawberry plant?  is it a clump of plants that looks very strong?  Should these always be discarded/composted and only the young, single plants be kept?  thanks!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 29th, 2013 at 11:50 pm

DeAnna,

Strawberries send out runners but they are not vines that climb and grip supports. I have read that if you tie some of the runners to trellises you can have a vertical garden—but they don’t produce much fruit. Hanging baskets, or wall pockets attached to walls or fences, are happier homes for strawberries.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 29th, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Donja, Rabbit pellets are excellent manure in the garden. They are not “hot” the way chicken manure is, so you can consider putting them directly on the soil, without composting them first. Some gardeners are concerned about pathogens in uncomposted manure, and they add the pellets to a compost pile instead. Up to you. One thing to consider is how close your berries are to the pellets. You don’t want the berries to touch the pellets.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 29th, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Trina, Your strawberries and bricks sound beautiful!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 30th, 2013 at 12:06 am

Sharon, Older plants are fine as long as they are still producing. They will be the plants at the center of the clumps. Choose between them and the younger, single plants. Discard one or the other. Cut the remaining plants back to 2” height after the harvest.

Holly Dumont Says:
Feb 5th, 2013 at 11:16 am

Day Neutral Strawberries should not be renovated.  Instead they should be removed every 3 years and a new bed started.

I grow Mara des Bois Strawberries in Coastal Central California.

Nourse Farms has some good articles on renovating berries, planting, etc.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Feb 6th, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Thank you Holly Dumont, I appreciate the correction and will revise the post.

Nancy Says:
Feb 26th, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I have June & Ever-bearing in Nevada City and know now that I need to thin after harvest.
My question is do I fertilize or amend the soil now?  Also, if rains are sparse
how much water is needed by hand?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Mar 4th, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Nancy, June bearing strawberries are usually fertilized at renovation of the bed and ever bearers after their first harvest. In both cases, fertilizing in the spring can create soft fruit and too much nitrogen will in fact thwart fruit production and increase leafiness. 

With all strawberries, it is better to under-feed than over-do. Blood meal for nitrogen and bone meal for phosphorus are the organic means of feeding, but a well-balanced, all-around fertilizer is also beneficial as an alternative.  Either can be applied as directed once a month, from June into September, being careful to water in thoroughly and not leaving any residue on the leaves or flowers.

Strawberries like to be deeply watered during their growing season - one to two inches a week depending on the weather. During this dry winter, it would not hurt to water every few weeks, especially before frosts being sure not to saturate the soil so that it, in fact, becomes an ice cube itself.

Mary Jean Says:
Mar 25th, 2013 at 12:02 pm

so—-I did NOT renovate my June bearing OR my Ever-bearing strawberries at the end of season. 
Now what do I do?  they both look pretty sad

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Mar 28th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Mary Jean, First, clean away any debris that have accumulated and clean out any dead or really old plants. Keep all the babies from last year and cut their “umbilical chords” from their parent plant, if still intact. 

Loosen the soil slightly without doing root damage (this can be hard if the soil compacted over the winter - see mulching below, it helps prevent this).

If your plants have not already begun to flower, place seedless straw around the plants leaving just a small opening where the plants will green up. This inhibits the plants from flowering too soon and possibly being killed by frosts. As the plant emerges with the warming soil, pull the mulch back further to allow growth. This is also the time to give them some well balanced fertilizer as a side dressing (not touching the leaves). 

You can feed them again after the harvest and then work compost and peat into your beds next fall when you cull out the old growth and revitalize the bed for the “young’uns”.

Max Says:
May 4th, 2013 at 12:54 am

I’m in So Cal.  I started a new raised bed 2’ wide by 6’ long, planted with 24 Fort Laramie everbearers.  The bed is covered with black plastic and I have Netafim 0.6gph drippers on 12” centers under the soil surface.  I am watering every other day, 20 min / 20min early am and early evening.  The plants started off very nicely after planting on Mar 13, and are now sending out runners. Everything is still green, but the leaves seem to be a bit dry and are curling upward some in the warm weather that hit this week. I’m not sure if if I’m overwatering or underwatering. All 8 of my raised beds are on the same drip system and watering schedule and all are doing very well, especially the squash, corn, melons, cucumbers, beans, kale, eggplant and tomatoes.  I’m wondering if this just wasn’t the right cultivar of it this is to be expected, or if everything is OK with my plants.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
May 6th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

While Fort Laramie is best suited for colder areas of the US, they should still be productive in southern California.

With the use of the plastic mulch, the plants may be sitting in too damp a soil. The other culprits could be lack of nutrients and too deep a planting depth, but those do not correspond to the growth you have been experiencing so far. As long as it is the outer leaves that are drying and not the inner leaves near the crown, they should be okay. You might try giving them kelp in their next watering to help with the stress they are experiencing.

bukky obazenu Says:
Aug 29th, 2013 at 7:36 am

hi everyone, I live in jos plateau state , nigeria and I just planted my strawberries in containers and hanging baskets. how often should I fertilize them and with what. I added cow manure generously when planting. I also blanted some bare roots but so far no sign of life. any advice?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Sep 18th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Bukky, Oklahoma State says that cow manure has these Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium values (N .5 to 2) (P .2 to .9) (K .5 to 1.5). You should add fertilizer with higher P to balance the cow manure. If you can do a soil test easily, please do so. Then you can adjust the fertilizers accordingly. In any event, use our Fertilizer Solutions Finder http://groworganic.com/media/pdfs/FertilizerChartWeb2013.pdf to see which organic amendments or fertilizers would balance the Nitrogen, while adding the higher P and K that strawberries want. How are your bare roots doing?

Kristie Says:
Jun 5th, 2014 at 6:52 am

We planted strawberries last spring. As directed I cut back the runners and flowers. This spring the plants have grown large with lots of runners and tons of small, red sour strawberries. Do I need to thin the plants in hopes of getting sweet strawberries later this summer? What is the best way to do so? Cut the plants way back?

Stephanie Brown Says:
Jun 5th, 2014 at 8:31 am

Hello Kristie,

Don’t despair, the sweetness of strawberries is tied to the weather. You will probably get sweeter strawberries later in the season. Sunny weather that isn’t too hot produces sweet strawberries. The plants make less sugar in cloudy, cool weather.

Rich Says:
Jul 4th, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I have 2 raised beds full of strawberries but have a real problem with sow bugs and earrigs getting the ripe ones before me any ideas? Thanks,Rich

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