Berries and Brambles: Managing your Strawberry Plants

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Strawberry management focuses on weeding, watering, controlling the stolons, and renovating the strawberry patch. Some of these are ongoing such as weeding and watering while other ones like renovating will come in to play in year 2-3. Many of these practices will depend on what your strawberry setup looks like. Smaller plantings may control weeds with hand-weeding while rows of strawberries will need a more robust weed management strategy.

Once you've planted the strawberry plants, flowers will appear. If you remove these flowers in the spring of the first year, it can improve the strawberry establishment and lead to vigorous stolons. Known as runners, they will eventually develop their own roots resulting in a clone plant of the mother plant in the form of a daughter plant. These runners can develop to form additional plants in the matted row system. The runners may be cut if the strawberry plants are too vigorous and going into the aisle. The photo provided by University of Missouri shows what the anatomy of the strawberry plant looks like.

Weeding is mostly done by hand in a strawberry patch. Mulching, hand-pulling, and tilling can be effective weed strategies during the growing season. In winter, you'll want to cover the strawberry plants with straw mulch or leaves that can provide protection. The mulch can then be removed in the spring to the side of the strawberry row.

After a couple seasons, you may want to renovate your strawberry patch. The purpose of renovation is to keep your plants from becoming too crowded in the beds. A general renovation practice will be to apply 10-10-10 per 100 ft of the strawberry row. Next, you will mow the leaves off the strawberry plants but be sure to not cut into the actual strawberry crowns. Rows will then be cut back to a strawberry strip around 12-18 inches wide. Further thin the plants leaving only the healthiest strawberry plants. Renovation should be done early in the spring.

Watering is necessary at planting, before harvest, and after renovation. Having a rain gauge is beneficial for you to determine if your strawberry plants are getting enough water. Be mindful of how you are irrigating. If you coat the strawberry plants' leaves with water, they can potentially spread any disease among the strawberry bed. Next week I'll explain diseases and insect pests of strawberries.