Fall a crucial time for strawberries
Fall might signal the end of the growing season for many garden plants, but Marilee Drennan of Trieb Corner Garden and Greenhouse notes that there’s one plant that still requires some attention.
“Fall is a great time to prepare for next year’s garden,” Drennan said. “If you didn’t get strawberries planted this year, you can prepare now for the 2014 garden season.”
She said strawberries like a “nice sunny spot” in the garden.
“Till the space so that the soil is ready for spring,” she said. “Soil testing through the Leavenworth County Extension Service can determine what soil needs you may have.”
Drennan cites a Kansas State University Research and Extension horticulture report by Sorkel Kadir as a good guide for preparing strawberries for next spring this fall.
Young plants and established strawberry beds need mulching for winter protection. Severe cold temperatures can kill fruit buds and injure roots and crowns. In addition, alternate freezing and thawing during winter can also damage the plants, Kadir writes.
Spring-bearing strawberry plants actually develop fruit buds for next year’s crop in September and October as the amount of daylight gets shorter.
A winter mulch should be applied after plants have been exposed to several frosts and growth has stopped for the season. It also should be put on the plants before the heavy freezes are expected.
Usually, between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a good time to cover strawberry plants with mulch, according to Kadir.
Wheat straw is the suggested mulch and usually is readily available. A 3-inch layer of mulch should be spread over the entire strawberry bed. Kadir writes that straw bales need to be broken up so that heavy chunks don’t smother plants. Bales that have been thoroughly soaked during the winter summer better control the problem of wheat and weed seeds in the straw.
During the spring Kadir recommends that gardeners remove part of the mulch from the top of the plant, leaving the rest to conserve moisture and to keep the strawberry fruit off the soil.