As a new gardener, I’m not sure what I need to do to get my strawberry bed ready for winter. Do strawberries need protection?
A layer of loose mulch over the crowns of strawberry plants in winter shelters them from temperature fluctuations and keeps them dormant until spring arrives. Mulch also conserves soil moisture for these shallow-rooted plants. The only regions where winter mulch might not be needed are places with dependable, winter-long snow cover and, at the other extreme, places where the temperature never falls below 20°F.
Straw is the obvious choice for mulching a strawberry bed, but other lightweight mulches like pine needles and evergreen boughs also work. Don’t use mulches that become soggy and heavy—leaves, for example.
Allow your strawberries to go dormant before applying mulch. Applied too early in fall, the mulch can delay dormancy and become a haven for rodents. Wait until a hard freeze—between 20°F and 25°F—has flattened the leaves, then scatter 2 to 5 inches of mulch over the entire strawberry bed.
As growth resumes in early spring, rake the mulch into the pathways between beds—but keep it handy in case it’s needed to protect from late frosts. —Doug Hall