Yard and Garden: Give Strawberry Plants Winter Protection

AMES, Iowa – It’s time to think about protecting strawberry plants from the winter elements. Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach explain how to properly mulch strawberries to provide protection against winter injury. To have additional yard and garden questions answered, contact Hortline at hortline@iastate.edu or 515-294-3108.

Why is it necessary to mulch strawberries in fall?  

Strawberries should be mulched in fall to prevent winter injury. The main threats to the strawberry plants are low winter temperatures and repeated freezing and thawing of the soil through the winter months. Temperatures below +20 degrees Fahrenheit may kill flower buds and damage the roots and crowns of unmulched plants. Repeated freezing and thawing of the soil can heave plants out of the ground, severely damaging or destroying the plants.  

When should I mulch my strawberries?  

Allow the strawberry plants to harden or acclimate to cool fall temperatures before mulching the planting. Applying mulch before the strawberry plants have properly hardened may make the plants more susceptible to winter injury. Apply the mulch after the strawberry plants have been exposed to several nights with temperatures in the low to mid-twenties. In northern Iowa, early November is usually the proper time to mulch strawberries. The proper time to mulch strawberry plantings in central and southern Iowa is normally mid-November and late November, respectively. 
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