Now that winter is here, it’s time for us to make sure that our strawberry plants are properly bedded for the cold. Timing is critical. We need to wait until the plants have gone dormant for the winter. Bedding too early can smother the plant, too late and the crowns of the plants will be damaged and not produce fruit the following year. The rule of thumb is to mulch or bed the plants when the temperatures are in the mid-twenties for a few days and the ground has not yet froze.
Most people bed their strawberries with straw. Straw is the preferred bedding over hay because straw is light, will allow some air flow, and does not smother the plants. Hay, on the other hand is very dense. It does not allow air flow and it can smother your plants. But even worse, hay contains seeds! That bale of hay could have grass or even weed seeds. These seeds can fall off and germinate in the spring. Now you have a host of other plants to get rid of in your strawberry bed!
Another way to mulch is with pine needles and pine wood chips. This is an environmentally sound way to bed strawberry plants. Strawberries thrive in slightly acidic soil. What better way to preserve the plants over the winter and feed the soil at the same time! We mixed pine needles with the soil when we initially prepared the strawberry beds. Now that we need to mulch for winter, we will spread a layer of pine shavings over the plants.
Like straw, pine shavings are light so they allow some air flow and will not smother the plants. Once the pine needles or shavings disintegrate, they will add acid back into the soil.
A word of caution. Freshly shipped or shredded pine, or any other wood, may still have moisture and toxic residue. The toxins are removed from the shavings by heavy watering or weathering. It’s best to use old, well weathered mulch products on your plants.
Once the strawberries have been bedded, they are protected from the winter cold and we can wait until next summer for another delicious harvest.