Perennial plants are convenient because they produce for several years; however, many perennial crops, including strawberries, can be damaged over the winter by weather extremes. Just as we will be covering up in blankets this winter, your strawberries will need a blanket cover as well to ensure a productive harvest next year.
Winter mulching is necessary to protect the bulbs of strawberries. Temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit will likely damage these bulbs and possibly kill them. Another problem is called heaving. This happens when the temperatures dip down to freezing and then back up, freezing and unfreezing the soil repeatedly. The result is plant roots that are heaved out of the unmulched soil, which will leave you with dead plants and no strawberries.
Mulching often solves these two problems. The extra cover will keep plants from reaching extremely low temperatures and insulate the soil so temperatures stay resonable throughout the winter.
The best time for mulching strawberries usually falls around Thanksgiving. You’ll need to wait until the plants have stopped growing, and they have had a little bit of time to harden or become used to the colder weather. You’ll want to make sure you’ve laid the mulch before temperatures have dropped down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Straw is often the best bet for mulching strawberries, although a wide variety of mulches will work, including bark chips and hay. Leaves or grass clipping are often discouraged for strawberry mulching, as they can smother the plants.
You’ll need to spread the mulches lightly over the beds at a depth of about 3 to 5 inches. Once spring approaches again, remove the mulch from the strawberry beds. Straw makes this a fairly easy task, as you can just rake it off the beds then leave it between the rows to be used as a way to control weed growth and to reduce the soil’s moisture loss during the growing season.