Fall strawberry management

Friday, November 17, 2017

Well, after a long drawn out fall it looks like the weather is finally changing and most growers are itching to put their strawberries to bed for the winter. 
Before throwing on that mulch consider doing a late fall, dormant weed spray.  For information on products available check out Perennia’s Guide to Weed Management in Strawberry or New Brunswick’s StrawberryIPM Weed Management Guide.
A frequent question from growers this time of year is when to apply mulch to strawberries.  In short – let your plants tell you when it’s time.  It can be very site specific.  After several hard frosts, leaves begin to turn red (it's not time yet!); then the leaves collapse around the crown or fall over and will eventually flatten completely to the ground.  Now it’s time!  Typically dormancy in strawberries will occur after several consecutive days of frost.   

Plants mulched too early in the fall do not harden off well, while unmulched plants can result in crown damage.  Mulch not only insulates from severe cold, but it lessens frost heaving of crowns through freeze and thaw cycles, and desiccation from dry winter winds.
Be sure to obtain clean straw for mulching and AVOID HAY, as it is littered with weed seeds. The last thing you need is to create a weed problem in your own field from using dirty straw. 
In Nova Scotia common mulches include wheat, barley, or oat straw.  To apply mulch, break up the bale completely, spreading loose straw on the strawberry raw a few inches deep.  Also, by covering any exposed soil between rows can help prevent erosion. 
For more info on mulching strawberries, check out this great video on strawberry mulching is available from University of Maine Berry expert David Hadley: https://youtu.be/cjK1kZ1FmrE