It’s another one of those rites of passage of learning to garden–killing the strawberries you so desperately wanted to save. Everybody loves strawberries, but nobody likes it when the strawberry plants they invested in last Spring die a slow and horrible death over the cold Canadian Winter. Not that I’m bitter about the time it happened to me, or anything.
Here’s how you (and your strawberries) can avoid this terrible fate. I’ll even show you how to keep your strawberries alive even if you planted them in containers.
Disclaimer time: I garden in in zone 3b in the Canadian Prairies and thus my advice is best suited to that region, and also highly applicable to zones 2 and 4. I realize that readers from many warmer zones read my stuff, so I’ve tried to account for your situation where possible. I love comments from those who live in other places! Your knowledge of different zones helps lots of people become better gardeners. . .which is probably why you’re here in the first place.
Second disclaimer, as of writing this post I’m 19 weeks pregnant and. . . hormonal, shall we say? As I’m re-reading this I realize it might come off as really angry, but it’s meant to be funny. I hope it’s funny.
Avoid Planting Strawberries in Pots and Raised Beds
Can you overwinter strawberries in pots and raised beds? If you live in a warmer-than-zone-3-zone. . . probably. If you live where I live? No. Just don’t even bother.
I’m sure some master gardener with way more skills than I currently possess can do it. But for the beginner to intermediate gardener, you’re going to have way more success overwintering a patch that is planted directly into the ground.
And if you accidentally left your pot of strawberries out over a -40 winter? Forget it. They’re dead.
Here’s 8 other mistakes you’ll want to avoid if you’re planting a container garden
(Update, when I’m not pregnant and definitely not so angry: It can be done in zone 3, if it’s in a raised bed (not a pot) and you cover them with 4-6 inches of straw. Do not forget to cover them with straw, otherwise it won’t work.)
The Key to Keeping Your Strawberries Alive Over Winter
Is. . . wait for it. . . straw. *whomp, whomp*
And waiting for at least three consecutive days of -5 degrees Celsius/20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower temperatures at night. This is important because you need to make sure the plant has gone dormant for the winter.
Getting back to mulch–you can also use leaves or mulch or shredded newspapers or any natural bio-degradable and weed free insulation you like. Whatever you use, don’t use hay. It is very likely to contain weed seeds and will create a giant mess for you in the Spring.
No time for fall clean up in the garden? Here’s what you can skip.
Apply a generous 4-6 inch layer over the strawberries and let the insulation do it’s magic.
You don’t even have to remove the straw in the Spring. It should have compacted enough over winter that the strawberries will poke through once they’ve started growing.
That’s it! Say hello to fresh strawberries in the garden this Spring and goodbye to tears over yet another plant that you killed and wasted money on.
A Few Thoughts for Those in Warmer Growing Zones
If you live someplace that doesn’t enjoy minus 40 winters, you could probably overwinter your strawberries in a pot or a raised bed. In addition to placing the straw on top of the strawberry plants, you’ll also need to wrap the pot or bed with burlap, old blankets, or some sort of insulation. You might also want to move the pots into an unheated garage or some other sheltered-but-cold location that will generally stay below freezing for the winter.
Those of you who live in zone 5 or warmer, I would love to hear what works for you in the comments.
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