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…
In this blog post, I’ll show you how you (and your strawberries) can avoid this terrible fate. I’ll even show you how to keep your strawberries alive if you planted them in containers!
DISCLAIMER: I garden in Zone 3b on the Canadian Prairies. My advice is best suited to that region, but also highly applicable to Zones 2 and 4. I realize that readers from many warmer zones read this blog, so I’ve tried to account for other situations where possible, as well.
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 strawberry 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.
UPDATE: I was 19 weeks pregnant and angry when I first wrote this post… Overwintering strawberries can be done in Zone 3 if they’re 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!
Here are 8 other mistakes you’ll want to avoid if you’re planting a container garden.
The Key to Keeping Your Strawberries Alive Over Winter
Is…wait for it…straw. *whomp, whomp*
You can also use leaves, mulch, shredded newspapers, or any natural, bio-degradable, 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.
Apply a generous 4-6 inch layer over the strawberries and let the insulation do its magic. You don’t even have to remove the straw in the spring, as it should have compacted enough over winter that the strawberries will poke through once they’ve started growing.
Make sure you wait for at least three consecutive days of -5°C/20°F or lower temperatures at night before you do this overwintering method. This is important because you need to make sure the plant has gone dormant for the winter.
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.
No time for fall clean-up in the garden? Here’s what you can skip!
A Few Thoughts for Those in Warmer Growing Zones
If you live someplace that doesn’t enjoy -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.
Have you overwintered your strawberries in the past? What works best for you?
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