Strawberry plants need to be protected from both winter and spring frosts in order to bear maximum yield. There are several easy steps one can take to protect strawberry plants, and this article will discuss each of them.
Protect strawberry plants during the winter with a mulch to insulate them. This not only protects the plants from the cold and potential frost heaving, but also insulates the flower buds which have already been set inside the crown. In addition, the plants are more likely to survive through the winter, especially plants that have been recently transplanted and have not had a lot of time to become established.
Winter mulches recommended for strawberries are pine needles, straw or hay. Straw and hay can be purchased cheap, while pine needles are readily available and many people wouldn’t mind you taking care of their disposal of their pine needles. Wait until temperatures are consistently low, then spread the mulch around and over the plants. Spread about three inches deep, deep enough to protect the strawberry plants without smothering them. Usually, a good time to mulch is early to mid November. When the plants start to grow in spring, remove the mulch from the plants but leave it on the ground. This reduces disease by preventing the fruit from contact with the earth, while also reducing weeds.
For spring frosts, the winter mulch will insulate the ground and provide a few degrees difference in temperature. The row can be covered for the night with tarps or sheets to provide additional protection. If the frost is really bad, put plastic containers over the plants. Bring container plants into the porch or garage. Remove all covers in the morning around the time the sun has started to shine on the plants. Do not leave the covers on during the day. A bad frost can kill the crop, but often frost damage is exhibited by partially or ill formed fruits.
Since most spring frosts are only a few degrees under freezing, frost protection makes a big difference and can often save the entire crop. Thus, it is important to use whatever protective means are available.