Strawberry season is over and your overgrown strawberry beds did not produce as well as they did in previous years. You did not get as many berries, they were smaller, and some had to be discarded because they appeared to have rotted. Overcrowding, disease, insects, and poor soil can cause strawberry plants to under produce and even die. One way to ensure a strong yield is to revitalize you strawberry beds.
Mow the Beds
As soon as all strawberries have been picked, mow the beds. Set the blade high on the mower in order to cut the leaves but not harm the crowns. Remove debris as soon as possible to prevent possible mold or disease from developing.
Thin the Plants
Thinning your strawberry plants may take some time, if you have many plants, but it is necessary. Inspect each plant as you go down the rows and dig out the diseased ones and ones that appear weak. Inspect the roots for damage and insects. Try to leave the main (mother) plants down the center of each row, as they will produce healthy offspring. If main plants are excessively long, trim them back so they are six to ten inches across. Do not worry about replacing a main plant in a row now, as you will have runners to use for this later.
Protect Plants and Fertilize
To help protect the plants mound soil around the crowns about one-half inch high. Be careful not to cover the plants. This will also encourage the growth of strong, new plants. If you feel the need, have your soil tested and add amendments as needed, or at least apply a good fertilizer rich with nitrogen. Cottonseed meal is an excellent fertilizer for strawberry plants.
Mulch and Weed
The next step is to lay down mulch. Surround the plants with fresh clean straw, covering all areas with a layer several inches thick. Remove any weeds and continue removing any weeds that sprout up as the daughter plants start to develop.
As daughter plants start to appear, try to space them in the beds six to ten inches apart. Use some to fill in gaps in the middle of the beds where the main (mother) plants are. Pinch back runners as the plants begin to grow and fill the beds. This will help keep the beds from becoming over crowded.
Water plants regularly and in time your strawberry plants will be the big producers they were before.
Click here for more information on strawberries.
Sources: Personal Experience, The New Victory Garden by Bob Thomson