From time-to-time homeowners choose to renovate their homes. Established strawberry beds should be renovated every year!
Benefits of Renovation
Renovation serves several functions: it helps control weeds, diminishes disease pressure, reduces plant crowding, and increases sunlight penetration to the crowns of the plants.
Over time, strawberry beds can become overcrowded (Figure 1). This makes them difficult to harvest and prevents sunlight from getting into the interior of the strawberry bed. Sunlight is also important for reducing the conditions that lead to the spread of fungal diseases.
During the spring and early summer, foliar strawberry diseases will accumulate (Figure 2). We want to remove this foliage to reduce the chances of it infecting the new foliage that will grow in late summer and early fall.
When to Renovate
Once the fruiting of June-bearing strawberries has ceased, or the fruits are small enough that picking isn’t justified, the plants are ready for renovation (Figure 3). Renovation is best done in late June or July.
How to Renovate June-Bearing Strawberries
Clip or mow the foliage off the entire strawberry bed. Remove as much of the old leaves as possible without cutting into the strawberry crowns (Figure 4). Use a rotary mower set to remove all leaf material 1 inch above the plant crowns. To aid in disease control, use the bagger on the mower or rake up the leaf debris and remove it from the area.
If the bed was gotten too wide, then till strips in the strawberry bed, leaving a roughly 12-inch strip of live strawberry plants (Figure 5). Use a rototiller or hoe. These 12-inch-wide strips should be about 3 to 4 feet apart. Runners will form and the new plants will create a 2-foot-wide matted row by the end of the summer.
Fertilization, Watering, & Weed Control
Renovation is also an excellent time to fertilize to help sustain the new growth. A rate of around 0.25 lbs of urea (46-0-0), or 1.2 lbs of 10-10-10, is a common rate to apply to a 100-square-foot bed. If the soil is dry, be sure to irrigate the newly renovated beds.
Strawberries require approximately 1 inch of water per week (either from rain or irrigation) for adequate growth. Irrigate the planting during hot, dry summer weather to ensure optimum production next season. Irrigation during the summer months encourages runner formation and flower bud development. (The flower buds on June-bearing strawberries develop in late summer and early fall.)
Control weeds in the strawberry planting by cultivating and hand pulling. Cultivate 1 to 2 inches deep to avoid damaging the roots of the strawberry plants.
In older strawberry beds, it’s also a good idea to rake roughly one inch of tilled soil on the crowns of strawberry plants in the untilled bed. As strawberry plants get older, their crowns get longer (Figure 6). Keeping soil around the crowns ensures better rooting, water uptake, and winter survival.
Through the summer and fall, new foliage will grow on the plants, and runners will send out daughter plants to fill in the gaps. Some strawberry cultivars are extremely vigorous and produce runners beyond the 2-foot matted rows. These runners should be placed back within the allotted row or removed to prevent the bed from becoming a solid mat of plants.
End of Season Care
Don’t forget the strawberries are called strawberries for a reason. In mid-fall be sure to mulch over your strawberry beds, to protect your plants from extreme temperatures and desiccation from dry winter winds. Just be sure to remove the mulch when the plants start to put out new growth in the spring. More Information can be found in this article: How to Overwinter Strawberries.