By Karen Seelenbinder

When the month of June arrives, it is a real treat to walk into your strawberry patch and pick several quarts of big, juicy strawberries. To produce a consistently large crop of strawberries each year, the plants do require maintenance involving pinching of blooms, regulating the amount of runners and mowing off the dead leaves. The purpose in cutting back the strawberry plants is to keep the plants healthy, free of disease, and make them stronger for fruit production the next year.

Pinch off new blossoms the first year after planting the strawberry plants. Pinch the blossom with your finger and thumb so as not to tear the stem. Pinching the blossoms puts the strength back into the plant for a large crop of strawberries the second year.

Redirect the first runners shooting out from a June-bearing mother plant back into the strawberry row until the row is 12 inches wide. Push the end of the first runner that now has a couple of leaves a 1/2 an inch into the soil.

Trim all new runners from everbearing strawberries until the mother plants are exhausted. Once the mother plants are done allow the runners to take root and grow new plants. The June-bearing strawberries should not be cut back until an excess of six runners have grown out from the mother plant. Cutting back the extra runners keeps the mother plant strong giving her more vitality to produce larger strawberries.

Mow the strawberry patch within one week after harvest. Use a rotary mower and cut the leaves 1 inch above the crown of each plant. Rake the leaves and remove the debris from the strawberry patch to prevent disease.

When growing everbearing strawberries the first year, pinch the blooms until July 1st. After this date go ahead and enjoy the strawberries that are produced.

Mow the strawberry plants immediately after harvest, especially with the June berries. Otherwise, new leaf growth will be inhibited and your strawberry crop the following year will be sparse.