By Carrie Terry
Strawberries are hardy, low-growing plants that last through winter even in cold areas of the country. These plants self-propagate by sending out vines, or runners, from the parent plants. The vines, also called daughter plants, lengthen the plant’s lifespan and produce the berries. The runners also put down roots to produce second-year growth. Instead of pulling up your strawberry plants at the end of the season, or allowing them to grow out of control in their second year, thin out old parent plants and leave the runners for new production.
“Renovate” your strawberry patch after the fruit harvest to prepare for the next season and to thin out the old plants. Start by fertilizing the strawberry patch with 12-12-12 fertilizer. Use 4 to 6 lbs of granular fertilizer per 100 feet of strawberries. Mix the fertilizer into the top inch of soil around the plants.
Use pruning shears to cut the foliage from each plant, or use a lawnmower to mow the entire patch to 1 inch above soil level, and be careful not to damage the crown of the plants. Walk the strawberry rows and thin each row with a hoe to 6 to 8 inches in width, to provide growing and gardening space. Use this time to pull any weeds or rogue plants from the walkways between the strawberry rows.
Work any mulch in the patch into the soil. If you’ve been using straw, organic mulch or grass clippings in between the rows, you can turn it into the top 2 inches of soil to fertilize the patch. Lay one-half to 1 inch of quick-draining soil or organic compost over the entire strawberry plot to promote new root growth.
Water the strawberry patch with 2 inches of water per week to maintain good soil moisture. Add 12-12-12 fertilizer again at the end of summer to encourage the new growth, which should be coming through the soil at this time. Transplant any runners that grow in inconvenient places to rows that have thin growth.
Re-mulch the strawberry patch after the first frost, and expect new fruit in spring to early summer.