Strawberries are perennial plants, hardy to zone 2 as long as the roots are well insulated in winter. They need a period of dormancy during the winter months so after the first frost start thinking about getting the strawberry patch ready for the pending cold. Cut plants to a few inches in height — if your strawberry garden is large you might even set the mower blade to high and mow down the plants. The next step is covering the patch with mulch. It’s important to wait until overnight temps have dropped to below freezing, between -2C to -5C (23F to 28F) and after that they’re ready to be covered.
Types of mulch for strawberries
The most popular mulch is straw but if straw isn’t available, grass clippings, pine needles and dry leaves will work. Use a mixture free of weed seeds (avoid hay – it usually has lots of seeds) and be sure your mulch is light and fluffy. The object is to create a layer of insulation between the soil and the cold winter air.
Start with a layer about 10 – 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) deep; it will flatten as it decomposes over the next few months and the plants will grow through it next spring. It’s not necessary to remove the straw in spring unless you’ve put down a fairly thick layer. The decomposed mulch will add nutrients to the soil and help control weeds next summer.
Where to get mulch
Contact a local garden centre or nursery, they usually have mulches available either bagged or sold as bulk or bales; pre-bagged mulches are usually available in easy to handle bags.
Now let’s get through the Canadian winter and enjoy our strawberries again next year!
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