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Winter Preparation: Strawberry and Raspberry Plants


strawberry plant
Strawberries and raspberries require special care in the fall to prepare them for the upcoming winter weather.  I love grown both in the organic garden because conventionally grown berries are loaded with pesticides, and organic berries available at the market can be expensive. A small plot of either plant yields great quantities of fresh, juicy, pesticide free berries. Ensure that your plants survive the winter by taking steps now to prepare them for the cold weather ahead.

Winter Preparations for Strawberries

Strawberries growing in the ground need to be covered with special mulch to prevent them from freezing. The crown or center portion of each strawberry plant can die if the temperatures drop below 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit.  Covering the plant with straw mulch provides enough insulation while simultaneously allowing for good air circulation around the plants.

Wait until the weather turns cold, with temperatures consistently in the 40-50's but no deep frosts. Clean up the strawberry bed, removing weeds and dead leaves. Use only straw or pine needles as mulch.  Place approximately 2-3" of mulch over the plants, adding more over the crown as necessary to achieve a depth of 3 inches.  Then wait until the spring when the weather once again turns noticeable warmer before removing the mulch.

Do not use leaves or grass clippings to mulch strawberries. Grass clippings can get hot while decomposing or they clump together, forming a heavy mat that harms the strawberry plant's crown.  Leaves also provide too dense a cover and can kill your strawberry plants.

Container Grown Strawberries

Strawberry plants grown in terra cotta "strawberry jars", planters or barrels must be moved into an unheated yet covered location for the winter.  Terra cotta freezes and cracks; you can easily lose both jar and plants if left outside. 

First, wait until the weather turns cool.  Stop watering the plants.  Cover the strawberry plants with 6 inches of pine needle or straw mulch.  Move the container into an unheated yet covered location such as a garage or garden shed. 

If the container is too heavy to move, you can protect it in place.  Wrap the barrel or a large container with burlap after first placing 6-8" of mulch over the strawberry plants. Your goal is to prevent freezing and thawing, which can rapidly kill strawberry plants, as well as prolonged cold temperatures.

Winterize Raspberry Plants

When the average daily temperature remains around 40 degrees F in your area, it's time to winterize raspberry plants.  Be sure to wear heavy work gloves, long sleeves, and long pants to protect your skin against raspberry thorns.  Remove the raspberry canes from the trellis or support and lay them flat on the ground. Cover the canes and the crown of the plant with 2-3" of mulch.  If there are any canes that remain erect and cannot be placed on the ground, you can wrap them with burlap and secure with twine. 

During the winter, you may notice your raspberry plant turning green or pushing forth new shoots even though there are many weeks left until spring.  Raspberry plants break their dormant period any time the weather stays above 40 degrees for a few days. If you get an unexpected warm spell during the winter, your raspberry may be fooled into thinking it's spring.  As soon as the cold weather returns, the raspberry returns to dormancy.  Any new shoots will unfortunately die off, but the plant should have plenty of energy for a vigorous comeback once spring officially arrives.

About the Author
Jeanne Grunert is a writer and marketing consultant who moved from New York City to a 17 acre organic farm in rural Virginia. She writes about gardening, health and raw foods for many publications, and her gardening book, Get Your Hands Dirty – A Beginner's Guide to Gardening is available at From the Garden Books. http://fromthegardenbooks.wordpress.com Learn more about Jeanne and her work at www.sevenoaksconsulting.com

These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.  The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.

Written by:  Jeanne Grunert
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