Early Spring Frost Protection For Strawberries
Strawberry flower buds are very susceptible to spring frosts. Mulches used for winter protection should be pulled from plants in early spring, before there is much leaf yellowing. The mulch should be left in the alleyways. You should always have available some floating row cover or fleece to lay over the plants whenever a frost is predicted. Frost protection could be the difference between a good crop and no crop.
Since strawberry plants have shallow root systems keeping them well watered is extremely important. Strawberry plants should receive 1 inch of water each week, either by rainfall or irrigation. Avoid watering in very early morning or late evening so plants are not wet for long periods of time. A lack of adequate water will hold back yields. A soaker hose is an excellent watering device for a strawberry patch.
Apply a handful of slow release organic fertilizer in early September before flower buds form; think just after Labor Day. Apply the fertilizer evenly over the entire row area and avoid contacting the foliage. To avoid damaging the shallow roots do not mix the fertilizer into the soil. Do not over fertilize. Overfertilization will cause excessive vegetative growth, reduce yields; increase losses from frost and foliar disease and result in winter injury.
Strawberries, as with all the plants in the garden need to have a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch surrounding them 365 days a year. In December you should make sure all the plants are covered with the layer of mulch to protect them from winter stresses. You might pull the mulch back in early spring to help the soil warm up, but then that mulch goes back on as soon as the danger of frost is past.
Preventing Bird Damage
Birds love all berries including Strawberries. Often the berries are protected by being covered with the plant’s foliage. If you start losing the battle with the birds, simply cover the bed with fleece or floating row cover.