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Alternative cover to straw for overwintering strawberries.

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Alternative cover to straw for overwintering strawberries.

Post  Robbomb116 on 11/20/2017, 3:05 pm

I am completely unable to find any straw to provide some cover for my strawberries this fall due to a terrible drought we had this year. There just isn't any straw around. What would be a good alternative? My bed is raised just an inch or two off the ground, and we get extremely cold here so they will need a lot of protection!

I'm thinking of keeping the bags of leaves I have left over from.this year that I will compost next summer around the bed to provide insulation from the side, should I then just dump a bag or two over the strawberries? And am I supposed to get back any of the foliage? (First year doing strawberries, I did pinch the runners and flowers, but don't know how to get them ready for winter).

Any help will be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Alternative cover to straw for overwintering strawberries.

Post  yolos on 11/20/2017, 3:42 pm

One year I used pine straw (pine needles).  Worked great.  With all the pine needles Cape Codess has, I bet she also uses pine needles.
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Re: Alternative cover to straw for overwintering strawberries.

Post  Scorpio Rising on 11/20/2017, 6:42 pm

Leaves are my first thought.  Did you try TSC?  They have small bales of straw.  Or Rural King, that type store.
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Re: Alternative cover to straw for overwintering strawberries.

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 11/21/2017, 9:38 am

You don't need to cut them back, but they do need some cold exposure so they know it's winter and go dormant.
This site says 3 consecutive days with soil temperature below 40*F(4.4*C): homeguides.sfgate.com/proper-mulch-strawberries-26206.html 
A site for my area said that was usually after several hard frosts.
I expect they've gotten that by now in your area, but I mention it so that you don't mulch too early next year.

Some sites say 20*F(-6.7*C) is when the strawberries start to sustain damage without mulch, others say 10*F(-12.2*C). Those who have winter temperatures that don't fall below that probably don't need to mulch.

Regarding mulch types:
https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2006/11-8/strawberries.html < mentions using chopped cornstalks

http://www.rawpeople.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=1157&Itemid=539 < says not to use grass clippings

https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2006/11-8/strawberries.html < says leaves trap too much water

That said, crunchy fluffy stiff dry leaves (like oak?) with a water-repellent tarp on top, that is held up away from the plants using PVC/fencing or something to keep snow from smooshing the pile down, and to keep snow melt from making things too wet/icy inside, might work?

I would think hay would work if you can get that but not straw, but it comes with weed seeds. Still, I think your zone requires you mulch the strawberries for them to survive. I used homemade hay (chopped tall grass while it was still in-pollen - so no seeds -- that I sun-dried on the driveway and then stashed in the garage) topped with a curved piece of wire fencing, with Agribon (~Reemay) clipped over that last year. In the spring I learned that the voles thought I built them a house -- but the strawberry plants seemed ok. Alas, I've let the plants get overcrowded and they've got a fungal disease.

Remove the mulch in spring after the snow and ice have melted, once some of the plants in the middle start to show new growth (baby leaves, that may be anemic/yellow due to the shade of the sheltering mulch). If frost threatens, put the mulch back on.
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Re: Alternative cover to straw for overwintering strawberries.

Post  Robbomb116 on 12/4/2017, 3:02 pm

Well, I was able to find some straw after all!  We had a bit of a warm 2 weeks recently so I let the strawberries go without protection for  that period and then a little longer to make sure they went dormant again.  Now that it is cold and lots of snow predicted, I have surrounded my strawberry bed with bags of leaves on the side (since its raised about 6 inches off the ground I figured some side insulation would help) and put down a layer of straw on top.  Hope it works out!
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Re: Alternative cover to straw for overwintering strawberries.

Post  sanderson on 12/5/2017, 2:56 am

Rob, sounds cozy.

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