University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
STRAWBERRIES--HARVEST AND RENOVATION
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
If you're growing strawberries,
you've probably discovered why they are the most popular small fruit
gardeners. If you've chosen appropriate
cultivars (cultivated varieties) and a suitable site (especially
soil not in a frost pocket), some proper care should enable you to get
years of harvests from your plants.
begin with the harvest. Make sure you
pick all ripe berries, even those overripe.
Left on the plants the berries will rot and lead to disease, often gray
mold or botrytis, which can reduce the vigor and life of your
during wet periods of the growing season, watch for gray mold that
like its name-- a gray fuzzy growth on leaves and fruits. There
chemicals you can use for this, but
merely increasing air circulation through keeping weeds away and giving
more spacing may be all that is needed. Much more on this disease, as
other strawberry problems and a diagnostic tool for them, can be found
you harvest berries, avoid the temptation to wash them until you're
store or eat. This will reduce their
usual life of 2 to 7 days. Berries store
longest between 32 and 36 degrees (F) and about 90 percent relative
humidity. The crisper drawer of a
refrigerator works well.
addition to their look and taste, a beauty of strawberries is that they
easy to store. You can dry, freeze, make
fruit leathers, or make jams and preserves.
Freezing is easy if you have room, such as in a chest freezer.
simply put berries in a container and
freeze, mix first with a bit or sugar or sweetener (sugar has some
properties that sweeteners don't), or cover with a sugar syrup.
berries are better sliced or crushed
prior to freezing. Figure about
two-thirds quart of berries will give about a pint when frozen.
other end, when thawing, use berries
before they are fully thawed unless you want a soupy mush.
you've dealt with your final harvest of June-bearers, turn your
to the plants. Everbearing cultivars
should last 3 years or more before you'll need to make new hills and
replant. If either types are looking weak, lack vigor,
or didn't produce well, maybe it's time for a change. Once
removed, plant cover crops such
as wheat, rye, or clover for the next 2 or 3 years. These will
eliminate any strawberry
diseases that may be present.
a new site during summer for next spring's plantings, which allows time
soil preparation (such as adding compost) and weed removal (such as
tilling and cover crops). Don't plant
strawberries in the same space that was planted in the last 3 years
tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, raspberries, blackberries, or of
strawberries. These all can harbor
diseases or pests that can attack strawberries.
the other hand, your plants look fine and vigorous, plan to keep them
year. Everbearers wont need any
additional care, other than the usual watering and removal of
You'll want to renovate the rows of
June-bearers within a week or two after the last harvest.
bed renovation by cutting back plants to about 2 inches above the
crowns. This can be done with hedge shears, or
perhaps even a mower set high. Just make
sure the crowns aren't damaged.
move or sweep runners back into the rows, narrowing the rows to about
10 to 12
inches wide. You can also do this
tilling or with a hoe down the paths between rows. Plants
should be about 6 inches apart, with about 5 or 6 plants
per square foot of row. Dig and replant
rooted runners to fill in bare spots.
Fertilize with 1 to 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer per 100 square
feet of row, watering in well afterwards.
Keep plants well-watered, and weeded.
choosing varieties resistant to the main diseases, and planting in
soil, will help avoid many disease problems, watch for certain
If your plants are in soil that was
previously cultivated, and not sod, you may avoid grubs that feed on
roots. Weevils can lay eggs in the buds,
causing them not to open and so not produce fruit. The tarnished
bug may appear around
bloom time, feeding on flowers with the result being misshapen or no
beds free of weeds, and fruit on straw off the ground, and you may
beetles feeding on them. Slugs are more
a problem in damp climates and seasons.
Spittlebugs are common, forming a white frothy foam around them, yet
don't usually cause serious harm but rather are just unsightly.
less common pests include Japanese
beetles, aphids, thrips, leafhoppers, leaf rollers, and grasshoppers.
the renovated rows as you did the first year, fertilizing again in late
or early fall to help promote good flower bud formation for next
As the previous year, cover plants when the
ground starts to freeze with straw, evergreen boughs, or similar.
bale of straw should cover about 100
square feet. Make sure you don't use
hay, which often contains weed seeds. The following spring, uncover
temperatures are likely to remain above 28 degrees (F) without hard
frosts. Keep a frost blanket, such as spun-bonded
fabric, available in case needed. These
usually come in two or more weights, the thicker giving more frost