Strawberry beds get a boost from renovation
If you saw my strawberry bed, you might think I don’t like strawberries. The leaves have been lopped off, some plants were ripped out of the ground, and those that remain are partially buried in dirt. But I do like strawberries. I carry out this renovation, as it is called, every year not long after gathering the last berries for the season.
The short rest that June-bearing strawberry plants naturally take after their harvest season helps them tolerate the more brutal aspects of renovation. (Renovation is not for everbearing strawberry varieties, which bear again in late summer into fall, or day-neutral varieties, which offer berries pretty much all season long.) Off with their leaves
Over time, leaf diseases from wild strawberries and related plants can sneak into and build up in a cultivated strawberry bed. The first step in renovation, cutting off all the plants’ leaves, helps keep such problems in check.
I cut the leaves with a scythe — a supersharp “European-style” scythe — and follow up with a grass shears. The shears alone work well, especially for smaller beds. Healthy, new leaves begin to sprout soon after renovation. Away with excess runners
Strawberry plants strew themselves about by means of runners, which are horizontal stems that develop daughter plants. Those take root at intervals along their lengths. Over time, an untended bed becomes so crowded with mother, daughter, granddaughter, etc. plants that they shade each other and production suffers.
So after clipping off the leaves, I thinned out enough plants so that those remaining stood about eight inches apart. I selectively removed the oldest plants, which become more susceptible to winter cold and less productive. Mulch
That “dirt” under which I said my plants are partially buried is compost, which I laid a half inch or so deep over the whole bed, except right over the plants. This compost dressing suppresses weeds, feeds the plants, and keeps the strawberry crowns, which rise slightly in the soil with age, protected from the elements.
The “icing” on the cake is a mulch of pine needles on top of the compost. Equally suitable would be a mulch of wood shavings, straw or any other weed-free, organic material.
A strawberry bed, after being renovated, left, and a few weeks later, the bed is readying for next spring’s crop.