Fall Strawberry Notes

Gordon Johnson, Extension Ag Agent, Kent Co.; gcjohn@udel.edu

Fall is a very important time in the life of strawberries, whether being grown in the multi-year matted row system or in the annual plasticulture system.

During fall, matted row strawberries will continue to grow and develop flower buds on daughter plants that will produce next spring’s crop until dormancy sets in with heavy freezes. Do not neglect weed control during this period of time. In late fall, apply straw between strawberry rows and around plants. This insulates the plants and reduces winter losses.

All plasticulture strawberries should have been planted by now. Later plantings risk significant yield losses because plants will not have enough branch crowns to produce full yields. Three weeks after planting, look at plant establishment. Plants should have produced new roots, have three or more green leaves, and show healthy new growth. In fall, growth should proceed so that the plants are 6-8 inches in diameter before winter sets in. While too little fall growth will greatly reduce yields because of too few branch crowns, excessive fall growth will lead to reduced fruit size because of too many branch crowns. The goal is to have 4-6 branch crowns by spring. Runner removal from plasticulture strawberries throughout the fall will reduce competition with the main plant during branch crown formation.

The main tool we have to regulate crown development in the fall is floating row covers. Crown growth and development occurs when temperatures are above above 50°F. In later plantings or if fall weather is cooler than normal, placing row covers over the plantings will help to maintain heat and keep plants growing and developing. This may mean placing covers as early as the middle of October in some plantings and growers should assess plasticulture strawberry growth in October to decide if early covering will be needed. For normal winter protection, place floating row covers in late November or early December.

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