Strawberry plants will look ragged by the end of the summer growing season. In fall it is time to cut old leaves off the strawberry plants to refresh it ready to slow its growth in winter. Trim off any old, or damaged leaves, improve the soil with compost and aged manure and surround the strawberries with bark mulch or straw.
You can also plant a companion winter crop to add more nitrogen to the soil for a better crop over summer. Plant some beans and peas to fix nitrogen in the soil and make good use of your raised garden bed over the winter.
This article will explore how to cut off old leaves from strawberry plants, how to clean up your strawberry beds in fall and how to improve the soil for great crops in the next season.
When to cut leaves off strawberry plants
Here are the top times that is best to cut leaves off strawberry plants. When they have finished their main growing season over summer they will be ready for a prune and a refresh.
1. When they are old and damaged
When strawberry leaves are damaged it is time to trim them off. Old leaves will start to curl and wilt and can tear on the edges. This will happen at the end of the growing season in fall and throughout the year as the leaves are replaced. Old leaves will start at the base of the crown with new leaves sprouting from the center.
Trim off old leaves as close to the crown as possible. The stems are often brown and are easy to snip. Use sharp, clean secateurs to remove the leaves and throw them in your compost if they are not diseased.
2. When the leaves are yellow or brown
When the leaves start to turn yellow or brown on the edges it is time to trim them off. This will happen naturally as the leaves get older and the weather cools in the fall. The leaves can also turn yellow if the soil is lacking nitrogen. Fall is a great time to snip off these yellow or brown leaves to allow room for new healthy leaves to sprout.
3. At the start of fall
At the beginning of fall it is time to give your plant a refresh. Removing old leaves is essential as they will wilt, touch the soil and can attract disease or fungal growth. When the weather cools in fall, snip the leaves off and thrown them in your compost. I like to remove all the large, dark green leaves and only leave the new sprouts.
My strawberry plants will continue to grow new leaves and send out runners throughout fall. I live in a sub-tropical climate and we have mild winters. I usually get new runners and can transplant new strawberries by the end of winter.
If you live in a cold climate, strawberries will slow their growth and go through a dormant period over winter.
How to clean up strawberry beds in fall
Here are my easy steps to clean up strawberry beds in fall. This is an easy way to remove old leaves, tidy up the plant and protect the crowns over the cooler months.
1. Trim off old and damaged leaves
The first step is to remove old and damaged leaves from the plant. Use sharp, clean secateurs and snip the leaves off near the crown. To make this quicker and easier you can grab bunches of leaves and snip them at the same time. Put them in your compost if they are not diseased.
2. Trim off excess runners and old fruit
The next step is to removed excess runners and old fruit stems from your strawberry plants. If you have enough plants then snip the runners off from the base of the plant. If the runners have taken root in your soil, you can snip the connecting stem at the abs of the plant and transplant the runner to a new location.
Remove any old fruit stems or old flowers that did not form strawberries.
3. Add compost and aged manure
Fall is a great time to improve the soil before the cold winter sets in. I like to sprinkle aged cow manure and compost around my strawberry plants to provide a mild fertilizer over the winter months. This will also help to protect the roots from cold weather.
Apply this mix as a top dressing and avoid digging it in near the root area of the strawberries.
4. Plant companion nitrogen fixers
I like to plant legumes near my strawberries over winter to help to add more nitrogen to the soil ready for the next summer. I am planting beans and snow peas this year to add extra nitrogen to the soil and to get a delicious crop from this bed in winter.
Both peas and beans grow best when planted from seed but I am trying out a new dwarf bean by seedling this year. This should grow small and bushy and help to protect the strawberries over winter. They can be removed by spring to give the strawberry plants room to grow.
5. Mulch the garden bed well
Mulch is essential for strawberry beds. This year I am using bark mulch to protect the soil for longer. I am leaving my strawberries exposed so that they can still get the sun and continue to grow over my mild winter.
Mulch strawberries deeply with straw mulch if you live in a cool climate to protect the crowns from frost. You can lightly cover the plant it with straw mulch to protect the crowns over winter and uncover them in spring when the warm weather returns.
If you live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate which has a low risk of frost, you can leave your strawberries uncovered throughout winter. They will continue to grow new leaves at the end of fall and can send out runners for new plants.
6. Water the patch
Water your strawberry patch after adding compost, mulch and any companion plants. This will settle in the organic matter, keep the mulch in place and settle the soil around your new plants and seeds. For snow peas, avoid watering the seeds until you see the sprout pop through the soil. This will prevent the seed rotting in the ground.
Keep strawberry crowns moist over winter but avoid overwatering. If you are getting plenty of rain then this will be enough to keep them happy. Winter soils will be slower to dry out so water in the morning to prevent the crown rotting.
Should I Cut Leaves off Strawberry Plants? | Summary
Cutting leaves off strawberry plants is an essential step in your fall clean up ready for winter. Remove any leaves that are damaged, yellow, brown or touching the ground. This will help to prevent any disease from entering the plant. Add aged manure, compost and mulch around your strawberries ready for winter and to add nutrients for a big summer harvest.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.