Strawberry plants can be damaged by frost in cold regions when they are adding new growth in Spring. Frost can damage strawberry flowers, fruit as well as new leaves and stems. Strawberry plants can be protected from frosts by adding a light layer of straw over the top of them.
This article will explore how frost affects strawberry plants and what you can do to protect them when they are most likely to be damaged. In many climates, there can be late spring frosts which can affect new flowers and fruit.
While strawberry plants go dormant in winter, they will not add any new growth. The older larger leaves are more frost tolerant so are less likely to be damaged. Plastic covers can also be used for short periods of time to protect them from springs frosts.
Frost damage to strawberries over winter
While the chance of frost is higher in winter strawberry plants will be mostly dormant and any damage will happen to older leaves. These leaves will protect the center crown where the new leaves on strawberry plant grows from.
Frost damage on older leaves is fine in winter as they will be replaced with new leaves in Spring. Older leaves will turn yellow and then brown and they can then be trimmed off in the warmer spring weather.
Frost can damage strawberry flowers
Strawberries can grow flowers in late winter and early spring where there is still a big risk of frost. While frosts are rare in tropical and sub-tropical areas they can happen even later in spring.
For temperate or cooler regions where strawberries thrive they might their flowers protected sporadically during spring. A thin layer of straw is the easiest way to do this as it will stop the frost from settling on the leaves and flowers.
Frost affected flowers will shrivel up and turn brown. They will drop off and fall to the ground without being pollinated.
Frost can damage strawberries (fruit)
For early fruiting strawberry varieties you can have small strawberries on the plant in winter. These can be damaged by frosts so protecting them is a great way to save them. Straw can be used but a plastic covering offers more protection.
Create a small cover by wrapping clear plastic around a tomato cage and placing it over the top of the strawberry. Small stakes can be used around the outside and a plastic bag can be placed over the top to protect the plant.
Both of these methods are easy ways to protect the strawberries on the plant. Fruit affected by frost will go soft, squishy and be damaged quickly.
Frost can damage new leaves
Frosts that happen in spring can damage the new strawberry leaves that emerge at this time. The plant will start to come out of its winter dormancy even in late winter and grow new leaves and stems.
These new leaves are delicate and more frost sensitive so can be damaged by late winter or early spring frosts. A light layer of straw can be left over the top of the plant to protect them or use my method of placing a plastic bag over some stakes around the plant.
While the center crown of the plant generally will not be affected the strawberry can waste a lot of energy replacing new leaves that have been damaged by frost.
What temperature causes cold damage to strawberries
New growth on strawberries can suffer damage at temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is low and there is no wind frost can end up laying on the strawberry plant.
Older strawberry growth will usually survive these temperatures but new leaves and flowers can be damaged.
Commercial grape growers for example actually use huge fans to create wind to mix the warmer air that is sitting higher with the cooler air closer to the ground. This increases the temperature near the ground and stop frost from forming and sitting on the leaves of the plant.
While placing a fan in your strawberry patch is not a practical solution, straw or a plastic cover can help to protect the plant from this frost layer.
How to protect strawberries from frost
There are a few ways that are easy to do and will protect your strawberries from frost. Here are my top ways to protect home grown strawberry plants from frosts.
Mulch with straw (even over the top)
A light layer of straw mulch or sugar cane mulch sprinkled over the strawberry plant when you know frosts are likely can protect the plant. The straw can trap warmer air that is radiated out from the ground and keep the temperatures warmer.
Make sure you remove the straw mulch in spring when the frosts have passed and move to the side of the plant. The strawberry can then go on growing new flowers and fruit and make it easier for insects to pollinate them and for the sun to ripen the strawberries.
Another way to protect your strawberry plant from frost is using plastic. Use a tomato cage or some hoops of plastic pipe, then drape plastic over the top. This will form a physical barrier between the tomato and the frost and help to trap the heat from the sun and soil.
Small stakes can also be placed around the tomato plant and a clear plastic bag placed over the top. This is a simple, removable way to protect the strawberry from frost. Put this on at the end of the day when you think frosts could hit during the night or early morning.
Strawberry plants and frost | Summary
New strawberry growth, leaves, flowers and fruit can all be damaged by frost. Protect your strawberries with a physical barrier and keep the soil warmth in by using a thin layer of mulch. New growth can be damaged by the frost so take the time to keep your plants protected so you can get a big harvest in spring and summer.
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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.