Although strawberry plants are considered perennial, they are most productive in their first five years. With a little yearly maintenance, you can keep them bearing well longer. The best way to keep a strawberry bed going is to renovate it by thinning the existing plants and allowing runners to root and become new plants.
Do You Have to Renovate Strawberry Beds?
You don't absolutely have to renovate strawberry beds. Many gardeners don't find it worth the effort and either grow strawberries as annuals or simply add a few new plants each year while taking out the under-performing plants.
You could even grow your strawberries in containers. It's a good idea to start with new plants each year, but they'd be easier to plant and you could keep them within arms reach.
If you do not renovate the bed and leave it be for several years, the plants will form a thick mass, choking themselves out. Eventually, they will stop producing strawberries. Renovation is recommended annually for June-bearing strawberries and every two to four years for day-neutral and everbearing. For reference, check out the different types of strawberry plants.
Strawberry plants produce best when they are young. However, they conveniently send out runners that will become new plants. So thinning out the older plants while allowing the new ones created from runners to fill in will keep your strawberry patch in continual production. You only have to thin them once a year.
When to Renovate Strawberry Beds
Wait until after you harvest to do any renovation. After the berries ripen and are picked, the plants are in a semi-dormant stage. This is the best time to move them.
Equipment / Tools
- Lawn mower
- Hand cultivator or tiller
- Appropriate fertilizer
- Fresh soil
Weed the Bed
After you pick the last of the season's strawberries, weed the bed by pulling out anything that shouldn't be there.
You should keep the bed weeded all year, but it's even more important when you are getting ready to renovate. Your plants will have an easier time becoming established if they do not have to compete with weeds for water and nutrients. It's also easier to work in a weed-free bed.
Remove the Leaves
Remove all the leaves before new growth starts. You do not have to do this by hand; instead, you can use a lawn mower. Set it high enough so the leaves are clipped but the crowns are untouched. This step isn't crucial unless your plants have a lot of leaf disease but it will help to regenerate the planting for even vibrant and healthy plants.
Cultivate Between Rows
Cultivate or till between the rows of strawberry plants, removing any plants that have strayed too far out of the row, so that the remaining rows are thinned or reduced to about 12 inches wide.
Thin Out the Bed
Thin the remaining plants to about 4 to 6 inches between each plant. The remaining plants will send out runners that will develop into new, more productive plants.
Side-dress each row with a complete fertilizer and a 1/2 to 1-inch layer of soil.
Water the Plants
Water thoroughly and make sure the bed gets at least 1 inch of water each week afterward.
An Alternative Way to Renovate the Beds
An alternative approach is to lift and replant the rooted runners in the early fall. This will give them time to become established and they will be ready to produce strawberries next season.