Updated: Apr 17
Hopefully you had a chance to cover your strawberry plants with a thick layer of mulch or straw in the fall to protect them from our harsh winters, and especially to keep them frozen during the chinook weather if you are near Calgary, Alberta like me. Thawing and freezing is actually much harder on plants, and the reason many perennials don't survive southern Alberta winters, than the cold itself.
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When to Uncover Strawberries In The Spring
To figure out when to uncover your strawberries in the spring, pull the straw or mulch to the side and check for new growth. In southern Alberta this is likely mid to late March or early April and in the northern parts of Alberta, mid to late April. If new growth is seen, use a hand rake or just your hands to remove mulch or straw, leaving a two inch covering. Wait two weeks allowing plants to climatize and then remove the top inch, leaving the last inch as a ground covering for the remainder of the year. Leaving mulch on too late can decrease your strawberry fruit production. It is better to remove slightly early than to wait too long.
Mulching and Fertilizing Strawberries
Leaving a one inch layer of mulch on the ground around strawberry plants is beneficial for retaining moisture between waterings, preventing weeds, and protecting fruit from direct contact with the ground, causing rotting. Over the course of a year mulch will begin to break down and compost itself. As this can cause strawberries to rot, replace the mulch in early May or add a fresh layer on top of last year's mulch. This is also a great time to work some compost into the soil to fertilize your strawberry plants. If you don't have access to compost, fertilize two weeks apart with a 10-10-10 or a 18-18-21 fertilizer.
For more information on growing strawberries in zone 3 read Growing Strawberries in Alberta.
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