Mulching Strawberry Plants in the Summer

mulching strawberry plants in the summerQ: Should I Mulch Strawberry Plants?

On April 9, 2015, Kim Ruby asked:

Hello – I live in North Central Florida. My growing season is different than the northern climates. My strawberry season is ended by June. This past year I planted 40 Sweet Charlie bare root plants in November and they are doing great. I have been pinching the berries this year giving the plant a chance to establish. Should I use straw mulch to protect my strawberry plants from the summer heat? If not, what do you suggest? Thank You.

Answer to: Should I Mulch Strawberry Plants in the Summer?

Kim Ruby,
Strawberries are temperate beauties.  They thrive in countries all over the world, including many chilly ones.  Since they do so well where winter temperatures get cold, people have adapted techniques to harness the most vitality from their plants.  Famously, that involves mulching them over the winter to protect them from cold injury.

But, straw mulch serves several significant purposes when it comes to growing strawberries during the summer in temperate regions or during the cooler seasons in hotter climates.

First, insulation is just as important during the summer as it is during the winter.  Keeping the roots of the strawberry plants cool is important to maintaining healthy plants.  Loose clean straw is an ideal insulator as it allows good air flow and shields the soil/roots from the direct heating rays of the sun.

Second, mulching with straw during the summer keeps your strawberries clean!  Instead of resting upon muddy dirt, your berries stay much cleaner and have a barrier between themselves and soil-borne contaminants.  Often, they can simply be rinsed briefly to wash away any debris instead of really needing a deep clean.

Third, straw mulch or pine needle mulch works to protect your plants and berries from a host of common pathogens, especially fungi.  When it rains, the little droplets of water reach significant speeds as they hurtle from laden clouds above.  When those liquified missiles repeatedly plummet into pools of muddy or standing water, that dirty water is splashed up onto the vegetation of your plants.  That process has transmitted enough pathogens to kill many a gardener's entire strawberry patch.

So, yes, mulching strawberry plants in the summer is a good idea.  mulching insulates from freezing temperatures (for northern climes) in the winter, but it also insulates and allows for cooler air flow to keep the roots from overheating in the summer (for southern climes), protects, and keeps strawberries clean (all climes). So, yes, go ahead and mulch with clean straw this summer. Good luck!

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8 thoughts on “Mulching Strawberry Plants in the Summer

  1. Can I use leaf mulch? I just finished putting it down, now you’ve got me wondering if I should take it all out and use straw

    • Shannon,
      No, don’t use leaf mulch if at all possible. The leaves compact and will hold moisture and rot, thus providing an ideal opportunity for pathogenic fungi and other problems to affect your strawberry planting. I would recommend removing it as soon as possible and replacing with clean straw. Good luck!

  2. Can I use silver maple tree shavings as mulch for my strawberries? We are in the process of cutting up the wood and wondered if this would work.

    • Cathy,
      I wouldn’t recommend using fresh tree shavings. As they decompose, they suck nitrogen out of the surrounding soil that your strawberry plants need to flourish. Hope that helps, good luck!

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