On September 13th, 2011, Elenor asked:
When do strawberry plants die? My strawberry plants are doing badly. They used to flourish for the first 3 years, but now are thinning out and getting scraggly. It is mid-September, I read about renovation – to be done around June after harvest. Can these plants be dug up and dried out through the winter, and replanted in the spring? When I bought them they were just dried out looking bare clean roots. What should I do to keep them happy and healthy?
Answer to: When Do Strawberry Plants Die?
It sounds like your plants are either losing their vitality (happens between years 3 and 5, usually) or succumbing to some other problem (could be a pathogen or pest also). Unfortunately, however, you cannot dig them up and store them dry over winter. They will certainly die. Although they looked dry when they arrived, they were shipped moist. And, the instructions that usually accompany the bare-root plants indicate that rapid planting is critical. While it is usually best to store them in the ground, if you need to dig them up, you can learn here about Storing Bare-Root Strawberry Plants.
However, if your plants are more than three years old, it would be best to re-plant your bed completely with new and vigorous plants. You asked me when do strawberry plants die, but it might be better to answer a similar question: when do strawberry plants get old enough to warrant replacement? Strawberry plants are living things. As such, their biological mechanisms wear out over time. No one has discovered a plant fountain of youth as of yet, either. So, when plants get old, you wouldn't expect them to produce much fruit for you just like you aren't going to expect your grandmother to announce to the world that she is expecting twins. While this isn't a hard and fast rule, any strawberry plant that is 5 years old or older isn't going to give you strawberries (or many of them anyway). And, you can expect them to start the steep decline toward eventual death after year three. Some particularly hardy plants still do well in year 4, but those are usually the exception.
Therefore, regardless of the exact moment when the last biological function ceases in a strawberry plant and it officially dies, it is better to put poor elderly plants out of their misery. In fact, there is an entire system you can employ to keep your plants young and happy and producing strawberries for you virtually indefinitely. To learn more about it, go here: System for Transplanting Strawberries. And, good luck!
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