Cutting strawberries: Here’s how to do it right

this strawberry plant is ready to get cut
this strawberry plant is ready to get cut © Kerstin Riemer / Pixabay

Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits. If you want to harvest richly from healthy plants, you should cut the old foliage after the harvest.

The taste of home-grown strawberries is simply incomparable. But once the fruit is harvested and eaten, the work is not over: now you should reach for the pruning shears. After all, pruning strawberries is an important measure in the care of the popular fruit. If you remove old foliage, the perennial will grow back vigorously, and delight again next season with lots of fruit. Here is how and when to prune strawberries correctly.

Why prune strawberries?

Pruning the old foliage after harvest increases the vitality of the plants and prevents diseases of strawberries. By pruning, you ensure healthy new shoots. Strawberries are perennials. They grow annually and will produce new foliage if you cut them back after the first peak of vegetation.

Important: The heart of the strawberry plant must remain intact. This is because the plant sprouts freshly from the root rhizome in the middle. Re-sprouting is easier the less old foliage prevents it from doing so. The young foliage is well exposed. This ensures better flower bud establishment and thus more yield next year.

Unpruned plants are also more susceptible to fungal diseases. For example, cutting strawberry foliage helps control strawberry powdery mildew. If you cut back once-bearing strawberry plants after harvest, you eliminate a source of transmission of viral diseases. Dispose of prunings in the trash. If you let it go through the compost, you may be bringing plant diseases back in. Also remove all vines, unless you want to grow cuttings and propagate new plants.

To improve plant health, it’ s generally a good idea to clean out diseased leaves and plant parts on strawberries. This is especially true for everbearing strawberries. Take out old, yellowing foliage during the growing season. Also be sure to remove dry foliage after the winter.

When and how to cut back strawberry plants?

Cut back your single-bearing strawberry plants immediately after harvest. Usually this is in the middle of July. Clean out all the outer leaves except for the heart with a sharp knife or pruning shears. Larger strawberry beds can be cut back to five to ten centimeters (2 to 4 in). Use a hedge trimmer to do this. You can even trim your strawberry patch with a high-mounted lawn mower, as long as the rhizome is not damaged. Strawberry cultivators often trim back plants with a brush cutter, a gasoline-powered hedge trimmer attachment on a brush cutter, or a mulching tool. In commercial cultivation, this is called mulching. In private gardens, it is better to sweep up the cuttings with a leaf rake.

Cut off the offshoots of strawberries

To propagate, strawberries form tendrils with offshoots. The offshoots cost the mother plant strength. Therefore, they are cut off after harvesting. If you want to grow new young plants from the offshoots of strawberries, you proceed differently: Select the strongest offshoots. Make sure that the mother plant is healthy. Then cut back the foliage on the mother plant only after the offshoots are separated and transplanted. The foliage on the mother plant is important to provide adequate nutrition for the offspring. Growing strawberry plants yourself is great and preserves favorite varieties. However, over the years, diseases and pests can easily be passed on in vegetative propagation. In professional propagation, the so-called step structure guarantees that you get healthy young plants. Experts therefore advise not to take cuttings more than once. In any case, it is advisable to buy young plants from time to time. This way you can also try out new varieties.

Away with old foliage and straw mulch

Use the moment of pruning strawberries to remove straw mulch right away. Place it under the ripening fruit to keep it clean and suppress diseases like gray mold. It is easier to apply fertilizer to the now open soil. Fertilizers for berries are recommended. Fertilize strawberries with not too much nitrogen. Two grams of nitrogen per square meter after harvest is absolutely sufficient. With a complex fertilizer (NPC), this corresponds to 16 grams per square meter.

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