PROTECTING STRAWBERRIES AGAINST FROST

The various varieties differ considerably in their winter hardiness. We have known many of them for years and we know that they are perfectly adapted to our climatic conditions. They rarely freeze, even in very severe winters. However, in recent years, many varieties bred in countries with a warmer climate than ours have appeared on the seedling market. In general, these varieties are very attractive in terms of fertility, fruit beauty, flavor, resistance to some diseases, but one thing they have in common is not fully proven winter hardiness. That is why I recommend covering them for the winter with white fleece (preferably the thicker one, i.e. P-50, but P-23 can also be used), as well as regular straw or perforated foil.Covering is best carried out in late autumn or at the beginning of winter, when the plants are already dormant and the ground is frozen. Of course, covering will not ensure that the overwintering plants have a temperature > O °C, but it will protect them from frosty, drying winds and will also reduce the temperature amplitude in the immediate vicinity of the plants. In other words, covering the strawberries will create secluded and more or less constant overwintering conditions for them without drastic temperature fluctuations. And that’s all we can d o.We need to be aware that even the best covering may not be effective if the plants enter the winter dormancy period being in a bad condition i.e. weakened, heavily infected by leaf diseases andwith clear signs of nutritional deficiencies. That’s why we need to remember about proper fertilization and protection for strawberries after harvesting. Healthy and well-grazed plants, with anadequate supply of starch will certainly overwinter better than sickly and hungry ones.In the case of amateur crops (where there is usually a greater choice of location for strawberries than in the case of large fields), I always advise finding the best location for a new planting of strawberries. Ideally, they should be planted in a secluded spot that is not exposed to strong winter winds but, of course, as plenty of sunshine. In such conditions (of course, additional cover won’t hurt) there’s a good chance of good overwintering even for those varieties that are reputed to be very frost-sensitive.

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