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Strawberry end-of-season renovation

Key points

  • Renovation is an important step in strawberry management that comes after harvest.
  • Renovating allows the strawberry plants to grow vigorously and prepare new fruiting buds for next year.
  • Steps in renovation include mowing, weed control, cultivation, fertilization and irrigation.

Renovation is the process of restoring the health of the plants after harvest and preparing them for the following season. This step only applies to mature stands of June-bearing strawberries. Do not renovate in the planting year for June bearing strawberries, or in day-neutral strawberries.

The next year’s fruiting buds are formed in the fall, generally during September and October. Renovating shortly after the last harvest in summer supports bud initiation and increased yield the following year.

Specifically, renovating June-bearing strawberries serves the following goals:

  1. Maintains narrow rows and removes plants from between the rows.
  2. Encourages new leaf growth and reduces leaf diseases.
  3. Reduces insect pest populations.
  4. Stimulates runner and daughter plant production in the rows.

The tasks to achieve these goals include weed management, mowing the plants, fertilizer application, cultivation and irrigation.

Renovation should start immediately after the end of harvest. (Video:  04:39)

Weed management

Begin by scouting your fields to assess the number of weeds.

  • If you have a heavy broadleaf weed infestation and you decide that an herbicide is necessary, apply a broadleaf herbicide such as 2,4-D amine after harvest and before August 1.
  • Applying 2,4-D amine at this point in the season only kills actively growing plants.
  • Since the strawberries are not actively growing at the end of harvest, they are not significantly affected by labeled rates of 2,4-D amine.

If you are not using herbicides or if weed pressure is low, skip this step. Organic growers can control weeds in the rows by hand-removal and cultivation between rows.

Mowing

Approximately one week after weed management, mow off the old strawberry leaves, about two inches above the crowns. This height is recommended in order to prevent damage to the strawberry crown.

To new growers, it may at first seem strange to mow the plants. However, this step is necessary for the plants to continue actively growing and prepare for the next year.

Fertilization

After mowing, broadcast 25-60 lbs/acre of nitrogen, or an N-P-K fertilizer if phosphorus and potassium are also needed. This can be done with either organic or synthetic fertilizer sources.

Split applications of N are beneficial, particularly on sandier soils. Part of the nitrogen may be applied now, and the second part 4 to 6 weeks later.

Sandier soils require higher N application rates, while heavier soils (clay, clay loam, etc.) retain more N and require smaller rates. 

A foliar test earlier in the season will help determine the amount and type of fertilizer to apply. A balanced N-P-K fertilizer such as a 20-20-20 may be suitable depending on the current crop health and soil nutrient concentrations. However, over-application of P and K can be harmful. Therefore, regular foliar testing is important.

See strawberry nutrient management.

Nitrogen (N) recommendations for June-bearing strawberries

Soil Organic Matter (OM) level1 Low Medium High Organic soil2 Method/Timing3
Establishment year 80 lbs N/acre 70 lbs N/acre 60 lbs N/acre 25 lbs N/acre Split application: Apply 1/2 before planting and 1/2 in August during runner production
Bearing year4 80 lbs N/acre 70 lbs N/acre 60 lbs N/acre 25 lbs N/acre Immediately after renovation
  1. Low = less than 3.1% OM; Medium = 3.1-4.5% OM; High = 4.6-19% OM
  2. Organic soil = greater than 19% OM
  3. Suggested methods of application are a general guide and can be modified when appropriate; if nitrogen is applied in the spring, do not apply more than 15-20 lbs/A.
  4. Leaf analysis should also be used to help determine nitrogen needs.

Cultivation

After fertilizing, narrow the strawberry rows using a rototiller, multivator or another cultivator. The optimum row width at full canopy is between 12 and 14 inches; therefore the row can be narrowed to as little as 6 inches wide, and it will spread to 12 to 14 inches as it produces daughter plants. 

Narrow rows allow better sunlight penetration into the crop canopy, better disease control due to improved air circulation, and better fruit quality. Remember that yield is higher on row edges. 

During cultivation, some soil may be pushed onto the crowns. This helps protect the crowns and roots from winter injury. After renovation, do not continue to apply more soil to the rows as it likely contains weed seeds.

Subsoiling (1- to 2-foot-deep tilling) between the rows may benefit plantings that have suffered a great deal of soil compaction from tractor and picker traffic.

Irrigation

The plants need water after renovation to regrow leaves, access fertilizer, and for herbicides to be activated. Aim to supply one inch of water per week between irrigation and rainfall. 

See Irrigating strawberries.

Authors: Annie Klodd, Emily Hoover and Emily Tepe, Extension educators

Reviewed in 2021

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