How To Prep My Strawberry Bed for Winter

In Zone 5B our winters can get very cold. There’s not much that will survive/overwinter without carefully protecting or shielding it from the elements.

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Strawberries, however, are able to overwinter. Our strawberries are in a raised bed along the side of our greenhouse. The heat from the greenhouse structure warms the ground earlier in the spring and keeps it warmer in the fall – however, the winter is still brutal for the raised bed.

Strawberry Bed Against Greenhouse
Strawberry Bed Against Greenhouse

Prepping your strawberry bed for winter is a great way to ensure their survival and your dream of fresh spring berries.

In this article I’ll provide some details on how we prep our strawberry bed for winter aka, ‘overwintering’, along with some personal anecdotes from experiencing how to overwinter strawberries in Zone5B.

Incase you need some extra motivation to overwinter your strawberries, here are four reasons why I recommend prepping your bed for winter:

  1. It helps avoid damage to next spring’s buds
  2. It minimizes root damage from temperature fluctuations
  3. It prevents heaving – uprooting caused by soil shifts during freezing and thawing of the ground
  4. It helps retain moisture in the soil to keep the roots from drying out (very important!)

Now, let’s dive into what you should do to overwinter your strawberries.

Strawberries Close Up

Clean Up Your Plants and Bed

This is an easy but vital step to your overwintering process. Cut back the leaves and foliage, thin out any small run-offs that don’t have hope in thriving next spring, and remove any weeds or competing plants.

Weed removal in any bed is best done in autumn when the ground is still soft and before the root of the weed takes hold to overwinter in your bed. it will provide your spring plants with less competition too!

When removing the leaves use clean garden pruners and cut back no more than two inches above the crown – the main plan stem. (In the past and this year, I don’t aggressively cut it back that much, just a simple clean up of the leaves and runners – it’s totally up to you how much pruning you want to do on your bed)!

Also be sure to remove any leaves that are damaged, diseased or pest-infested. Do not dispose of these in the compost, they need to be put in the trash.

Do I Prep My Strawberries Before or After My First Frost Date?

It’s always better to do overwintering before your last frost date. If you don’t get to it before that date, cleaning the bed is still important to do. But if you missed that first frost date or winter has hit your area early, you can skip fertilizing and watering.

Strawberry Plant Leaves Frozen


Giving the strawberries a bit of fertilizer before overwintering is a great way to provide the plant with the nutrients it will need to be successful in the spring.

I recommend using 20 20 20 fertilizer on your strawberries to give it a well rounded amount of nutrients. If you past your last frost date and didn’t fertilize don’t worry too much – it won’t kill your plants!


Watering your strawberry plants is important to keep them growing and in good condition while the season runs out. Since they’re not actually producing anything they won’t need the same amount of water as a fruit bearing plant would. Once a week or so if there’s no rain.

Once the frost hits and the start of winter approaches, the plants become dormant and will not require watering. If you past your first frost date and want to know if they should still be watered – you are good to hold off on watering.

Mulching Your Strawberry Plants

This is THE most important step in prepping your strawberry bed for winter (and the most important for anything you overwinter).

Mulching provides a layer of insulation, retains the moisture in the soil for spring, keeps the soil temperature more regulated, prevents weeds from finding a place to overwinter or rise up in the spring.

The best type of mulch for strawberries is straw. It’s loose and doesn’t have any potential weed seeds in it like hay does.

We use wood chips as our mulch of choice. Our bed is already covered in these chips and we just top it up over the winter to help protect the plants.

The recommended amount of mulch for a raised bed is six to eight inches from the soil and only three to five inches for ground beds.

Our Strawberry Bed Mulched
Our Strawberry Bed Mulched

When to Mulch

It sounds like a no-brainer to mulch at the same time as your cutting back, prepping the bed, etc. However, depending on your location and zone, providing mulch too early can do some damage to your beds!

Mice or other unwanted rodents that are seeking their winter shelter might find the mulch in your bed to be a warm and cozy place to rest. Needless to say that’s not exactly what you want to see in the spring.

Mulch retains moisture which is why it’s used and loved by gardeners in the spring and summer – however in the winter it can trap too much moisture causing damage to your strawberry plants root system.

You should mulch at the perfect time – when the foliage is brown and floppy! This will be after your first frost date sometime in November depending on your zone.


Once winter passes you should start to see little green shoots from the crown (main stem) of your plants. At this point you should remove the excess mulch and let the sun shine through to your little sprouts!

Be sure to leave some mulch, as mulch is still important for plants.

You can use the excess mulch in your compost or if it’s still intact, re-purpose it for another aspect of your garden.

Strawberry Runner
Strawberry Runner

We hope you enjoyed this article about prepping your strawberry bed. If you did make sure you check out the other growing guides that we have, including our seed saving guides. We are growing our website with more articles all the time, and we invite you to grow with us. If you have any questions about strawberries or would like to share some of your knowledge with us please leave a comment below.

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