Question: My strawberry plants are getting quite crowded. They have a lot of new runner plants. Is now a good time to move them to a new bed, or should I wait until spring? They are still producing fruit.
Answer: This is an excellent time to move strawberry plants. The new runner plants will be more productive next year if you move them now instead of waiting until spring. Even runner plants which have just begun to root can be moved.
I like to start a new strawberry bed every three years. Strawberries produce the most fruit during their first two years. Not only do the old plants produce less but plants which are too crowded also have less fruit. The ideal spacing between plants is 6 to 18 inches. I like to space plants a foot apart in two rows 18 to 24 inches apart. In September of the first year I relocate runner plants so there is 6 to 12 inches between all plants. In the fall of the second year I remove most of the original plants after they are through bearing fruit. I make sure that there is at least 6 inches between remaining plants. I use the new runner plants to start a new strawberry bed in September of the third year. If you do not have space to start a new strawberry bed, you can keep the current bed more productive by removing the oldest plants and making sure there is adequate space between the remaining plants.
Strawberry plants pick up virus which reduces their productiveness. Strawberry nurseries are able to remove virus using tissue culture techniques. So it is a good idea to start with nursery grown plants after five or six years.
Strawberries originally got their name because they were mulched with straw in the fall to protect them from winter cold. Plants are still more productive if they have winter protection. Leaves can be used to mulch strawberry plants. I cover my strawberry plants in late October or November with a white floating row cover. It is a thin, woven plastic cloth which I use in the spring to cover tender vegetable plants. A thicker insulating plastic plant cover cloth is also available. If you have trouble finding these locally, they can be ordered from several internet sources (johnnyseeds.com, territorialseed.com). The white color of the row cover reflects sunlight which keeps plants from starting to grow on sunny winter days. It also keeps plants warmer at night. Plants are ready to start growing earlier in the spring.
It sounds like you have either and everbearing strawberry variety or one of the continuous bearers. The continuous type are my favorite because they produce fruit all summer long without a break. Tristar, Tribute and Hecker are three good continuous bearing varieties. If you don’t have one of these varieties, you may want to wait until spring when plants are available in the nurseries.
Allen Wilson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org