Now is the time to remove straw from strawberries

Once flower trusses emerge in strawberries, it is time to remove the straw.

For strawberry growers, now is the time to remove straw from strawberries in east Michigan and across much of the state. There has been a wide spread of growth stages of strawberries across the state this season, and I have been encouraging growers to hold off with straw removal as long as possible this year due to the very early spring weather. This has helped to keep the soil cooler and slow growth as long as possible this spring, thus delaying the need for frost protection so early in the season and also delaying beginning of harvest.

The decision point for straw removal this spring has been the emergence of flower trusses from the crown of the plant. Once this occurs, then it is time to remove straw. In grower visits I have made to strawberry farms the last few days, flower trusses seem to be emerging more frequently and consistently.

As an alternative to totally removing the straw, growers may just leave the mulch in place and let the berries grow through the mulch. This will work well only in situations where light to moderate amount of straw were applied last fall. At these farms, growers will need to walk their fields to remove straw by hand in spots where it is matted too thicker, thus smothering the berries.

Lastly, I am recommending that a bit more straw be left on the strawberry row than most years. This will help keep the bed cooler, therefore delaying the beginning of harvest and will reduce weed pressure.

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