Features of mulching strawberries
With proper care, strawberry beds will produce good yields for three to five years, starting from the first year after planting. Why is mulching strawberries important? Mulching with organic material is a good way to improve soil structure. The soil covered with mulch retains heat, moisture and friability for a long time, is protected from the effects of wind and sunlight.
Mulch is laid in the aisles. This creates a clean path and keeps fruit dry and clean.
The growth of weeds is prevented: the number of weeding, watering and loosening is reduced. The fruits do not come into contact with the soil, the risk of decay is reduced, they remain clean even after heavy rains.
Materials can be both organic and artificial. Organic: straw, hay, sawdust, needles, tree bark, compost and sawdust, second: cardboard, agrofibre, plastic film. All of them have advantages and disadvantages.
Organic mulch inhibits the growth and development of certain diseases and pests, improves soil structure, making it looser and more fertile, and, as a result, good yields. It must be constantly replenished with a thin layer between the rows as organic matter decomposes.
Artificial mulching materials are more durable, but they do not improve soil fertility and can overheat the soil in hot weather.
Artificial mulching materials
How to mulch strawberries
Before mulching, the soil should be cleared of weeds, dry branches and leaves. If the surface is dry, it should be loosened, watered, and then mulched. This procedure should be carried out twice a year: in spring, so that the flower stalks do not come into contact with the ground, in late autumn, so that the plant does not freeze when cold weather sets in.
Note! To ensure a bountiful harvest next year, gardeners should mulch their strawberry plantings in the fall. Mulch saves plants from drying out or dying in cold winter temperatures. If strawberries are not covered, in winter, flower buds, roots and crowns can be damaged or destroyed by temperatures below -15 ° C.
The most commonly used mulch is straw, but any loose material can be used.
Winter mulch on strawberries
Тhe leaves are not a good mulch for strawberries for the winter. They can stick together in layers, trap air, and create space for ice to form, and can damage plants due to excess moisture remaining underneath the material.
Winter mulch should remain on strawberries until danger of frost or freezing temperatures has passed. Late frosts can damage or destroy open flowers and significantly reduce yields. The first flowers are especially important as they produce the largest berries. Removing the mulch early can encourage flowering.
Types of mulch and rules of use
When properly distributed, mulch significantly reduces the amount of time spent tending your garden. The main advantage of organic mulch is that it saturates the soil with useful substances, increasing fertility. When and how to mulch strawberries?
The most popular material for mulching is cereal straw. This mulch not only looks neat, but also keeps fruits clean, protects them from fungal diseases, and helps to avoid gray rot. Dangerous rot quickly affects strawberries lying on the ground, covers the fruits with a white-gray fluff until they rot.
Straw for mulching
Strawberry plants themselves prefer moist soil. The layer of straw allows water to seep into the soil, but it does not evaporate as quickly. Strawberries grow better and become healthier. This makes them less susceptible to fungal diseases.
Dry material is selected and spread around the plants in an even layer about 15 cm thick. The mulch will soon settle.
Additional Information! When to mulch strawberries? The best time for laying straw under strawberries begins with flowering. The soil will warm up, and when the first green fruits appear, warm soil will accelerate their ripening. In the rainy season, the straw absorbs moisture and does not fulfill its true purpose. In autumn, the straw is thrown away so that pests do not start under it.
Straw absorbs nitrogen and acidifies the soil, and to compensate for the loss of nitrogen, plants are mulched with a mixture of straw and compost.
Mulching strawberries with hay
The best mulching material is dried lawn grass. Unlike straw, it is a good source of nutrition. When hay rots, the soil is enriched with beneficial microorganisms that prevent the occurrence of fungal infections in strawberry plantations.
The grass seeds contained can disperse and increase the appearance of unwanted weeds in the strawberry bed. Mulch is laid in a layer of 5-7 cm, it retains moisture well in the soil.
Mulching strawberries with sawdust
Fresh sawdust retains moisture better than hay and straw, inhibits the growth of weeds, and prevents the movement of snails and slugs.
However, this mulching material does not protect garden strawberries from pests well: insects live well in sawdust. As sawdust decomposes, it absorbs nitrogen from the soil. Therefore, before using sawdust, strawberries should be fed with a dose of nitrogen fertilizers.
This mulch acidifies the soil as it rots, so it should be used with caution on acidic soils. Ash or dolomite flour should be applied to the strawberry plot.
Not only the needles themselves are used as mulch, but also cones, thin twigs and coniferous bark. Such material quickly rots, the soil becomes loose and nutritious. Mulching with pine needles in the fall will protect strawberries from frost.
Mulching with wood chips
Wood chips are the most durable material for mulching (lasts up to 5 years). Well protects the soil from overheating and freezing, inhibits the growth of weeds.
Mulching strawberries with compost perfectly protects and improves soil structure, feeds strawberry plants well, and prevents the development of pathogenic microflora.
If mistakes are made when applying compost mulch, it can be a source of weeds and diseases. The mulch layer needs to be updated regularly, as it is quickly processed by soil microorganisms.
Note! Covering strawberry plants with cardboard reduces soil water evaporation and reduces the amount of watering during the season. Moisture in the soil will remain for a long time, which is certainly useful for strawberries.
This is the least popular method, but cardboard does a good job of protecting strawberries from overheating. Under the layer, the root system is warm, the covering material does not allow the heat to escape. The berries do not come into contact with the ground, and are not infected with gray rot. The prepared area is covered with food cardboard, after which it is covered with mowed grass. In autumn it is better to use other materials.
Application of mulching film for strawberries
In modern organic farming, special films are used as mulch, often used for strawberries. Their cost is lower than that of non-woven materials.
The film should be applied immediately before planting strawberries. Most often, black plastic wrap is used, it already has holes for planting and watering plants. C If the film is without holes, you can make them yourself with a sharp knife. The distance between the holes should be at least 30 cm, and between the rows 50 cm.
Mulching film or spunbond retains moisture well, prevents the growth of weeds, and prevents stolons from taking root. Raise the temperature of the soil by several degrees, which allows you to get an earlier harvest. You can reduce overheating of the soil by spreading grass or straw on the surface of the black film.
Spunbond is a fabric used for mulching strawberries. Film as a mulch can last two seasons, spunbond is used for several years. The spunbond cover allows the soil to breathe, through which you can water and feed the strawberries.
It is recommended to use the film only for spring mulching, in winter it will not be able to protect plants from frost. It does not allow air to pass through, and can lead to rotting of strawberry roots. During spring frosts, condensation accumulates on this material, which can harm plants.
Since the mulch retains moisture well enough in the soil, the number of waterings is significantly reduced, by about a third.
Strawberries should be watered in the morning so that by the evening the surface of the mulch has time to dry. This will help the berries from gray rot. When used as mulch, organic matter quickly decomposes and can become a source of disease. To prevent this, it is enough to regularly remove the old mulch and replace it with a new one.