Strawberry Weed Control

Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits for home production.   They are easier to manage than tree fruits and provide excellent nutritional value and taste! By following a few basic cultural practices, home gardeners can produce a good yield of fruit, with each plant yielding up to one quart or more of berries.  However, one problem commonly experience by home strawberry growers is weed control. 

In establishing a new strawberry bed, one way to limit the impact of future weeds is to eliminate all existing perennial weeds before planting with the use of non-selective herbicides. Plan to prepare the strawberry planting area in late summer or fall and plant the following spring, due to the limited amount of time available for soil preparation and planting in spring.  Planting should be done in spring as early as possible, ideally by the end of March or early April.

To prepare the planting area, spray with a nonselective herbicide such as RoundUp to kill all existing weeds.  Allow a week for the plants to take in the herbicide and begin to show signs of dying, then till or hand spade the area.  Allow the area to sit for several weeks, giving any remaining perennial weeds a chance to grow back.  Then spray again with a nonselective herbicide.  Repeat this process as often as necessary, and once the perennial weeds have been eliminated the area is ready for planting. 

Weed control in established strawberry beds is even more challenging.  Mulching the plants with two inches of hay, clean straw, ground corncobs, wood chips or coarse sawdust in the spring will greatly reduce the number of weeds present throughout the summer, and make those weeds that do appear easier to remove.  If mulches are used, add ¼ cup of nitrogen fertilizer per bushel of organic matter. 

Pre-emergent herbicides labeled for strawberries, such as Preen Organic Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer (corn gluten meal) controls crabgrass and other annual grasses as well as some broadleaf weeds when applied every 4-6 weeks.  Apply a pre-emergent in fall to prevent the germination of winter annual weeds, like henbit or field speedwell, and again in spring to control summer annuals, such as common chickweed, crabgrass and foxtail.

Once weeds have emerged in a strawberry planting, they can be controlled in several ways.  Carefully applied spot sprays of RoundUp can be used to control broadleaf or grassy weeds that emerge.  Be careful to avoid getting any of the herbicide on the strawberry plants.  RoundUp (glyphosate) is a non-selective herbicide that will kill the strawberry plants as well as the weeds if used improperly.  Frequent and shallow hand cultivation between the rows of plants will help eliminate some weeds too. 

Ideally, strawberry plantings should be thinned and renovated yearly.  If renovation is not done, diseases and weed competition will weaken the plants and reduce yields.  Generally, strawberry plantings that are experiencing severe weed problems should be kept for only three years.  After that time, spray the entire bed with a non-selective herbicide like RoundUp after harvest, killing all the weeds and strawberry plants.  Respray the bed as needed throughout the summer to kill any remaining weeds, and replant strawberries the following spring.