Can I use mulched leaves to cover my strawberry plants? Also, do I need to cut the plants down?
Renville County Minnesota
Thanks for your question. Per our Extension publication Strawberries for the Home Garden, "After the plants have entered dormancy due to cold temperatures, and the temperatures are staying below 40°F, straw mulch should be applied about 4 to 6 inches over the top of the plants. This mulch will protect the plants from extreme winter cold so they will emerge again next spring. Remember, most day neutral cultivars are not quite hardy enough to over-winter in Minnesota, but it may be worth a try. Cover these with straw just as you would June-bearing cultivars."
I think straw is recommended because it is cleaner and does not compact down as much as leaves. Buy "clean straw" and not hay to avoid introducing grain seeds into your strawberry bed.
More strawberry information can be found:
Pest Management for the Home Strawberry Patch
Cold Climate Strawberry Farming (eBook)