Strawberry Crowns

Asked August 2, 2019, 3:15 AM EDT

I have planted day neutral strawberries (tributes) in my new raised garden beds. I did so in the spring after mixing soilless mixture. The problem lies in how the mixture had settled over the last few months. I used 12 inches of soilless mixture, planted the strawberries that were just roots (just so their crowns were above the mixture level) and they are doing great.

I want to build the soil back up to the 12 inches as it has now settled and dropped down about 4 -5 inches (soil plant and crown). I heard you can not put the soil up over the crown. Can I put another 4 inches of mixture in the box or not? If I can, should I in the spring, a little throughout summer or cover in the fall? Maybe a couple of inches a year? Is there some way I should or should not do this? I am guessing I can not simply lift the plants. Should I just be happy with 8 inches (but my box design {a unique design} looks terrible now that the soil has dropped). The plants are doing great though, I do not want to upset this. I also fear some more settling may happen in the future. Please any advice would be helpful.

Mecosta County Michigan

8 Responses

Sorry I was out of the country.
You can certainly add soil to back fill the containers. just don't bury the crown

Yeah, i already was aware not to bury the crown. I think I was prodding how exactly to re-fill said strawberry planters. Should I place soil around the plant like a small volcano the crown in the middle? I mean my soil has settled 6 inches now. I have to get more soil in the box, “all without burying the crown. Will the crown grow more as time goes on? I can do slow yearly inch or so of soil.

Sorry, I was out of the country. I spoke to a greenhouse Educator and he asked a lot of questions but was surprised that the soil less mix was decomposing so fast. He said peat moss is usually fairly inert and takes some time to decompose. I have seen mulches decompose at the rate you are seeing but not the peat moss I see in container strawberry plantings. Are you growing these outdoors? How are you watering and fertilizing. Normally container grown everbearing strawberry production is a one year deal and the plants are thrown out at the end of the season and a new batch started. Can you upend the container and add new media to the bottom and replant into it? That is about the only way I can think of getting new media into the container without burying the crowns.

Thank you for your response. I can answer your questions but per your last sentence, I will have to find an alternative route to hide the settling in the box’s as their is no way to add soil without causing harm to the crown. I will attempt to add picture as well. The plants are outdoors, the soil is not decomposing it is settling as i did not compact it when I placed it in the box’s and last the irrigation comes from a soaker hose at the base of each plant.

I am hoping the settling is slowing to a stop but I would liked it if it were level again. Thank you for your time....Tim

Hi Tim,
My name is Jeremy and I'm one of the greenhouse agents at MSU Extension. I have some thoughts on your setup, but I think it might be more efficient if we talked on the phone.

Feel free to give me a call on my cell phone: 269-492-2813.

I see you want a perennial system so I think you may want to replant them. Now is not a good time since they are just starting to bear their fall crop. I think the best time to do it would be late next spring after the spring fruiting season ends. This winter we will start to get hard freezes and you will notice that the leaves of the strawberries lay down on the ground. This is the time to mulch them. Put about 6 inches of mulch over the beds to protect them from the cold and reduce freezing in the bed and over winter them. Remove the mulch in late March as the berries begin to show new growth. Let them grow and take fruit off in the spring.

In the summer, the plants will want to runner and fruit production will fall off. Strawberries make flower buds under short days and runner under long days and hot conditions. These are day neutral and make flowers all the time but flowers does fall off in the summer and the plants runner.

In June bearing varieties we renovate after harvest. We mow them down removing the leaves but not scalping the crown, we narrow the rows (thin the plants), apply fertilizer and herbicides and then water them up.

I think that renovating your bed at this time would cause the least disruption and not impact your fruit production.I am guessing that would be early July. You will probably need to thin the plants and that would be a good time to lift, add media and replant the younger plants. I think you should mow the leave off when you do this.

The plants should but out new leaves and have a fairly normal fall crop.

Thanks Mark, I received most of that information correctly. The re planting of the younger crop throws me a little as I snip all my runners all the time coupled with the fact the plants are all new as of the spring, ordering them from a catalog Feb 2019.

I am hoping for an even larger crop next year, perhaps the year after even but then expectations will fall off as I look for replacing them as the grow past maturity. I see California university has a few out helping to fight diseases but will search around come then. I guess I could place runners in between the older plants that last year let them take hold by fall, then mulch them and removing the parent. But thats getting off topic.

I want more soil because the design of the box it is crucial to have the soil higher. Probably best to discuss on the phone, thank you Jeremy I work this week 12 nights at the hospital so it would be next week at earliest sir. I am picking up what your throwing down though Mark and some idea and understanding are percolating. Thank you.


Okay, poor choice of words. I will try again.
At the end of next year's spring fruiting season, cut the leaves off the plants and dig them up. Add your soilless media and replant. The plants will put out new leaves and should begin to bear some flowers. Cut the flowers off until the late August. By then the plants should be large and healthy and you can let the flowers remain and begin to pick fruit a few weeks later. Yes your yields may not be a high as if you did not replant them in late June but you will have restored the media level and not lost much production. It is not setting you back a year only reducing next fall's yeilds.