How and When to Thin a Strawberry Bed

Are you dealing with an overgrown and out-of-control strawberry bed? Well, proper pruning can help you get it back on track. Gardener Briana Yablonski will share how and when to prune strawberries for optimal growth.

Strawberry thinning process. Close-up of a sanitary worker's hands in bright orange gloves using black pruning shears to trim young strawberry runners in a strawberry bed. The strawberry plant is characterized by its low-growing habit, with lush green leaves forming a dense rosette at ground level. The leaves are trifoliate, each with serrated edges and a vibrant green hue.


Perhaps you planted a few strawberry plants last year, and now they’re out of control. Or maybe you inherited an old strawberry bed when you purchased a new house. Regardless, you’re wondering how to transform that unruly jungle of a strawberry bed into the neat, berry-producing patch you’ve dreamed of.

Proper thinning is one key part of maintaining a healthy and productive bed. This process involves removing old and unproductive crowns to allow younger plants to flourish. Stay with me to learn everything you need to know about successfully pruning strawberry plants.

Understanding How Strawberry Plants Grow

Close-up of a wooden raised bed with growing strawberry plants in a garden. The strawberry plant is characterized by low, spreading runners that give rise to a compact and bushy appearance. Its compound leaves, trifoliate, are bright green, serrated, and feature distinctive veins.
Start with understanding strawberry plant growth. This is crucial before renovating beds.

Before I cover the details regarding the process of renovating strawberry beds, I’ll explain how strawberry plants grow. After all, you can’t tinker with something if you don’t understand all the parts!

Strawberry plants are herbaceous perennials that form thickened stems known as crowns. Roots, leaves, fruits, and aboveground runners all emerge from the crown. Eventually, the sprawling runners form small “daughter” plants. These plants then root into the soil, form a new crown, and begin to grow into mature plants that send out their own runners.

When you consider that each plant can send out many daughter plants, and each daughter plant can produce its own offspring, it’s easy to imagine how a strawberry bed can become overgrown in just one season.

Should I Thin Out My Strawberry Bed?

The short answer is yes! While your strawberry plants will grow and produce fruit if you forgo thinning, spending a few hours renovating your beds each year provides the following benefits. 

Increase Fruit Production

Fresh ripe organic strawberry in white basket on a mulched bed with growing strawberries. The strawberry plant is characterized by its low, spreading growth habit with lush, dark green foliage. Its leaves are trifoliate, featuring serrated edges and prominent veins, giving the plant a lush and vibrant appearance. Strawberry fruits are small, heart-shaped strawberries of bright red color. Each fruit features numerous small seeds, or achenes, embedded on its surface, giving it a textured appearance.
Maximize strawberry productivity by thinning older plants for new growth.

Most strawberry plants are the most productive in their second and third year of growth. While they may continue to send out a few berries in years four and five, you’ll notice your harvest basket becoming less and less full.

However, you don’t have to plant new plants every few years to keep your strawberry patch pumping out sweet, juicy berries!

Thinning involves removing old plants and leaving room for new plants to expand. With more room to grow, daughter plants mature and begin producing fruit. And by the time these plants’ fruit production fades, new daughter plants will be ready to step up to the plate as fruit producers.

Thinning also ensures that each plant can access the water, light, and nutrients it needs to produce fruit. While it’s easy to think more plants are better, a handful of healthy plants are far more productive than a boatload of mediocre plants.

Improve Disease Resistance

Close-up of affected Gray mold strawberry (Botrytis cinerea) against a blurred background of green foliage. Gray mold, caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, manifests as a fuzzy, greyish-brown mold covering rotting strawberry fruits. Initially, the affected areas appear water-soaked and soft, quickly progressing to a velvety gray mold that spreads rapidly across the fruit's surface.
Thin to reduce strawberry diseases by improving airflow and limiting moisture.

Thinning also helps limit the development and spread of common strawberry diseases. When strawberry plants are allowed to their own devices, they will quickly grow into a dense mat.

These tightly packed plants mean limited airflow and increased moisture under the plants’ canopy, both of which increase the likelihood of fungal diseases like leaf scorch and gray mold.

Thinning out extra plants improves airflow and helps keep these diseases at bay.

Save Money

Close-up of a gardener picking ripe strawberries in the garden. Strawberry fruits are small, heart-shaped berries with a vibrant red hue and a glossy texture. They are nestled among lush, dark green trifoliate leaves that feature serrated edges and prominent veins.
Thinning maintains naturally produced plants, saving money and effort.

Although strawberries are perennial plants, some people choose to replant them each year. That’s because individual plants are the most productive in their second year of growth. While this method results in a reliably productive harvest each year, it involves purchasing and planting new strawberries each year.

Thinning your strawberry bed allows you to keep the new plants the bed naturally produces and avoid purchasing new plants. You will have to spend some time pruning, but not any more time than you would removing old strawberry plants and replanting new ones. Plus, you don’t have to spend money on new plants.

When Is the Best Time to Thin Strawberries?

Close-up of a gardener in white gloves and a blue plaid shirt thinning a strawberry plant using scissors in a sunny garden. The strawberry plant is characterized by its low-growing habit and trifoliate leaves arranged in clusters along trailing stems. The leaves are bright green and serrated, with a glossy surface.
Thin strawberry plants in late summer or early fall for productivity.

Late summer or early fall is the best time to thin both June-bearing and everbearing strawberry plants. At this point, the plants are done producing fruits, and their vegetative growth has slowed for the season. Thinning the plants in the fall allows you to enjoy a healthy and productive bed the following spring.

While you should complete the major pruning event after the plants finish producing fruits, you can also complete light pruning throughout the summer if you notice plants are becoming overcrowded.

How to Prune a Strawberry Bed During the Growing Season

Close-up of female hands pruning strawberry runners with scissors in the garden. The strawberry plant is characterized by its low-growing habit with clusters of trifoliate leaves and delicate runners. The leaves are dark green, serrated, and arranged in a rosette pattern, consisting of three leaflets per leaf.
Trim overcrowded or diseased leaves to maintain health.

Depending on where you live, you should plant strawberries in either the fall or early spring. Although you can plant strawberries in containers, growing them in the ground is a popular method. If you choose to plant them in a bed, leave 15-18 inches between plants and three to four feet between each row. Keep this spacing in mind for future pruning.

Regardless of when you add the plants to the ground, they’ll begin putting on new growth by the late spring. If you’re growing plants in rows, it’s okay for the runners to fill in the space between the initial plants. However, removing the runners that sprawl between each row of plants makes harvesting easier. You can remove each runner by pulling them up by hand or cutting them off with a pair of pruning shears.

You can also trim off some of the leaves if you notice they’re becoming overcrowded or diseased. This will help keep the plants healthy and decrease the chances of disease.

How to Renovate a Strawberry Bed

You know how contractors take an old kitchen, remove the outdated tile, touch up the cabinets, and end up with a room that looks almost brand new? Well, you can transform your outdated and overgrown strawberry beds in a similar manner. That’s why the act of taking an overcrowded strawberry bed and converting it into something more neat and tidy is known as renovating.

Thinning is just one part of the overall renovation process. Other steps include mowing, removing weeds, fertilizing, and potentially mulching. Follow these steps to breathe new life into your strawberry bed.

Wait Until the Right Time of the Year

Cleaning the strawberry bed in the fall. A view of a bed of strawberry plants, with a small garden rake lying nearby and a bucket of trimmed strawberry runners standing nearby. The strawberry plant is distinguished by its lush and vibrant appearance, featuring clusters of trifoliate leaves with serrated edges. These leaves are typically bright green with a reddish tint and have a glossy surface.
Renovate strawberry beds in late summer for post-harvest recovery.

The late summer or early fall is the best time to thoroughly overhaul a strawberry bed. At this point, the plants are done producing fruit, but they’ll have time to recover before cold weather arrives. You can renovate June-bearing fruits in midsummer, but there’s no harm in waiting until the early fall.

Remove Weeds

Close-up of weeding a strawberry bed with a hoe. The blooming strawberry plant is characterized by delicate white flowers that emerge from the center of the plant's dense foliage. These flowers feature five rounded petals surrounding a yellow center.
Removing weeds from strawberry beds should involve thorough root removal.

Check for any mature weeds in and around your strawberry beds. Remove the weeds and place them in your compost pile or somewhere else away from the beds. Make sure to dig out the roots of perennial plants like thistle and dandelions.

Mow the Tops of the Plants

Close-up of female hands in white gloves mowing the Strawberry with a sickle. The plant has dense clusters of trifoliate leaves. Each leaf consists of three leaflets arranged symmetrically along a central stem with serrated edges and a glossy green surface. These leaves are held upright on sturdy petioles and form a dense rosette at the base of the plant.
Mowing plants two to three inches above crowns is a great way to prepare for renovation.

Although mowing is optional, it’s a recommended step in the broader renovation process. Removing so much of the plants may seem harmful, but getting rid of old growth allows for healthy, new growth to flourish.

The goal is to cut the foliage two to three inches above the plants’ crowns. One way to do this is to set a lawnmower to the highest setting and carefully mow over the plants. Just make sure to test the mower on a small patch before running over your entire bed!

A few other options include trimming the tops of the plants with a weed whacker or cutting the leaves off with a pair of pruning shears. Whatever option you choose, be careful to leave the crowns intact since they produce new growth.

Thin the Rows

Close-up of a gardener's hand in a white glove with black scissors about to trim strawberry runners in a garden bed under sunlight. The plant produces dense, bright green foliage. Strawberry leaves are characterized by their dense clusters of trifoliate leaves, each consisting of three leaflets arranged symmetrically along a central stem.
Clear space between rows for better strawberry bed organization.

If you’ve planted your strawberry plants in rows, your first step is removing any runners and plants that have grown into the space between the rows. You can do this by tilling the plant with a small rototiller or disturbing the ground with a hoe.

When you’re done, each row of strawberry plants should be 12-18 inches wide. Don’t worry about this step if your strawberries are growing in a patch rather than rows.

Thin Out Old Crowns

Close-up of a gardener's hands in white gloves trimming strawberry runners using metal scissors in a sunny garden. The strawberry plant has dense clusters of trifoliate leaves that are bright green in color with jagged edges.
Thin strawberry plants by removing old crowns.

Your next task is to remove old crowns to make room for new crowns to grow. Older crowns are larger than newer ones and may have brown or otherwise discolored pieces. Aim to thin the plants so they’re 12-18 inches apart.

Insert a small hand trowel below the plants you want to remove, then pull the trowel upward until the crowns pop out of the ground. After thinning, remove any runners emerging from the remaining crowns.

Fertilize and Mulch

View of a mulched strawberry bed in the garden. Mulch consists of hay. The strawberry plant produces rosettes of lush green flowers with jagged edges. The leaves consist of three leaflets arranged symmetrically along central stems.
Fertilizing with balanced fertilizer is best in conjunction with mulching beds for soil protection.

Once your strawberry beds are looking neat again, it’s time to fertilize the plants for the following growing season. Choose a balanced, granular fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Follow product instructions and sprinkle the fertilizer in the strawberry bed.

Mulching your beds is optional, but it helps the soil maintain moisture and keeps berries off the ground, limiting disease and insect damage. Apply a light layer of straw, woodchips, or leaves on the bare soil around the plants.

Final Thoughts

Regularly thinning your strawberry plants will limit overcrowding and prevent plants from developing diseases. Remember, trimming the leaves and removing old crowns will lead to healthier and more productive plants.

short growing season. Krupnyy plan pripodnyatoy gryadki s rastushchimi buryakami i morkovkoy ryadom s gryadkoy rastushchikh ogurtsov v solnechnom sadu. Beets obladayet kruglymi, gladkimi korneplodami purpurno-bordovogo ottenka. Beets have leafy green stems, featuring deep green, slightly crinkled leaves attached to reddish stems. Carrot leaves, attached to the edible root, are feathery and fern-like in appearance, growing in a rosette from the top of the root. Carrots are root vegetables with a distinctive appearance characterized by their long, slender, tapering shape and vibrant orange color, although they can also be found in shades of yellow, purple, red, or white, depending on the variety. The smooth skin is typically glossy and may have fine root hairs, while the flesh is crisp, crunchy, and ranges from pale orange to deep orange. Carrot leaves, attached to the edible root, are feathery and fern-like in appearance, growing in a rosette from the top of the root. Carrots are commonly cultivated for their sweet flavor, crunchy texture, and versatility in culinary dishes, making them a popular ingredient in salads, soups, and side dishes. Показати більше ​ 1 150 / 5 000 Результати перекладу Результат перекладу short growing season. Close-up of a raised bed of growing beets and carrots next to a bed of growing cucumbers in a sunny garden. Beets has round, smooth, purple-burgundy roots. Beets have leafy green stems, featuring deep green, slightly crinkled leaves attached to reddish stems. Carrot leaves, attached to the edible root, are feathery and fern-like in appearance, growing in a rosette from the top of the root.

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