How to Prune Your Strawberry Plants
Controlling plant growth is important when gardening, and this is best done through pruning. Cut back your strawberry plants rigorously during the growing season to prevent prolific runners from turning your strawberry patch into an impenetrable maze. These tested techniques will discipline your strawberries into neat, easily-harvested rows.
Step 1 - Prune Start in the First Year
In the first year your strawberry plants are growing, pinch off all the blossoms that form on the plants. This will store the plants' energy to form fruit for the next season, and seeds as part of the fruit. Also, use a weed fork to dig up weeds that will choke off the strawberry seedlings before they can firmly take root.
Continue to pinch back flowers in the following years up to early summer. Then, allow flowers to form and mature after that point.
Step 2 - Reduce Runner Growth
Both June-bearing strawberry plants and everbearing strawberry plants send out shoots from each mother plant, and also runners from these shoot. In order for the strawberry plants to produce fruit, you must redirect runner production into new base rows to grow more fruit. Allow the first set of runners to grow out from the mother plant until the space between main rows is 12 inches wide. Then, remove all but six secondary runners produced from the first runner growth by locating a main stem where the runner branches off and pulling it off carefully by hand.
Step 3 - Realign and Root the Secondary Runners
Lift and place the secondary runners so they are 10 inches apart. Once a third set (tertiary) of runners starts to grow off these shoots, press the entire stems and leaves of the secondary runners down half an inch into the garden soil. This will root the tertiary runners, which will produce the strawberries. Secure the tertiary runners with bent twigs or gardening staples to keep them in contact with the garden soil
Step 4 - Remove All Subsequent Runner Growth
Pull off all new runners from the tertiary growth. Be sure not to separate the tertiary runners from the secondary runners or from the original mother plant. In the next growing season, pull off any new runners that form anywhere on the strawberry vines. This focuses the strawberry plants on fruit production.
Step 5 - Pruning Hill-grown Strawberries
Everbearing and day-neutral strawberries grow best with this method. Start the mother plants just 12 to 15 inches apart at the crest of a hill. Then, train the strawberry runners down the hill in paths that spread more widely apart as they descend. Let secondary runners form, gently pinching off all but six to eight runners, and encourage third-generation (tertiary) growth from these vines. As with flat-row growth, pinch back all runners in the second season. Weed ruthlessly around them in the first year of growth so they can become well established in the garden.
Step 6 - Replace Old Growth with New Runners
Dig up old fading strawberry vines every two to three years, and replace them with new secondary or tertiary runners to keep your strawberry patch productive.
If you follow all of these steps, you should continue to have a flourishing strawberry patch and plenty of fresh fruit for your house.