What’s The Best Mulch For Strawberries? 12 Top Ideas

What’s The Best Mulch For Strawberries? 12 Top Ideas

Growing strawberry plants in your garden can be immensely rewarding. There’s nothing better than growing out to the garden and picking a basket full of ripe, red strawberries that your family can enjoy. But, have you wondered about the best mulch for strawberries?

I’ve grown strawberries in a variety of different ways over many years. What I’ve found is that the strawberries I’ve grown in the ground in their own dedicated strawberry beds produced the best results in regard to fruit production and taste.

I think that this is because I’ve also used plenty of mulch to cover the soil and this has helped to retain moisture and keep the soil cooler. On the other hand, the strawberries I’ve grown in containers were often allowed to dry out too much and this resulted in fewer fruits.

*This website is reader-support so this post may contain affiliate links for which I earn commissions.*

While this is purely my own fault for not watering the pots often enough, I do like to keep my garden as low-maintenance as possible but still highly productive and also reasonably visually pleasing.

If you’re like me and want a fairly low-maintenance garden but still want to enjoy a bumper crop of delicious ripe strawberries every year, then you want to mulch around your plants.

There are plenty of different materials that you can use to mulch your strawberry patch and I’m going to discuss all the ones I have come across and explain the pros and cons of each one.

But first, let’s talk about the benefits of mulching your strawberries.

What Are The Benefits Of Mulching Your Strawberries?

I would never even consider growing strawberries in the ground without mulching them. There are so many benefits to mulching your strawberries and it makes growing them much easier. Here are the major benefits I can see of mulching your strawberries.

Mulch Keeps Restricts Weed Growth

If you lay the mulch thick enough, you shouldn’t have too many problems with weeds. I mean, who wants to spend hours on the weekend delicately removing annoying weeds from between your strawberry plants?

The reason this works is that the mulch covers the surface of the soil so that weed seeds don’t get the sunlight that they need to germinate.

Mulch Helps To Retain Moisture In The Soil

I think this is one of the most important benefits. The plant roots of strawberries are quite shallow and close to the surface which makes them quite thirsty plants. Plus, if your strawberries don’t get all the water that they need, the fruits may not be as sweet as they could be because the plants would constantly be under stress.

Therefore, anything you can do to ensure your strawberries are growing in moist soil is a benefit if you want sweet, juicy fruits.

Mulch Helps To Regulate The Soil Temperature

It’s no secret that strawberries really need to be grown in a sunny position. On a hot summer’s day, the ground can get quite hot.

When you lay some mulch on top of the soil, this acts like a layer of insulation. It will help to keep the soil temperature a little cooler. Of course, this also helps to stop evaporation.

Mulch Can Protect Your Plants From Freezing Temperatures

Even if you live in an area where you can keep your strawberries in the ground all year round, in winter, you might still experience cold winter temperatures. To combat this, a thick layer of mulch can protect your plants from freezing temperatures because it can act like a frost blanket.

Essentially, mulch will provide the best winter protection for your strawberry plants and will save them from winter injury. However, if you’re expecting really cold temperatures, you might also want to consider using row covers to further protect your plants.

Mulch Breaks Down Over Time Feeding The Soil

This is another important benefit because it can provide your plants with nice fertile soil for them to grow in. Strawberries are also fairly heavy feeders so the more you can do to provide healthy soil, the happier your plants will be.

Now that you know why you should mulch your strawberries, here are some of the best mulches that you can use. I also want to discuss mulch material that you might consider but that might not be ideal.

Mulch Keeps Your Fruit Clean And Can Deter Pests Like Snails And Slugs

If your fruits are constantly in contact with the soil, they can easily become soiled and are more likely to spoil much faster.

Plus, slugs and snails love to munch on strawberries. However, with a nice thick layer of mulch, it makes it much more difficult for these pests to get to your plants.

12 Types Of Mulch That Is Available For Use On Strawberries

Mulches come in a variety of different forms with some being better than others in my opinion. Let’s have a look at what’s available and why each type of mulch is ideal or not.

Straw Mulch

strawberry plant mulched with straw which is the best mulch for strawberries

This is my absolute favorite type of mulch because it’s nice and clean, relatively cheap to buy and very easy to lay over the soil around the plants. Plus, it’s easy to replenish your mulch by adding another layer of straw when needed.

You can use any kind of straw including wheat straw, rice straw, pea straw or even sugar cane mulch. When applying this mulch make sure that you use clean straw that is free from weed seeds and use enough straw to create a nice deep mulch layer.

Organic Matter

gloved hands holding some organic matter or compost

While you can use organic matter such as compost as a mulch around your strawberries, this is not something I do. I prefer to incorporate the compost or organic matter into the soil before planting the strawberries.

Grass Clippings

a red wheel barrow on a lawn filled with grass clippings

You might also consider using grass clippings as mulch for your strawberries. Once again, this is not something that I wouldn’t recommend. This is because grass clippings can contain weed seeds.

Plus, these clippings can generate quite a bit of heat as they break down and this could harm your plants. Additionally, grass clippings will add a fair bit of nitrogen to the soil as they break down and this will encourage plenty of green growth in your plants but is not good for promoting fruiting.

Personally, I prefer to either add my clippings to my compost or I’ll spread them over garden beds that are fallow or only have larger trees and shrubs growing in them.

Leaf Mulch

a strawberry plant mulched with leaf litter

Another option is to use leaf mulch, however, while this is better than using grass clippings, it can still pose a few problems. Like grass clipping, leaf mulch can harbor weed seeds so that defeats one of the benefits of using mulch around your strawberries.

However, if you have plenty of deciduous trees in your garden, this might be a good choice. Just make sure that you allow the leaves to dry out first and use a shredder if you have one to mulch them up.

Pine Needle Mulch

dried pine needles

Pine needles are ideal for use as mulch around your strawberries. So, if you have some pine trees in your yard or nearby, you should have access to a good supply of free organic mulch for your strawberry beds. 

A good layer of pine straw around your strawberries will keep the soil moist, reduce weed growth and keep the fruits clean and out of contact with the soil.

However, make sure that the pine needles are dry before adding them as a mulch around your strawberries. Avoid using fresh or green pine needles as these will secrete pine oil which can be a growth suppressant.

Wood Chips

strawberry plant mulched with wood chips

You can also opt to use wood chips around your strawberries if you wish. Pine bark is the best choice when using wood chip mulch because it’s relatively acidic and strawberries love this.

An additional benefit of using pine bark is that it doesn’t break down as quickly as straw will, so you won’t have to top up the mulch as often. 

Pine Fines

a group of strawberries mulched with pine fines

Pine fines are a by-product of pine mulch production. They consist of pine dust and small wood fragments that remain after the pine bark chips are screened. 

These are generally not sold as mulch but rather as soil conditioners. If you can get hold of these, they are perfect for mulching around your strawberries thanks to their acidic nature.

These are also perfect for mixing with quality potting mix to fill your raised beds. They aid in drainage which is excellent because although strawberries need plenty of moisture, they don’t like being waterlogged.

Landscape Fabric

a row of strawberry plants in landscape fabric

I’m generally in two minds about landscape fabric and definitely don’t recommend using the cheaper fabrics. I’ve tried this myself once and discovered that the fabric stops the water from getting down into the soil.

However, landscape fabric is used extensively by commercial growers who lay the fabric over the ground and then cut holes in the fabric to plant the strawberries into.

If you want to go down this route, go for the highest quality landscape fabric you can afford and ensure that this allows moisture to get through the fabric and into the soil below. 

Plastic Sheeting

a strawberry plant surrounded by plastic sheeting

Plastic sheeting is definitely something I would avoid. The plastic does not allow moisture down into the soil and you’ll have to individually water each plant at the root zone to ensure each plant gets enough moisture.

Essentially, this does not promote good soil health and is not something I would do in my garden. In my humble opinion, plastic sheeting is only useful for placing under areas that you want to lay paths over.

Strawberry Mats

Strawberry mats, sometimes referred to as strawberry collars, are made from strong fabric that is UV resistant. This fabric is impregnated with copper which is a deterrent to snails and slugs.

I haven’t used these myself but they seem to get good reviews from other growers. Rather than covering the entire strawberry patch, these mats are designed to be fitted around each plant.

Newspaper Or Cardboard

Shredded newspaper or flattened cardboard can also be used as mulch, especially if you need to suppress excessive weeds in a new strawberry patch. However, newspapers can easily blow away and will look quite untidy in the garden.

This is better to use as a base under some other type of mulch like straw or pine needles.

Gravel Or Rocks

garden beds surrounded by gravel paths and mulched with bark and rocks

Another option is to use gravel or small rocks as mulch around your strawberries. These will add a more landscaped look to your yard while still providing many of the benefits of mulching.

However, they will not break down to feed the soil. While this means that you don’t have to continually top up the mulch, it also will not add to your soil health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of mulch is best for strawberries?

My top pick for the perfect mulch for strawberry beds would have to be straw followed closely by dry pine needles and pine wood chips.

Do strawberries like compost or manure?

Before planting your strawberries, you should definitely enrich the soil with plenty of compost or aged manure. Strawberries are heavy feeders and this will get the plants off to a good start.

Which manure is best for strawberries?

You can use most types of aged manure on strawberries including cow manure, chicken manure and even horse manure. 

Final Thoughts

Mulching your strawberry beds has many benefits. A thick layer of mulch will suppress weeds, keep the soil moist, discourage snails and slugs and keep the fruits clean.

The perfect mulch for strawberries is any type of straw. This is relatively inexpensive, clean and easy to lay. Other good options include dry pine needles, pine wood chips, and gravel or fine stones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.