Do Strawberries Need Straw?

Good question! I’ve been growing Strawberries for six years now. Initially, at my allotment and then in my garden. I’ve only ever used straw twice, the first year I grew them, and this year.

It took me a long time to make the connection between straw and Strawberries – no really! I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. But when I did I was all gung-ho about using it. What happened? The straw blew away on my windy, hilltop of an allotment. Hmm…

Since then I haven’t bothered with the straw. I didn’t need to because my Strawberries were big, juicy and ubiquitous. This year they are big, juicy and similarly ubiquitous (as you can see from the photos) but… the slugs have found them. I found one eating one of my biggest Strawberries when they first began to ripen. Not good.

Out came the straw again. Because what do slugs hate? – anything scratchy on their slimy little bodies. Luckily, I got a Rhubarb forcer for Christmas that came packed in lots and lots of straw. I knew it would come in handy and it has.

So, this year I’m doing straw. Apparently, it has other benefits too like keeping the Strawberries off the muddy ground and keeping them clean from rain splashes. I have to say though a bit of mud and some water marks never stopped us eating them straight from the plant before.

But it seems to be working a treat. No more slug damage and actually the red Strawberries look amazing against the pale yellow backdrop too.

Do you use straw? If not why not?

38 Responses to “Do Strawberries Need Straw?”

  1. Samon 03 Jun 2011 at 10:06 am

    I have used plenty of straw and yesterday upon inspecting my lovely developing fruit, guess what? Slug munches!

    My war on slugs carries on….. they must have thick skins on my plot. :(


  2. Nomeon 03 Jun 2011 at 11:22 am

    I usually use straw but this year I just haven’t got round to it. I haven’t really noticed a difference (the slugs always get a few berries, with or without!) except one of the strawberries got munched by millipedes, which I’ve never seen before!

  3. Sueon 03 Jun 2011 at 2:41 pm

    The straw really makes a difference in wet weather. The plants get weighed down and the fruit goes mushy against the mud. Where we’ve had such a dry spring the effects of not using straw are probably less.

  4. Debbieon 03 Jun 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I too was rather slow on the uptake about the link but have used straw this year. It keeps the fruit clean as the rain doesn’t splash the mud onto them. The fact that we haven’t had any rain has not passed me by. The slugs and snails sit on top of it and munch, and the woodlice sit under it and munch. Luckily there’s enough left for me to munch.

  5. Elenaon 03 Jun 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I was using just weed membrame but they started rotting so now have hay on top, i have plenty of hay having rabbits, and it’s working well.

  6. Susanon 03 Jun 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I grow mine in pots so they dangle down and I have never needed to use straw. Not so easy for the slugs to get there either as they are up on a wall.

  7. bangchikon 03 Jun 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I never knew that strawberry is very much dependent on straw….

  8. Chrison 03 Jun 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Last year I managed to get a few old tyres from the local garage. Piled two or three high and filled with compost they made great planters for my strawberries.

    Up side – Keeps the plants away from the slugs and nice and clean.

    Down side – the mouse that lived in these high-rise rubber houses ate most of the strawberries!

  9. Annetteon 03 Jun 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I read to one could use pine needles; appears to do all that the straw would (scratchy, protects). Needles are free where I live so that is what we use.

  10. Jeanon 04 Jun 2011 at 12:34 am

    I also did not know about straw and will start using it to help keep the berries off the dirt. So far slugs are not my problem – it has been stellar jays. I now have bird netting over the berries but they still manage to get some! They were also pecking open my chicken’s freshly laid eggs so I had to cover the entire coop in bird netting. Maybe I should just do the entire garden,

  11. Jenniferon 04 Jun 2011 at 7:30 am

    No straw yet – but a few years back you mentioned on mtp a device which you had come across in an old catalog or book – a kind of elevated woven ring to keep strawberries off of the ground – a respondent provided a German link and someone else a Dutch -one click became another and now I am using plastic rings that are not nearly as elegant as either the old ring or the straw but they seem to do the trick!

  12. Piperon 04 Jun 2011 at 8:12 am

    Ah! Now I know what to do to help my strawberries survive the little blighters!! Keep popping to the allotment to pick some and they have all been eaten….

  13. mcartoron 05 Jun 2011 at 4:32 am

    Will try straw next year to protect against the bugs and slugs. We needed to cover patch with netting to protect strawberries from rabbits and birds.

  14. Damoon 05 Jun 2011 at 7:30 am

    I always use straw, mainly to keep them clean so the girls can pick and eat them straight from the plants.

  15. sarahon 05 Jun 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I’ve just been and bought some straw from the nearest pet supermarket shop place. £5 for a huge bag full that will last me probably 4-5 years.
    Putting it out was fun wearing a black cardigan as I’m now pulling bits off me still.

    I’m hoping it’ll keep some of the slugs away as well as stopping the strawberries from getting muddy. I should have done it about three weeks ago though…

    Ah well I’ll be ready next year!

    As soon as the sun comes out properly I’ll be taking photos!

  16. Susanon 05 Jun 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I’m using straw for the first time this year. I have to say that last year I had some wonderful strawberries so I’m hoping that they will be even better this year… time will tell.

  17. Craig Websteron 05 Jun 2011 at 4:51 pm

    So three uses for straw: keeping spouts away (sometimes), keeping the berries of the dirt where they can rot and I suspect providing some additional heat and light to the green undersides?

  18. Sueon 05 Jun 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I was wondering about straw – the blog and all these comments have been very useful.

  19. Rachelon 06 Jun 2011 at 8:29 am

    I have always used straw, I love the way it looks and by the end of the season it’s composting down and improving the soil. This year I’m skipping the straw because I have a whole lot of last years Autumn leaves to pile around the plants, I’m hoping it does the same job.

  20. Emmaon 06 Jun 2011 at 10:08 am

    For the last few years we have grown ours in long narrow planters which work brilliantly. The fruit hangs over the sides of the pots away from any hungry slugs. But we did find a couple of strawbs which had been munched by something big! Squirrel we think. Is there no end to the pests??

  21. Alion 06 Jun 2011 at 4:13 pm

    We’ve put strawberries in a bed for the first time this year and have put straw down to protect from below, with netting to protect from above – so far, it appears to be working! The only strawberries we’re now having problems are those in the hanging baskets – they look lovely, but are very difficult to protect from the birds who treat them as a buffet with handy perch!

  22. Paul @ GrowingOurOwnon 06 Jun 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I’ve got mine on the allotment growing through black weed suppressing fabric this year, not sure what the slugs make of it but they haven’t raided just yet… :)

  23. Lovaon 06 Jun 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I have my strawberries in raised bed planters and I prefer to use horticultural grit instead of straw (after seeing Monty Don recommend it on Gardener’s World, I remember him saying that straw are good hiding places for slugs).

  24. Woody Wilburyon 06 Jun 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Due to inattention, forgetfulness and downright-too-busyness I’m using zero protection on this year’s strawberry bed. No netting above, no straw below. And what are the strawberries like, to repay me for this lack of attention?

    Wonderful. There’s hardly any damage of any sort and they’re ripening like there’s no tomorrow.

    I blame the dry weather; there’s hardly any slug activity anywhere this year (well, on my plot at least).

  25. Terrion 07 Jun 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Your strawberries look delicious. I never realized they need straw….

  26. Alan Mooreon 09 Jun 2011 at 11:09 am

    My strawberries (bought from a nursery before Easter) went outside into a traditional herb planter on the 3rd May.

    They’re on a path inside my veg plot and underneath a huge, hefty net to keep out the pigeons and other critters!

    I should have inserted a few pipes for watering as the soil tends to wash out of the holes.

  27. Soniaon 09 Jun 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Interesting to read the comments. I used straw first year, not in the second and now used this year again as was having a real problem with the strawberries being eaten from below (I think by woodlice, although plenty of slugs and snails around too so it could be either!). Seem to be a bit more protected and at least it is keeping them off the ground. Have to say am undecided about the need!

  28. Robon 09 Jun 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Just dropped onto your blog and think it’s great!!
    We have a bed of strawbs on the poor neglected allotment. We haven’t had a single strawberry.
    It’s a crime against gardening!
    No wonder ‘The Committee’ are eyeing us….

  29. Lynn Grubberon 10 Jun 2011 at 4:39 am

    I never knew you could grow strawberries under straw. Guess if it helps why not. I use rubber mulch around my garden and lawn and it doesn’t strangle my plants, water runs right through.

  30. Anastassiaon 10 Jun 2011 at 8:44 am

    I plant mine through weed-supressing membrane, and chuck bark chips on top. Never need to water and no rot. The strawberries are GIANT and delicious. Oh, and I ignore planting distances and squeeze quite a few in a 120x240cm bed. Last year, from 2 beds I had soooooo many berries, we got sick eating them, fed all the neighbours, froze loads (still some left) and made a shelf-ful of jam. I am not lying. Had to give the jam away this April. Just ridiculous how productive HAPIL is. And makes so many good strong runners too. Got 12 from Ken Muir 4 years ago and last year supplied some of the neighbours with the runners too, and they are very happy with them too. So I do recommend HAPIL. Happy gardnening!! :o)))

  31. Markon 10 Jun 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I knew that straw was used with strawberries, but I was never sure why. I makes you wonder why its not used with other plants as well.

  32. mcartoron 12 Jun 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I found a snake in my strawberry patch! I wonder if the straw would help prevent snakes. The snake was a bit frightening, but it probably ate the little critters nibbling on my strawberries.

  33. Laura @ Family Spiceon 16 Jun 2011 at 3:53 am

    i found you on stumble and I must be the densest woman on the planet. I didn’t know about the straw and strawberries! Here in San Diego the strawberry farms don’t use straw, but have the plants on top of mounds to let the berries hang. Mine are in the dirt.. I need to find me some straw!

  34. Vegetable Garden Cookon 24 Jun 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I find that using straw makes my slug problem significantly worse, because they like having a layer of mulch to lay their eggs under. I live in Slugville, and so have had to really figure out how to deal with them. Not much works, other than using iron phosphate and going out at night with a pair of scissors.

  35. PreppyGardenGalon 28 Jun 2011 at 1:32 am

    Hmmm… interesting post. I don’t have slugs but I got plenty of snails in my garden. I’m definitely trying this… hope it works!

  36. crton 03 Jul 2011 at 5:22 am

    I used to put straw everywhere but am about to stop. Because… Of slugs, much like Vegetable Garden Cook (the same conclusions about what works, too).

    This year’s early potatoes are at least 2/3 useless because of them (voles don’t even come close) and that’s just too much.

    Also, I’ve been reading some old books on dry farming and getting excellent results with crimson clover. So my foremost reasons for using straw in the first place – conserving moisture and improving the structure of the soil – are not pointing so compellingly towards straw anymore.

    As to strawberries, in our locality market growers usually grow them on ridges covered by black anti-weed fabric.

  37. Heatherknapeon 09 Jul 2011 at 11:46 pm

    I’m on my second summer of growing strawberries, and this year I’ve mulched with straw to help keep moisture in the soil, and improve soil structure as the straw decomposes. The berries are great, but I think it has more todo with the compost I fed them than the straw.

    As for slugs, I have great luck using beer traps – small plastic pot saucers buried up to their lip around the plants, then filled with cheap beer. The slugs go in for a drink and don’t come out!

  38. ErUpNorthon 11 Jul 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I haven’t used straw this year as the plants are very old and I keep saying they need digging up, but then they flower and fruit before I get around to it. The consequence of not using straw has been that the fruit have suffered with some very heavy showers and yes those pesky slugs have had a good feast. When I have straw down I find some of the worst offenders for munching are wood lice.