How to Kill Strawberry Plants


If you’re grappling with an overgrowth of wild strawberry plants in your garden or lawn, it’s important to know that while they may bear the name of the luscious red fruit, these plants can quickly become invasive. Wild strawberries, although not harmful, can spread rapidly, take over patches of your garden, and compete with other plants for nutrients. Knowing how to effectively tackle wild strawberries can ensure a well-maintained and balanced garden ecology.

In dealing with these persistent plants, you have several options at your disposal. Mechanical methods, such as hand-pulling or hoeing, are often the first line of defence to physically remove the plants. However, for tougher or larger infestations, you might need more robust solutions, including the application of herbicides like glyphosate or employing natural methods like vinegar applications. Each strategy comes with its considerations for use and safety, requiring an informed approach to achieve the desired result without adversely affecting your garden’s environment.

Things to consider:

  • Wild strawberry plants can become invasive and require control measures.
  • Physical removal or chemical herbicides can be effective for managing infestations.
  • Safe and informed application of control strategies is necessary for garden health.

Understanding Strawberry Plants

When you set out to deal with strawberry plants, a grasp of their lifecycle, growth needs and the different varieties can greatly aid your efforts.

Plant Lifecycle

Strawberry plants are perennial, meaning they can live for several years. They go through a yearly cycle of dormancy in winter and active growth in spring and summer. Throughout their lifecycle, they produce runners, which are horizontal stems that grow out from the main plant and can take root to produce new plants.

Growth Requirements

Your strawberry plants require full sunlight and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They thrive in a sheltered spot where they are protected from the wind. Adequate spacing is crucial to prevent crowding and ensure good air circulation, which minimises the risk of disease.

Common Strawberry Varieties

There are numerous strawberry varieties, each with specific traits. Here are a few common ones:

  • June-bearing: Produce a large, concentrated harvest in late spring or early summer.
  • Ever-bearing: Yield two to three harvests intermittently from spring to fall.
  • Day-neutral: Can fruit continuously throughout the growing season, as they are less sensitive to the length of daylight.

By understanding these fundamental aspects of strawberry plants, you can effectively plan your approach to managing or removing them.

Identification and Impact of Weeds

Proper weed identification and understanding the impacts on your strawberry plants are crucial for maintaining a healthy garden. Weeds, such as wild strawberry plants, can be highly competitive and may significantly reduce the vitality and yield of your strawberry crop.

Types of Weeds

  • Common Lawn Weeds: Garden weeds like dandelions, crabgrass, and clover can infiltrate strawberry beds.
  • Wild Strawberries: While often mistaken for the cultivated variety, wild strawberry plants (Fragaria vesca) spread aggressively and can overtake a garden if not controlled.

Effects on Strawberry Plants

  • Competition for Resources: Weeds vie for sunlight, water, and nutrients, which can stunt the growth of strawberry plants.
  • Disease and Pests: Dense weed populations can harbour pests and diseases, increasing the risk of infection to strawberry plants.

Mechanical and Physical Removal Methods

When tackling wild strawberries, you’ve got to be thorough. Mechanical and physical removal methods are direct, often require labour but can provide immediate results when performed correctly. Let’s focus on how to properly execute these strategies.

Hand-Pulling Techniques

For immediate results, hand-pulling wild strawberry plants is an effective approach, especially if the infestation is minor. Ensure to remove the entire plant, including all the roots, to prevent regrowth. Be consistent; check the area regularly for new seedlings.

  • Ensure soil is moist: It’s easier to pull plants out when the soil is damp. Water the area before pulling or choose a time after rainfall.
  • Get to the root: Grasp the plant as close to the ground as possible and gently tug with a firm, steady pull to get all the roots out.

Cultivation and Mulching

Turn to cultivation and mulching to control and suppress wild strawberry growth over larger areas. Loosen the soil with a fork or hoe, which can help to disrupt the root systems.

  • Cultivate regularly: Dislodging plants from the soil makes them vulnerable and less likely to regrow.
  • Apply mulch: Thick layers of organic mulch prevent light from reaching the soil, deterring new sprouts.

Using Barriers and Covers

Implement barriers and covers such as plastic sheeting, landscape fabrics, or even newspaper to smother wild strawberry plants.

  • Covers: Lay them over the affected area and secure firmly into the soil. This will block sunlight, killing the plants and preventing future growth.
  • Raised beds and containers: If you’re starting anew, consider raised beds or containers to exercise better control over strawberry plants and to prevent unwanted spread.

Chemical Control Strategies

To effectively kill strawberry plants using chemicals, you need to consider your options and understand the most suitable herbicides for your situation. Below, you’ll find specific information on the types of herbicides available and guidance on their application to achieve the best results.

Selective Herbicides

Selective herbicides are designed to target specific plants without affecting others. This type of herbicide can be used when you want to eliminate strawberry plants in the midst of other crops or plants. Ensure you’re using a product that is designed to target the foliage of strawberry plants, as the wrong selection could damage other plants in the vicinity.

Non-Selective Herbicides

In contrast, non-selective herbicides, such as solutions containing glyphosate, are broad-spectrum and will kill most vegetation they come into contact with. These are suitable for clearing large areas where strawberry plants are present along with various weeds, but be cautious as they will not discriminate between your unwanted strawberry plants and other desirable plants or grasses.

Application Tips

  • Pre-emergent herbicides: Apply these before the strawberry plants germinate to prevent their emergence. It is crucial to follow the label’s directions regarding timing and dosage.
  • Post-emergent herbicides: Use these for plants that have already surfaced. They may require direct application to the foliage of the strawberry plants.
  • Vinegar: Regular household white vinegar can act as a natural, although less potent, herbicide. Keep in mind that it may need multiple applications and can still affect other plants if not applied carefully.
  • Safety: Always wear protective gear and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when handling herbicides to protect your health and the environment.

Adhering to these application tips will help ensure that your use of herbicides is both safe and effective in eliminating unwanted strawberry plants.

Natural and Organic Alternatives

When looking to remove strawberry plants from your garden, you have several natural and organic methods at your disposal that are both effective and environmentally friendly.

Vinegar Solutions

Vinegar, a natural acetic acid solution, is a potent herbicide that can help you control unwanted strawberry plants. For a homemade vinegar solution, mix one part water with one part vinegar, ensuring the solution is sufficiently strong to target the plants you wish to eliminate. Apply it directly onto the leaves of the strawberry plants during a sunny day for the best effect, as sunlight activates the vinegar. Remember, this method is non-selective and may affect other plants, so use it with caution.

Corn Meal Gluten

Corn gluten meal is an organic by-product of milling corn and acts as an effective pre-emergent herbicide. You can apply corn gluten meal to your soil to prevent the seeds of wild strawberries from germinating. For best results, spread the corn gluten meal in the sweet spot of early spring, when the soil is damp but not saturated, to interfere with seed germination.

Biological Control

Biological control leverages living organisms to curb the growth of undesired plants. For strawberries that you wish to remove, introducing specific insects or animals that feed on them can be effective. It’s crucial to choose a biological agent that will not harm the rest of your garden. Each potential control agent must be thoroughly researched to ensure that it will have the desired effect on your strawberry plants without causing collateral damage to other garden dwellers.

Preventing Regrowth and Maintenance

To successfully prevent regrowth of unwanted strawberry plants and maintain a well-kept garden, your focus should be on thorough garden care, proactive measures to inhibit development, and adherence to seasonal guidelines.

Garden Care

Your garden’s health hinges on regular maintenance. Ensure to mulch your garden beds adequately, which will suppress any new growths. Using a thick layer of organic mulch not only hinders strawberry plants from regrowing but also contributes to soil health.

Proactive Measures

Incorporate a pre-emergent herbicide at the start of the growing season. This helps to prevent unwanted strawberry seedlings from taking root. Applying it according to the manufacturer’s specifications is critical for this measure to be effective.

Seasonal Tips

Adjust your fertilisation and watering schedule as the seasons change. In dryer summers, increase watering to support desired plants. Similarly, seasonal mowing and cultivation are essential in keeping an orderly garden; however, be cautious not to distribute strawberry plant runners or seeds in the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you’ll find answers to common questions about managing and controlling wild and invasive strawberry species in your garden and lawn.

What methods effectively remove wild strawberries from flower beds?

To remove wild strawberries from flower beds, you can manually uproot the plants, ensuring you remove all the runners and roots to prevent regrowth. For a non-chemical approach, covering the area with black plastic sheeting can block sunlight and kill the plants.

How can one eradicate invasive strawberry plants in the UK?

Eradicating invasive strawberry plants in the UK requires persistence. You can dig them out by hand or apply a glyphosate-based weed killer, following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid affecting non-target plants.

Are the small strawberries found in lawns harmful if consumed?

The small strawberries found in lawns, also known as mock strawberries, are not toxic but are typically unpalatable with a bland or bitter taste compared to garden strawberries.

What are some suitable alternatives to a lawn with wild strawberries?

Suitable alternatives to a lawn with wild strawberries include planting ground cover plants that are more manageable, such as creeping thyme or clover, which can outcompete wild strawberries and offer a lush, green appearance.

Is it safe to use vinegar as a herbicide on strawberry plants?

Using vinegar as a herbicide on strawberry plants can be effective but requires caution. Vinegar is non-selective and can harm other plants and lawn grass, so apply it directly to the leaves of the strawberries you want to kill.

Why are strawberries in my garden dying, and how can I treat them?

Strawberries in your garden may be dying due to diseases, pests, or improper care. Treat them by identifying the specific issue, such as crown borers or fungal infections, and using targeted methods like diatomite for pests or adequate spacing and air circulation for disease prevention.

About the author 


Hey there, I am founder and editor in chief here at Good Grow. I guess I've always known I was going to be a gardener. I'm on a mission to share my UK based weed control & lawn care tips with you all. If you have any queries please post in the comments below.

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