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What's wrong with my strawberry plants?

By: Jennifer Howell
We answer questions about common strawberry problems, diseases and insects.

So you've started a strawberry bed and you are beginning to see a few things that don't look right. Check out these commonly asked questions about strawberry problems to see if any fit your situation. Hopefully you'll find the answers you need and head off bigger issues!

Check out our Edible Plant Guide

Whats-wrong-with-my-strawberry-plant-mold: If you are finding moldy strawberries in your patch, gray mold could be the culprit.

Why are my strawberries molding?

Gray mold (and other fungal diseases) spreads in cool, wet weather, and spores can overwinter in leaf litter and debris around the plants.

Here are a few tips to help keep mold problems down:

  • Rake off any dead leaves and moldy straw and replace with fresh, clean straw, especially when plants are blooming and setting fruit.
  • Make sure there is adequate space and air movement between plants so the foliage dries after a rain or a dewy morning.
  • Always pick all the fruit so no berries are left behind to get moldy.
  • Use drip irrigation or water close to the ground so foliage stays dry.

Check out our article on 7 common garden diseases

My strawberries are deformed. Why?

Deformed berries are often due to poor pollination. Bees are the best pollinators of strawberries, so encourage them to take up residence in your yard. Cold temperatures, rainy and windy weather can slow bee activity, so you might not get as many pollinations if the flowers are blooming at an inopportune time. You can hand-pollinate the flowers if necessary by dusting each blossom with a soft paintbrush, moving from flower to flower and transferring the pollen from the brush. Some insect pests will cause berry deformities as they chew on the fruit, and erratic watering while fruit is developing can also cause misshapen berries.

ht-dwp-ridding-of-slugs-board: Placing a wet board on the ground near your strawberry plot will help lure in the slugs for removal.

I have slugs on my strawberries. What do I do?

Slugs can do a lot of damage to strawberries by eating holes in the fruit and foliage. They emerge from damp debris at night to feast, leaving a tell-tale trail of slime wherever they travel.

If you have a slug problem, try placing a wet board or damp burlap on the ground near the strawberry plot. They will crawl under it during the day, and every morning you can pick up the board, remove the slugs and destroy them. Slug bait can help reduce the population as well. Plus, keep moist debris such as leaves away from the strawberry plants. If you find they are spending the day under wet straw mulch, you may have to remove it for the season.

Whats-wrong-with-my-strawberry-plant-birds: Birds like this robin can be deterred with a mesh bird net.

How do I keep birds from eating all my strawberries?

A mesh bird net, draped over a set of stakes to hold the mesh above the plants will help deter birds from snatching all your prized berries. It will also help keep rabbits, deer, and other critters from raiding the berry patch. Try a thin, white row cover to protect them from insect pests. The same row cover can save delicate plants and blooms from freezing with a late spring frost.

Whats-wrong-with-my-strawberry-plant-anthracnose: Mushy brown spots on your strawberries may be a sign of anthracnose.

My strawberries have mushy brown spots on them. What is this?

Tell-tale sunken, watery-looking brown or black spots will indicate the plant has anthracnose — a fungal infection that is spread by splashing water and wet foliage. To prevent this pathogen from taking hold, avoid overhead watering and use drip irrigation instead, use straw mulch so water doesn’t splash as much, and don’t work in wet foliage. It is best to remove infected plants and destroy them, and rotate the bed to a new location.


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