My plan for dealing with mold on strawberries
One good thing about this blog is, when I make a mistake, I write about it. This helps me make sure that you don’t follow in my footsteps when I go down the wrong path.
This year, I had a lot of strawberries. It was the best year ever.
But it could have been a lot better.
I lost about one-third of the berries to gray mold, which is caused by a fungus called Botrytis cinera.
What’s sad is that my efforts to make the strawberry harvest better probably caused the problem.
Gray mold on strawberries
The Botrytis fungus is easy to identify. You can see it as a brown spot that materializes when the berries are white. Then it turns into a gray mold as the strawberries ripen.
Some berries eventually get so much mold that they are mummified.
Once a patch is infected, the fungus overwinters in diseased plant materials. It prospers in a moist environment.
The growth was so dense that it created the perfect environment for mold to flourish— Suburban Hobby Farmer
A gray mold infection could be caused by soil that doesn’t drain well or a lack of early morning sun to dry the dew so it doesn’t hang around too long.
In my desire to have a bigger harvest, I actually made matters worse.
Last fall I added shellfish compost and the plants grew vigorously last spring. So well, in fact, that there was a sea of strawberry leaves with little empty space in between plants.
In the article called Don’t Count Your Strawberries…, I wrote about how well things were working out. The plant growth was so thick that it shaded out the weeds.
Little did I know that the growth was so dense that it would create the perfect environment for mold to flourish. The plants were way too close together with little or no air space.
Last fall I probably encouraged the mold by covering the plants with leaves to protect against frost. This kept the plants warm and moist, providing the ideal environment to overwinter mold spores.
Now’s the time to plan for next year’s harvest. Here’s my new 6-step plan to combat the mold infection without using fungicides:
- Till under the infected bed and plant clover in place of strawberries. I hate to take out a productive patch, but I’m afraid the mold problem will only get worse and spread to other areas.
- Transplant daughter plants from a patch that didn’t show any signs of infection into a new patch that gets early morning sun and drains well.
- Plant a row of one year old daughter plants nine inches apart (rather than the traditional six inches) so that there’s plenty of room for air flow even after the plants have matured.
- Wait a year and then let only one daughter plant grow from each transplant. This ensures that the new daughter plants will be vigorous and that the bed won’t get too crowded.
- Use wire anchors to make sure that the new daughter plants are properly spaced. You can learn more about transplanting daughter plants at Transplanting Strawberries.
- Mulch with clean straw after the berries form. This will help to prevent the berries from becoming infected with spores from the soil.
So this is my six-step plan for getting my strawberry plants back on track. If you have any suggestions for a better plan, sending me an email through my contact page.