Difficulty with Strawberries - Photos

We planted strawberry plants last year in ground that had not grown crops before, but had been cultivated for perennials for a long time. Organic growing. I bought six packs of strawberry plants from a local nursery that said they were from Nourse. One variety was ‘Honeoye’ and I forget the other. This year we purchased bare root from Nourse directly and planted those in other places. Since they were newly planted, I pulled most of the flowers off the new plants to allow them to put all their energy into their roots. So the only plants we have harvested from this year are those I bought last year.

I am concerned that something is wrong with them. I tried a few strawberries as they ripened and the first couple tasted really sweet with a strong strawberry flavor. But the next day, a few more tasted awful. And since then we managed to harvest a couple of bowls from a small patch, but there were a lot that were ruined for no apparent reason. I do notice that some of the lower leaves look bad. I thought at first they were from a lack of something or not enough rain, but I think now it may be a disease.

Here are some photos - one of the bad leave - one of the good strawberries that some have reddish leaves on the top and one of the bad strawberries that we threw away.

Does anyone recognize what the problem is?


some kind of rot or fungus, solution is to grow more strawberries :blush: , I have this on 5% of my no spray 8’x4’ patch. Another things is pick regularly and try to not wet the berries or foliage.

That looks like a fungal infection. I don’t know of any organic solutions to this problem. The synthetics work fairly well. I spray mine before fruit formation. Once fruit is there, i don’t spray anymore. For me Captan mixed with acidic water(6.0pH) worked very well. I have very wet conditions and it still works. Keep plants spaced well.

I’m surprised that it would be fungal. We’ve had very little rain this season, so I have had to water the bed they are in. I’ve kept up with it regularly, especially in the heat, with an overhead sprinkler. Since the berries have been ripening, I’ve been watering that bed by hand and avoiding the strawberries, which are a small patch. The plants are spaced pretty well too. How are you supposed to keep them watered after they form fruit and while they are ripening?

Could you tell me, what you see that indicates a fungus? Is it the color of the bottom leaf, or the color of the top leaves on the berries?

I could not use any kind of spray on them. I’m tempted to pull them all out and start over. If these plants have some kind of fungus, will it remain in the soil and infect whatever else I try to grow there? And no other plants in that area are having a problem. I never have fungal issues. Could they have had this condition when I bought them? The new starts that I added this year are looking much better than this, but I have pulled the flowers so they are just foliage. One patch is in a raised vegetable bed.

Black discoloration on berries and leaves. Plus the reddish dried leaves are typical with this infection. I don’t know which fungus it is? I have had it too.

Yes. If atypical for your area it could have come with plants. You could maybe outgrow it.
Also dry condition can lead to some fungal infections like powdery mildew.

Hi Drew - I am definitely going to pull all the strawberry plants in that section. If the infection remains in the soil, does that mean it will infect anything I grow there, including perennials, or just strawberries? So, I’ve lost that spot for growing strawberries then.

What do you mean by ‘outgrow it’?

It’s discouraging to purchase a plant and have it bring an infection into your garden that remains after the plant is removed. Doesn’t seem like you can trust making a purchase of plants then. What about growing strawberries from seed? Can you expect a healthier plant grown from seed?

No, just strawberries.

Well if it came in from your plants, the environment might not be suitable for it to live in the soil, and the fungus will die.
Regular strawberries are all hybrids, and will not come true to seed.
It’s possible the fungus is local. Even California has a number of fungi. It’s the best area, but peaches still get peach leaf curl in CA. So we can’t say for sure it came from the plants. The plants might be more susceptible to that particular mold. I noticed not all of mine get it.
Harvest for me right now is unreal. Yesterday was again and unreal amount of berries ripe. I’m swimming in strawberries.
I wanted to add looking at the good berries, i would let them go another day or two before picking.
They usually become a very deep red when fully ripe. Here are two i picked today. The one on the left is fully ripe. On the right, it could use another day. I picked it because snails damaged it, and the damage will rot, and attract fungal infection. I will use it for cooking.

That’s good the infection would only infect strawberries at least. But sorry to have that area which was a good spot that I now have to avoid. I live in Massachusetts and the grower Nourse is in Massachusetts too, so I would imagine I have almost the same climate conditions.

You are harvesting a lot of fruit, but you had to spray a fungicide right?

Do different varieties prove susceptible to different diseases? Are some varieties less susceptible?

So if you grow from seed, you won’t get a hybrid, then what will you get? A wild strawberry, like an alpine?

I don’t know what you would get? Legitimate seed sellers only sell alpine and wild seed.
I grow peppers, tomatoes, melons, flowers and other plants from seed. but I gave up on strawberries.
I just didn’t have good luck. I could get them to germinate, they just didn’t want to grow. I may try again, I’m much more experienced now.
OK, so you’re in Mass., that fungus is common around here, and probably your area too. i got it the first year I ever grew them.
I spray before any flowers appear. By the end of June they start showing signs of infection again, but harvest is almost over. You can pick the day after spraying, but I won’t spray fruit. I will spray them again after harvest is done. All everbearing will be stripped of any fruit and sprayed. June bearing are done so no fruit to strip. The everbearers will produce more in late summer.

Liz, fungi and bacteria are everywhere. It’s a good thing, too. They break down and recycle organic matter. They are what will turn those leaves you have piled by your berries into eventual part of your soil mix.

Since strawberries are soft fruits that grow close to the ground, and also have their new growth area (the crown) right there at ground level, they are surrounded by a higher concentration than many other types of plants. Rain and watering have a tendency to create back splash of dirt onto the susceptible crown and fruits, where the harmful microbes can more easily access the plant. Avoiding backsplash can help reduce the incidence.

I don’t know if the dried leaves on the ground are what you are using for mulch. If you are, you might consider using something fluffier like straw or pine straw to create a better barrier between the strawberries and the ground. Leaf mold is great stuff, but probably better growing somewhere else. Make sure your crowns are above ground and not covered with your mulch.

Also, copper sprays are organic and approved for strawberries. It is an effective aid against many fungi that attack strawberry plants.

I don’t know what your exact culprit is. It could even be multiple causes at once. Weather and even too much sun and heat can affect the plants and fruit. Once a plant is weakened, it is more susceptible to other invaders.

You might find this diagnostic tool helpful. It doesn’t list all strawberry enemies, but has some of the most common problems.

Just so you know, I’m not a strawberry expert. I live in an area where they are not even expected to survive the summer to make it until next spring. It didn’t stop me from trying and winding up with a decent crop this year. Don’t get discouraged. You can keep improving your methods and understanding of how to get them to do better. A little bit of a challenge along the way makes the good fruit taste even better. :slight_smile: :strawberry:

Thanks Drew. Not sure I will try seed, but I’m just exploring options at this point. I remember reading here that someone grew a lot of strawberries from seed. It was in a previous thread on strawberry varieties. I’ll have to go back and check that again.

Muddymess - Thanks for that explanation. I was wondering, if the leaf mulch was creating a problem, but….just the same, I remember pulling off the bottom leaves on the plants when I brought them home from the nursery, so I think they may have started out that way.

That was a good explanation of why the plants may get infected. Sounds like the same idea as tomato plants. I’ve been pulling off the bottom leaves of tomato plants so they are not in contact with the soil. I do find it odd though, that the roots of the plant are completely exposed to the soil and why a plant would not get infected from that exposure but will to soil on the leaves doesn’t really make sense to me. Also, plants grow in the wild with no one to mulch them and when’s the last time you saw a diseased plant in the wild?

Just some random thoughts on the subject - I do understand that regardless of not understanding it, if it helps me avoid disease, I’m happy to change to straw.

I do garden organically, and part of my routine, is to compost in place by mulching with a grass/chopped leaves mulch and allowing that to break down into the soil, to add organic matter. Spring was late this season and therefore lawn mowing, so I had straight chopped leaves as a mulch without the grass clippings. Straw normally has weed seed in it, and that’s why I’ve avoided it. But I do know there is salt marsh hay available at a premium cost and when you can find it. I see now that they have another product which is straw that’s been heated to kill the weed seeds so they won’t reproduce. So, I will have to choose one of those I guess. I have not seen pine straw available here.

Gardening is a challenge. [g] Our weather has been really different than normal here this season. 100+ inches of snow last winter, snow still on the ground and frozen ground 2-3 weeks later than normal. Month of May had 2 days that were not 5 degrees higher than average and June had 7 days the first week that were below average and only 3 inches of rain since March. Even our shrubs, trees and perennials were struggling this spring.

I have also sent photos to Nourse and they’ve said they have someone on staff that could possibly diagnose which disease I’m dealing with. I should hear from them this week.

Thank you for the link for the Diagnostic Tool. I took a quick look at it and see the colored red leaves indicate a fungus and that certain varieties are more susceptible. I hope those I ordered this spring are less so. I ordered Sparkle and Earliglow this year.

Copper sprays - I’ll have to look into that. Thanks.

I haven’t give up on the strawberries yet. I was very happy to see fruit the first week of June and to get a few that were really tasty. This actually fits with what we like and the timing is great. We haven’t a lot else to pick right now, except snap and snow peas. So I will try to make them a crop I can manage to get a decent harvest from, but with my small 1/4 acre lot…it’s not easy to find the room, they have to earn their keep. :slight_smile:

I know there is a lot more I could learn to give them a better try. Thanks….

Copper would probably work. Copper IMHO is a lot worse for the environment than Captan. Captan will breakdown very quickly, and copper is forever. I guess why I will never be 100% organic, as it makes little sense to me to use such toxic materials when acceptable alternatives are available,
Captan is also used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, oil-based paints,
lacquers, wallpaper paste, plasticizers, polyethylene, vinyl, rubber
stabilizers, and textiles.

I would add once you have it, all infected leaves and fruit needs to be removed.
As you can’t cure it, just stop it from infecting new berries. All old berries with the disease should be removed. You can prevent it, not cure it.
The red leaves also could be a nutrient deficiency btw.

Thanks muddy for the info. I have had gray mold too, which is also an Anthracnose type disease which is what Liz has too, not gray mold, but a form of Anthracnose. I have had this one too. It’s very preventable though, if you spray a few times in early spring.

Drew, Captan is what I use, too, and sometimes Immunox. The Captan mix rate is higher for strawberries than for anything else I use it on. It’s a real PITA trying to keep that concentration suspended and not clogging up my 2 gal. pump sprayer. I still use it because if I didn’t, my strawberry season might well end as soon as it started. Copper is effective against many strawberry maladies, and it’s easier to use. It actually is something that I use on dormant trees, but am hesitant to use on foliage if I have choices that sit better with my concerns. It is the organic choice, though. I don’t worry about the amount used negatively affecting soil or water. My concerns have been over the possibility of phytotoxicity to plants with a sensitivity to it. It’s so blasted hot here that I have concerns that the temperatures might compound any sensitivity. OTOH, with the onset of the very high heat, the strawberries tend to shut down, anyway.

I use copper on my trees too, but feel a better alternative is not there. I want to try Immunox next year. See if it works better. The Captan works, but does give out. I’m starting to see infected fruit, but I’m 3/4 done. It’s at about 5% so not bad at all. And only the super wet, shaded corners of my beds.
Your post was excellent. I was just trying to provide information to make an informed decision.
I’m also going to use copper on my vines this year, try it, as powdery mildew has been a problem here on melons. I’m also use seaweed foliar spray which helps support the plant’s immune system by making sure all trace elements are there.
A healthy plant has a healthy immune system. I think I’ll hit everything else with the seaweed too!

Not the best document but it is yours (MA):

These do better at illustrating planting and mulching recommendations:


Thanks Drew - If I understand it correctly, the body has a requirement for Copper, but it’s a pretty small amount, so I would understand if too much copper in the soil would be a problem.

Yes, I realize that pesticides can be in many products and believe me I search for products that don’t have them. My cosmetics especially, are organic too and I have one medication that I have to take daily, but other wise, no. I can’t remember the last time I took even a tylenol. Water based, low VOC Paint. No lacquers, or wallpaper. Avoiding plastic as much as possible. Glass food storage, glass water bottles. Clothes are my worst problem. You can smell the chemicals on them when you buy them and I’ve not had much luck finding clothes that are free of them. I tend to try to buy clothes at stores like Marshall’s or TJMaxx, that have been floating around retail stores for awhile and may have at least aired out and they are washed multiple times before wearing.

Yes, I’m pulling the strawberry plants this week and disposing of them.

Muddy and Drew - I’m also using Neptune Seaweed and Fish Emulsion…so hopefully that is helpful on this year’s strawberry plants that look pretty good. I need to take care of the mulch this week too.

FascistNation - Thank you for those links. I’ve started a folder for all strawberry information and that’s a good start.