Strawberry help... one plant w/ fruit turning brown

jodifromoregon(z5, central OR)June 12, 2008

Thanks in advance for any advice for this novice kitchen gardener! I have 21 strawberry plants in a new (first year) raised bed in what seems to be good garden soil I purchased from a local nursery. I mounded each plant, just over a foot apart, covered around them with black landscape fabric (a strip down each side of each row, secured between plants with those garden staple thingies), and mulched the area between rows with aspen shavings.

I did let the plants flower this year. Even though I read that it's better to pinch off the flowers the first year for a better harvest in the second year, I was an anxious newbie who wanted a few berries now. ;-) So far, I have quite a few flowers and little green berries.

The problem is, the very first plant that produced flowers, while the plant itself still looks very healthy, the flower/berry stems (and fruits) are turning brown and dying. This doesn't look like a mold situation, as the berries are very small and simply look like they're drying up. Now, we have had some late cold spells, and I haven't always gotten frost blanket over the bed for every night that's dipped into the danger zone temperature-wise. Since this was the first plant to produce flowers, could it be that this is a frost-damage situation? All the other plants seem to be doing well, with green berries growing bigger and looking healthy.

I haven't seen any evidence of insects (although that doesn't mean there aren't any, obviously). And I have small wire fencing around the bed to keep out critters as well as netting over the bed to keep out the birds.

Help please? Thanks so much!

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jellyman(6/7VA)

Jodi:

I want to be nice, and sometimes I try, but you have one plant out of 21 with rotting berries, and you need "help"? If you insist on perfection, you are going to have a hard time with fruitgrowing. Your other plants will be sending out plenty of runners to replace the one you lose, and if you suspect a disease you should remove it now.

You may regret your decision not to pinch off at least half the blossoms from your plants, not that it has anything to do with your blackened berries. You may also find that applying an organic mulch like aspen shavings between the rows provides the ideal environment to hatch out slugs, pillbugs, and strawberry beetles that will eat your strawberries as they become ripe. You would be better off with just the landscape fabric during the fruiting season, unless you don't have any of these ground-dwelling creatures around. Mulch is fine over the winter season if you want to protect the plants and build up the soil, but it should be worked in or removed when the plants start to fruit.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 2:16PM
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jodifromoregon(z5, central OR)

Now Don, when have you ever not been nice? :-) Personally, I've read many of your posts, and I think of you as a godsend when it comes to great advice... and always given freely and gently. Thanks, Dear!

I actually chuckled at your opening sentence. You're right... probably a pretty goofy post on my part. I just like to stay on top of things. And as a newbie to edibles, silly me doesn't want to lose a single darned plant (but yup, I do know better). :-)

We don't have slugs (climate's too dry in summer and cold & snowy in winter) or pillbugs here, but I will get back out this afternoon and dig around under the aspen to see if anything's crawling around in there. If so, I'll remove it (more great advice from Don!). And, I actually do have both some berries and some flower buds on each plant, so I could still pinch all the current flowers I find (would that help at this point?).

Thanks again!
Jodi

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 3:59PM
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jodifromoregon(z5, central OR)

Well, good news. No other plants have been affected by anything (which was my initial fear), I didn't find anything crawling around under the mulch, and ... on the question of whether I should still pinch/cut off all current flowers, when no answer was posted here I called and chatted with our extension service master gardener. She said that since I planted in the hill method (sorry, hadn't mentioned that here before) and intended to cut all runners anyway, it would not be necessary to remove any flowers at all; I could let the plants concentrate on both establishing themselves and producing berries even in this first year, as all runners will be removed. I'm thinking in the third year or so I'll go ahead and let some runners go to replace the current plants for the following season.

Oh, and I trimmed off the dying berry/flower stems on the plant I was concerned about, and it actually seems to be bouncing back nicely now! :-)

Thanks again.
Jodi

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 12:07PM
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