Strawberries, tiny and rotting quickly

arsmith86July 25, 2013

We recently purchased a home, and the previous owner left us a half-finished raised bed garden. One of the beds has TONS of strawberry plants in it. Unfortunately, I think they are too thick, because the berries were rotting when we moved in, and after plucking all of the rotten berries, I've come to realize they are rotting before they are even the size of a penny.

I am a total strawberry newbie, and have no clue how to go about thinning these to make them grow and produce better. I am not sure what type they are for sure, but I do know that I notice new berries here and there every day to every other day, though the production is extremely low. I check the info card for the berries (that they luckily left), and it says their bloom is in the spring, if that helps. The photo is about a 4 foot by 4 foot square bed.

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What the name of the variety? Some people prefer very small strawberries as being more sweet.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 8:36PM
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The only thing on the little insert they have nailed to the bed says is "Strawberries, Fragaria spp." and then it has the bloom time and water/sun instructions. I do know that the berries themselves don't really get that large (maybe the size of a fifty cent piece, at best), and they are very sweet. But they are rotting before they get dime or penny size and are still half green. I'm sure they need to be thinned out...but I am not sure how thin to make them, or how to really go about it. I don't want to destroy the strawberry bed (we've been trying to grow strawberries in a container, unsuccessfully) because clearly they are well established. I'm not concerned with getting another good production this year, but I want to get them ready for a nice big production next spring/summer.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 10:12PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

If you really want to make a go of that patch, you have to start with a soil test. No telling what the previous owners did. Strawberries are pretty simple to grow with the right soil, and minimal fertilizer. Call your county office and find out how to a soil test done.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 12:26AM
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That aside, do they need to be thinned out? How do I go about thinning them so that they don't smother each other out?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 1:05AM
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HeyJude2012(10b/24 San Diego)

Hi-I'm going to throw my in my 2 cents. I love growing strawberries. :)

Without knowing the particulars of how long the plants had been left on their own before you moved in and how well they were taken care of before....

if your berry plants are the kind that throw out runners and those runners rooted into new plants, what you could be having a lot of is the first crop of berries that normally you would want to pinch off. On the plants I have grown, the first batch from new pants tend to be very small and sometimes malformed. I started pulling those off like the people that know what they are doing tell you to do. The next years fruit will be a healthy size.

If the plant leaves are covering the fruit so it isn't getting good air circulation and it stays damp in the leaves, the fruit will rot before its ripe.

Looking at your photo, it's little hard to make a statement as far as what to do especially since I am not an expert.

Edweather always gives good advice. Having your soil tested is a good idea. You may need to fertilize your berries.

What I would do to begin with is to gently pull off all the leaves that are red or yellow or just plain old dead and brown. That will open things up a bit and then you can look and see what's going on under the leaves. Are there weeds that need to be removed? Are there too many plants in that space or is it just over grown with big leaves? If its overgrown, you can thin out some of the bigger outer leaves and you should have a good healthy crown left. If its overgrown because of runners, you can them remove some of them and make more space.

I grow mine in pots so I don't know how far apart the plants should be. Hopefully someone else with experience can chime in.

How lucky you are to have these already established!

Good luck!!!


    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 1:29AM
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They don't really look too overcrowded.

If they're blooming now, where you are, I'd guess they're some kind of everbearer or day neutral berry. Some of these put out runners, some don't.

The question is how old the bed is, whether the original crowns are getting too old. From the photo, it seems to be a newer bed.

What I'd do is consider this season a washout and work towards next year. Jude's advice is good. Get rid of all rotting fruit and clean out the bed. Cut the old leaves off, leave the healthy crowns, spaced no closer than 8 inches. Cut off all runners and developing fruit for the rest of the year.

This is the time to fertilize. Strawberries are heavy feeders. A 10-10-10 fertilizer is commonly used, but consider the results of the soil test first. Strawberries like soil on the acid side.

In the spring, apply a fungicide such as captan to prevent gray mold [botrytis]. This is the most common source of rot in strawberries. Mulching the bed helps keep the fruit off the ground, where the spores can infect them.

It's important to determine exactly what disease is causing your fruit to rot. If it's not gray mold, you'll need to apply a fungicide that best addresses that particular problem.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 10:11AM
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