Strawberry plants drying up

Sapphire904May 23, 2013

Hello there! I just joined the forum and I'm hoping someone might be able to help. I'm new to veggie and fruit gardening. I bought 2 ever-bearing strawberry plants this spring and they were doing great inside. Once I transplanted them, the one's leaves and flowers started drying out. The other was fine until 2 days that one has some dry, crumbly edges on the leaves. The new growth looks OK, but the plants in general look sickly.

They are growing in containers, with soil and compost, and they've been watered. I have them south-facing outside in direct sun, but it's only been in the 70s here. I put straw mulch on the soil also. Does anyone have any ideas as to why they are drying up already?

I appreciate your help!

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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

Did you harden them off?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 5:03PM
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david52 Zone 6

I'm finding that the wind combined with low humidity are the major reasons to harden things off, not so much the temperature and sunlight. This year, I had my tomato plants outside on the east-facing porch where they got the low humidity and breezes for a week before I planted them out, and today we've got 'red flag' weather: 6% humidity, 30 mph wind gusts, and 84 F.

Years past, directly from the greenhouse, the tomato plants would be toast. This year, they're fine.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 8:09PM
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Well, not really. I put them out during the day after transplanting them, and brought them in at night for about 2 weeks. After the night temps got above 40, I just left them out. I don't know what I was thinking - I hardened everything else. You think that's the problem? Will they recover or will the new growth be OK?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 12:35PM
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david52 Zone 6

They'll be fine as long as the new growth isn't drying up.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 5:36PM
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Ok, so the new grow is drying up too. There is still new growth coming up, but as soon as the leaves open, it starts to get dry around the edges. They are plenty moist. I even have straw mulch on the soil. But I did notice the other day that there are a lot of those little fruit flies in one of my pots. Maybe they are too moist and the bugs are getting to the roots? I would think that the leaves would wilt or get soft if they were getting too much water, not dry up.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 4:15PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Sapphire,

I suspect the "little fruit flies" you're talking about are fungus gnats and fungus gnats should "go away" if the soil is allowed to dry out enough between waterings. I'd get the straw off of the top of the soil, and then leave the soil dry out at least halfway down into the pot before watering again--the surface of the soil an inch or so down into the pot should be completely dry before re-watering.

Some questions!

When you say "soil and compost," what type of soil and what type of compost?

How big is the pot they're in, and.....

How big were the plants when you planted them in the pot?

Do you have anywhere where you could plant them in the ground, or is container gardening the only way you can do it?

Welcome to RMG,

P.S. Where are you located? Front Range, Western Slope, out in the hills somewhere, on the plains?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 6:45PM
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Hi Skybird,

I'm located in the NW area of Col. Springs (front range).
The soil is a container/raised bed mix of all different things and the compost is manure. I've also added some fish emulsion to the water once when I transplanted them. They were little plants with maybe 5-7 leaves and a couple flowers when I moved them into the large plastic containers you find at Walmart.

Unfortuneately, I can't put them in the ground - it's an apartment complex.

I can try letting the soil dry out and take the mulch off until it gets hotter. I'll try to post a picture this weekend.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 6:26PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Sapphire,

So you're at a higher altitude than in the Metro Denver area, but in this case, container gardening at an apartment complex, it probably doesn't make as much difference as it would if you were gardening in the ground.

If you're able to post a couple close up pics it would really help!

Based on what you've said so far I'm virtually certain they're staying way too wet. When plants are planted in the ground the moisture has more soil to "spread out" into so overwatering is less likely unless you're watering them constantly. In containers excess water has nowhere to "go" except to evaporate from the soil out of the top of the pot or to be used up by the plants. Small plants use very little water, and when they're in a large volume of soil in a container it's quite easy to keep them too wet.

Overwatering and under watering look very much the same in most plants--the plants look like they're wilting and the impression is that they need MORE water. If the problem is too much water that obviously just makes the situation worse! Plants that are actually too dry will perk up again when they get water--plants that have been too wet will keep looking wilty, or get even worse.

I think the best thing you can do right now is to leave the soil dry out most of the way--until the plants are actually wilting from being too dry. With small plants in a large pot that could take a week or more! If the problem really is that they've been kept too wet it's possible you may not be able to save them. (If that happens you just buy a couple more and try again!)

But I have another question! Was the brand of potting soil you got Miracle Grow? I ask that because a year or two ago I ran into a site where several different people were describing having a really bad problem with fungus gnats and they were all using the same type of MG soil! Fungus gnats will develop on/in any soil if it's constantly kept wet, but in this particular case at least a couple of the people didn't seem to be overwatering. So if it is MG you have them planted in it's possible that could be making a bad situation even worse. (Please tell me you're not using Hyponex brand!)

Also, I'm assuming the "manure" you're using was a bagged something so it's been well composted and there's nothing "fresh" about it. Is that a good assumption?

I'll watch for pics, and I hope you're able to save them,

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 7:20PM
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Well, there's really not much plant left. They started getting dried leaves pretty much as soon as I transplanted them, and I've been cutting back ever since. So, they're pretty pathetic looking, BUT I can see a little green growth peeking I think there's hope. I hope. :( I'll all about salvaging even the tiniest amount, even if it looks dead.
I think you might be right about the moisture. I removed as much straw as I could and the soil is still pretty moist even for being out in the 90-something degree heat yesterday. So, I've included a pic of one plant (or what's left). I have no problem getting new plants, but if there's the slightest bit of new growth coming up that I can save, it's worth it.

I do not use Miracle Gro - never! LOL. I got this mix at Ace Hardware, it's by Soil Mender and it's their Raised Bed Mix. It contains organic topsoil, composted cotton burrs, coir, expanded shale, lava sand, granite sand, basalt, humate, montmorillonite & diatomaceous earth. And yes, the "manure" is bagged...also from Ace.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil Mender mix

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 10:47AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

The crown of your little plant looks surprisingly good to me! I know you don't want to, but cut off the little berries! The plant doesn't need the extra stress of trying to produce fruit while it's trying to recover. If it/they produce any more flowers, for now pinch them off.

Continue to leave the soil dry until it's mostly dry down to the bottom of wherever the roots were when you planted them in the bigger pot. Then I would normally recommend saturating the soil in the entire pot, but in this case where there are small (and recovering) plants in a large volume of soil I recommend watering just enough to re-wet the soil to about that "bottom of the roots" area. With no roots in it the soil in the bottom of the pot is going to stay pretty wet even without more water--and some of the water you apply to the surface is going to get down all the way to the bottom anyway. Basically what I'm trying to say is to get the soil "moist" in the entire area of the roots--but don't get it "drippy!" I also recommend moving the pot to get it some morning and/or late afternoon sun but try to keep it out of the hottest midday sun until it's growing well again.

From what I can see the soil in your pic "looks" pretty good, but it's impossible to tell without getting my hands in it! I've never heard of that brand, and that seems like a pretty "complicated" list of ingredients to me! Just my opinion! Since their site says: "This is not the product label. Always read and follow the product label before use" I searched their site for the product label and couldn't find it! That's interesting! I googled for it and couldn't find it anywhere on the web! Usually I can find labels posted on "some" site, even if the manufacturer doesn't want to post it for whatever reason, but not this time! Don't know what, if anything, that says!

But, how big IS your pot? I suspect a good "container mix" ("lightweight and fluffy" when moist) would probably work better for you and make it easier for you to manage the moisture content. And a good container mix/soil should have everything in it you need so you shouldn't need to add any manure or anything else--just feed occasionally after the plant starts growing. A "raised bed" would normally be measured in feet by feet, and I suspect your pot isn't even 24" diameter (my whiskey barrels are only 22" diameter). A "topsoil" based product would work fine in a raised bed with a much larger volume, but the smaller volume in a pot, even a big one, would make it harder to control the moisture with that type of mix. [I use Sunshine #1 mix in and for everything! My biggest "pots" are the whisky barrels and I use it in them and for everything all the way down to seed starting. Sunshine #1 consists of mostly Canadian sphagnum peat and perlite.]

Looking at your "little plant" I really think it's gonna make it if you leave it dry out enough and then water very "judiciously" for a while! :-)

Show us some pics when it's Growing For Real!


P.S. Glad to hear you don't use MG! Unless they've changed something in the last couple years, they don't even list on the bag what they put in it--just something to the effect of "might contain any or all for the following"!!!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 3:50PM
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