Strawberries are tempting treats for more than just gardeners. Like any other garden plant, strawberries are susceptible to a number of pests and fungi. But with proper care and maintenance, you can prevent some of the most common problems and enjoy a bountiful harvest.
All strawberry varieties – even the disease-resistant ones – are prone to issues caused by overly moist soil and overcrowding. Luckily, Minigarden’s self-draining modules will help you avoid overwatering while giving your plants the space they need to breathe. Minigarden’s Bug Off Red Pest Prevention can also help you avoid an infestation, but you should still keep your eyes peeled for any of these common pests and fungi.
Birds are one of the most annoying pests for strawberry growers, but you can easily deter them by covering your strawberry garden with a lightweight bird netting as your berries begin to ripen.
Tarnished Plant Bugs
Tarnished plant bugs are about ¼ inch long, flat, and are yellow to greenish brown with dark markings on their wings. They are active in the early spring and like to lay their eggs into stems and leaf midribs.
Symptoms of tarnished plant bugs:
- Irregularly shaped berries (known as “catfaced” berries), especially if the entire cluster is misshapen or if the berry tips are damaged.
- Large, hallow tan-brown seeds.
If you think you might have a problem with tarnished plant bugs, try trapping them by hanging a white sticky board in the area surrounding your garden. Consult with your local garden center for information on insecticides and other treatments.
Strawberry Bud Weevils
Strawberry bud weevils, also known as “strawberry clippers”, are about 1/10 inch long, dark reddish-brown, and have two large black spots on their backs. They’re usually active around the end of April, and like to lay eggs into your blossom buds before clipping the bud off the plant. Adult weevils will emerge from the fallen bud in June and feed on the pollen of various flowers before going dormant until the next season.
Symptoms of strawberry bud weevils:
- Clipped buds, or buds hanging off your plants by a thread
Strawberry bud weevils can be controlled using an insecticide. Always consult with your local garden center before purchasing or applying insecticide.
To help avoid fungi, choose plant varieties that are resistant to red stele and Verticilliium root rots. Applying Bug Off Blue Fungus & Mold Prevention will also strengthen your plant against fungi and other diseases.
Here are a few common fungi you might experience:
Powdery mildew is a light grey powdery dusting on your plants. It’s one of the most widespread fungal diseases, and it affects everything from vegetables to shrubs. The good news is that powdery mildew is rarely fatal to the plant, but the trick is to prevent it before it starts. Minigarden’s Bug Off Blue Fungus & Mold Prevention can help with that.
Gray mold thrives during humid or long rainy and cloudy periods often just before or during harvest season, though it can be present throughout the entire growing season. The main symptom of gray mold is a velvety gray growth or light brown lesion at the stem end of the fruit.
You can prevent gray mold by handling your plants carefully when planting (gray mold attacks wounded plants), giving your plants adequate time to dry between waterings, and removing debris like dead leaves from between your plants. If you see gray mold, remove any infected plants to prevent the mold from spreading.
Black Root Rot
Black root rot occurs when several fungi attack the roots of your strawberry plants. Infected plants will be stunted or wilted, with small fruit and few runners. Leaves may begin to turn brown from the edge in as the disease progresses.
There is no cure for black root rot, but you can prevent it by using a well-draining soil and not overwatering your plants.
Weather is a common cause of misshapen berries, especially if you see both properly shaped and misshapen berries on the same plant. If it’s especially cold or rainy or if it frosted over night, bees may not be actively pollinating, and your berries can become oddly shaped (though still delicious!).
Don’t let a pesky pest ruin your harvest! Simply keeping your eyes peeled for common symptoms can help you avoid an infestation or prevent a problem from spreading. Minigarden’s range of nutrients and supplements can help too, but there’s no substitute for a little TLC.
Keeping your plants pest-free means you’ll have tons of tasty berries to enjoy – find out how to harvest them (and what to do with your harvest) tomorrow!
Part 1 – Strawberry 101: Introduction to Strawberries
Part 2 – Can You Grow Strawberries?
Part 3 – How To Plant and Care For Strawberries
Part 5 – How To Harvest Strawberries, And What To Do With All Those Berries
“Botrytis Fruit Rot / Gray Mold on Strawberry”. NC State Cooperative Extension. April 8, 2014.
Brust, Gerald. “Tarnished Plant Bug (Lygus) Management in Strawberries”. University of Maryland Extension. May 2010.
“Gray Mold”. The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
“Strawberry Bud Weevil or Strawberry Clipper”. PennState College of Agricultural Sciences.
Thomson, Sherman V and Scott C. Oakley. “Black Root Rot of Strawberries”. USU Extension. February 1998.