The Q&A Archives: Moldy Strawberries

Question: My everbearing strawberries are rotting and the fruit is covered with a gray mold. Is it due to the extremely high amount of rain this year, and is there anything I can do?

Answer: You've pegged it -- gray mold (Botrytis) rears its ugly head in cool, humid conditions (including places like your refrigerator). The spores are everywhere, but they only attack damaged or dead tissues, such as those of your bruised and soggy berries. If you can somehow prop up the berry branches to keep them off the ground, not touching each other, and where the breeze can keep them relatively dry, you'll have better luck. Many growers use a thick layer of straw mulch to keep the berries from touching the ground. Remove infected, bruised or otherwise damaged berries to further deter it from spreading.

It may be too wet to try this now, but you can take steps to keep this from happening in the future by dosing your plants with compost tea. Beneficial organisms in compost fight off fungal spores, and the nutrients boost plant health. Here's how scientists brew it when conducting experiments:

1. Mix one part mature compost that includes some rotted manure (horse, cow or chicken) with five parts water. (Make sure that the material is fully composted, so potential pathogens associated with manures will be killed.)

2. Allow the mixture to sit and ferment in the shade for 10 to 14 days.

3. Filter the mixture through cheesecloth to remove chunks. The stuff can smell pretty bad, so don't do this in your kitchen!

4. If you must dilute it to stretch the batch, don't dilute by more than half.

5. Spray or coat upper and lower plant surfaces. Repeat every 2 to 3 weeks.

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