Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Botrytis on my Strawberries

Botrytis (gray mold) is a fungus that grows on some fruit crops. (Yes, the tomato is a fruit on this blog.) I lost a few berries to it last year but not many, and none of them ever got to the gray fuzzy stage, they just turned brown like the ones pictured above, then they shriveled up and/or I picked them and threw them away.

This year, however, I have lost multiple berries on every single plant. At first it was just one here or there and I would pick it and get rid of it immediately. I didn't realize that the fungus could grow in the leaves, and spread spores from there. Then I looked at my strawberry patch a couple days ago and thought, "where are all the ripe ones?" And there weren't any.

So, Monday night I went through my patch and pulled as many of the dead/dying leaves and berries as I could find. What a sad, sorry sight in my trash bin. I consoled myself by making more jam from the berries I froze last week.

I came across a couple suggestions online that might help reduce the problem. One was to move the patch every year. I'm considering it, though it seems like a lot of work and I think I would have to get new plants to do any good. Several sites suggested that putting straw on the ground helps reduce the number of berries that get infected. I wanted to do straw this year anyway because of the bugs, but I found it hard to find in the spring. Around here they only sell it during the fall for decorations and lawn seeding. Maybe I could try storing some? Finally, a couple sites recommended a baking soda fungicide that is supposed to be supported by research findings. I may try that if the problem doesn't die down after this. (I really don't want to use a real fungicide as our trip to the strawberry field taught R that it is okay to pick the berries and eat them right there.) The weather has been hot and dry (though sometimes muggy) recently, so I'm hoping that in combination with the housecleaning will act to discourage the fungus.

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