Seed Swaps

Strawberries die off

I am wondering if anyone here can shed some light on my situation.
Whenever I try to grow strawberries they die very quickly.

My first attempt about 8 years ago was to plant a couple of strawberry plants that I purchased from the plant section of a local hardware store in my vegetable patch. I planted them in the dry season and watered them regularly via garden hoses. The leaf tips gradually turned brown, then the entire leaf shrivelled, and finally the crown itself shrivelled and died. Being in the tropics I thought the veggie patch might be too hot and dry for them, even with regular supplemental watering. The water supply used was bore water as that is plumbed to the house and two external taps.

My next attempt came perhaps a year later when a friend gave me a number of runners from her garden. I checked with her regarding plant preferances and her cultivation practices. I prepared a different garden, close to the house which got partial shade, with lots of organic matter and planted them out. Within weeks they shrivelled and died. Bore water was again used.

A year or two later I thought I’d try again, and bought a couple of strawberry plants that were on sale at the hardware store. I planted these in a planter and put them at the rainwater tank. They died. They had been transplanted into compost from my garden and only received rainwater which drains from the roof of the house. The roof is colourbond metal. We are in a sugar cane growing area and crop dusting does take place once or twice during the dry season. A broadleaf herbicide (24-D !!!) is sprayed. Whenever crop dusting takes place, as soon as it is safe to venture outside I have to throw buckets of water over the papayas or they wither and die within a day or two. I usually give the garden a good hosing to wash away any residue.

Some time later I saw another strawberry plant at the hardware store and decided to try an experiment by only watering it from below and not allowing it contact with any soil from my garden. I kept it on the verandah, still in the original soil in which it arrived from the nursery. Within a week it shrivelled and died. The only variable was the water supply. Bore water from the kitchen tap.

Several similar experiments have been carried out, with the last being a very healthy strawberry plant that I purchased from a local grower at the markets. So this plant was sourced locally, had been propagated locally (a runner) from a healthy parent plant that grows well in this area. It was in home made compost and grown without use of chemicals or artificial fertilisers. I brought it home, watered it and within a month it had shrivelled and died. It was very healthy when it arrived and stayed green longer than the average strawberry plant in my garden. Then, I noticed the brown tinges forming in leaf edges, leaved died back and no new growth formed, then the crown shrivelled and died.

In summary, my cultivation practices have included:
- the open garden (shallow acid sulphate soil on yellow clay base), bore water applied via hoses or sprinklers
- the open garden, bore water applied via soaker hoses
- compost and rainwater via overhead drippers
- compost and rainwater with bottom watering only
- original nursery soil only, potted on verandah, bottom watering with bore water from kitchen tap
- original nursery soil only, potted on verandah, bottom watering with rainwater

As for our bore water, I had it analysed some time ago and it is acidic – just outside recommended levels but still considered suitable for human consumption, and is basically very rich mineral water. I can’t find the actual analysis results but I recall that it was naturally high in copper, and it also disolves our copper pipes due to its acidity. I think it might have had a small amount of sulphur. It did have a considerable variety of trace elements in small quantities.

Any ideas?

Posted about 5 years ago | Last edited about 5 years ago

I know my friends in east Texas who successfully grow them have them in sandy loam and their water is soft (acidic) and they have rain. Here in west Texas where the soil and water are calcareous and hard, and rain is not a given, I have killed many a strawberry plant myself.

@hotwired on Folia may be able to answer your question; at one time he had about 6,000 plants in upstate New York.

Posted almost 5 years ago


Folia Helper

United States

When they are having problems, have you dug them up and checked the roots? Sometimes that can give you clues.

You need to know your soil Around here, I’ve learned that a certain powder feeling means the soil is consistently, constantly dry — rain soaks through it almost uselessly — and usually not very nutritious. Plants in soil like that had better like bad soil. Compost could be too strong sometimes, and doesn’t always hold water well; I’m always suspicious of nursery soil until I’ve successfully grown things in it.

While you don’t want to drown them, they don’t like to be dry (shallow roots). If you transplant or plant out in full sun, you’ll lose some even around here. Shade cloth, mulch, or extra watering (carefully) can make a difference in establishing plants.

Your exposure could be just too hot/sunny, I suppose. The leaf browning sounds like dryness and sun to me.

You could check out this page for strawberry diseases, too. It says it has a lot of pictures of different problems.

(If your water is dissolving your pipes, I’d be concerned, actually. That can mean you are getting contaminants from the pipes as well, which often means lead or other heavy metals or minerals that can be unsafe.)

Have you checked your own site’s temperature ranges and sun exposure to compare to successful areas? Microclimates can vary just enough to cause interesting changes.

(Sorry I didn’t post sooner – I thought someone smarter would do so. But I don’t know if this will be helpful, either.)

Posted almost 5 years ago | Last edited almost 5 years ago

For our UK climate sandy soil is a must for strawberries. Stray runners near my back door have gone wild and spread over a gravelly patch of soil – they provide treats for the birds.
The recommendations for container growing is to mix bagged compost and sharp sand 50:50 by volume.

Posted almost 5 years ago

Many thanks to all for your very helpful comments.

@TolCath, I particularly found the link to the strawberry library useful. After comparing photographs it looks as though leaf blight and/or anthracnose may be the problems. However, after thoroughly reading the discriptions I am more pursuaded that Anthracnose is responsible. I suspect that this fungal disease may be endemic to the area. The disease is common in mangoes in these parts. We have wild mango trees growing on the roadside only a few 100 metres away – which drop mangoes all over our street. I have noticed the tell-tale blotches on fallen fruit in the summer months. So, I imagine, this can easily transfer to strawberries. All the symptoms point towards this from the browning of leaves, to the shrivelling of the crown with wilting and sudden death. While the literature suggests that anthracnose is mostly prevalent in hot summer months, I am in the wet tropics and it is hot even in the winter dry season. We also have regular rainfall throughout the year, although with a higher concentration of rain during the monsoon season, and a tendency toward drought for only a couple of months mid to late dry season. At least now I know with what I am dealing.

Also, thank you for your concern over our water supply and plumbing. Plumbing materials in Australia have been closely regulated with copper piping being the standard since the 1930s and lead solder banned from use. Interestingly enough, the modern pvc plumbing fixtures introduced in more recent decades actually leach lead from the plastic, so copper piping is safest. Lead piping was never extensively used in Australia even before the 1930s and is banned from use in domestic plumbing. Having had our water supply analysed, we know it is safe for human consumption. It was one of our first concerns upon moving here.

Posted almost 5 years ago


Folia Helper

United States

Glad your water is definitely safe. :) I was trying to think of possible problems, and yet a disease was a lot more likely really, especially since you had so many changes in your test plantings. At least you know some things to try now!

Posted almost 5 years ago

Same experience but because I used fine sand plus organic compost,some are still growing. The weather this year is warm compared to last year and many plants both annuals and perennials have burned apex or young shoots.if you want strawberry plants with growing leaves ,use fine sand alone.apply foliar fertilizer if you wish to induce flowering.some compost has pathogenic microbes that kill tender plants.

Posted almost 5 years ago

Hi there! You're reading a conversation in the Strawberry Lovers group on Folia.