Companion plants to strawberries

Strawberry Companions – What To Plant With Strawberries In The Garden

Companion plants are plants that interact well when planted in close proximity. Biologists aren’t entirely sure how companion planting works, but the technique has been used for centuries to enhance growing conditions, attract beneficial pollinators, control pests and take advantage of available space.

Strawberries are prone to attack by a number of pests, so it makes perfect sense to plant them alongside neighbors that help keep invaders at bay. Other strawberry companions provide shade that keep strawberries cool when afternoon sunlight is a little too strong. Strawberries repay the favor by serving as a beneficial living mulch, keeping weeds in check and the soil cool and moist. Wondering what to plant with strawberries? Read on for helpful suggestions.

Plants to Grow Near Strawberries

The following all make good strawberry plant companions:

Borage – This herb is an all-around good guy, with attractive blooms that attract pollinators and beneficial insects, while strengthening strawberry plants’ resistant to disease. Many gardeners claim that borage makes strawberries taste even sweeter.

Garlic and onions – The pungent smell of garlic, onions and other members of the allium family are excellent strawberry companions that discourage marauders from feasting on juicy berries.

Thyme – Plant thyme around the border of a strawberry patch to deter worms. Thyme also attracts syrphid flies (also known as hover flies), beneficial insects that dine on soft-bodied pests such as aphids, thrips, scale and caterpillars.

Lettuce and spinach – Many gardeners believe that interplanting lettuce and spinach with strawberries enhances the productivity of all three plants. The leafy plants may also hide ripe berries from hungry birds.

Beans – Legumes are natural fertilizer producers, hosting bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil.

Caraway – Plant caraway to attract parasitic flies and wasps – tiny, beneficial insects that are harmless to humans but voracious eaters of grubs, cutworms, beetles, scale, caterpillars and other pests.

Dill, fennel, coriander, mint and sage – These herbs and many others are excellent companions for strawberries, helping to repel slugs and other pests. Keep in mind that some herbs, especially mint, should be planted in containers as the plants are aggressive and can easily take over a strawberry patch.

Marigolds – Strawberries and marigolds make a beautiful team, and the distinctive aroma of the sunny blooms discourages pests. French marigolds are believed to repel root knot nematodes, which can do considerable damage to strawberry plant roots.

If you are short of space or have an addiction to homegrown strawberries, read on. But, you say, I have no room for strawberries. With a little planning you can fit some strawberries into your garden. The secret is to interplant them.

PLANNING:

Strawberries need full sun and good drainage. If you already have raised beds for vegetables you are almost done. Dig in 2-3 inches of compost to enrich the bed and help it to retain moisture. Tuck strawberries in among vegetables.

COMPANIONS:

Strawberries grow happily with beans, borage, chives, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes and spinach.

BENEFITS:

Interplanting vegetables with strawberries helps to hide the berries from hungry birds and other pests, who will have to work a bit harder to steal your crop. A variety of crops can also produce a mix of fragrances that can mask the scent of strawberries or confuse would-be thieves. Mixed vegetables can attract beneficial insects, and diverse groups of vegetables can also provide cover for the eggs and maturing young of beneficials.

PLANTING:

Choose virus-free strawberries that come from a nursery. Planting strawberries from a friend’s garden can be risky because they may harbor diseases or pests. Plant berry plants on 24-inch centers to allow room for runners, or 12-15 inches apart with no room for runners. Allow 3-4 feet between rows of berries. Don’t bury the crown when planting.

In raised beds, strawberries can be used as a border along each edge of each bed, down the center in a straight line or zigzagged. Generous spacing between strawberry plants allows for the rooting of runners, which can be used for subsequent plantings in other beds.

TIMING:

Purchase and plant your strawberry starts as soon as local nurseries offer them for sale in the spring. There’ll be a greater selection of varieties, and your berries will get an earlier start. Then sow seeds for borage, chives, lettuce, onions, radishes or spinach in the open spaces around the strawberries. By the time these vegetables are ready to be harvested as babies, the strawberries will be off to a good start. The vegetables can be succession-planted in the same places. Larger plants, such as beans and peas, may need more room between strawberry starts.

MAINTENANCE:

Remove the strawberries’ flowers for a stronger start. Fertilize the strawberry starts in spring and again after the first crop with a fertilizer high in phosphorus.

Keep a supply of strawberries coming year after year by planting another strawberry bed each year for four years. Then, at the end of each bed’s fourth year, rip it out and move runners to a bed without strawberries and start the cycle again. The old strawberry bed can be sown with cover crops for a year to recharge the soil.

The best pest control you can practice is to keep the bed scrupulously clean of debris and rotate your strawberries every fourth year.

Strawberries and marigolds make a fine mixed border. Marigolds’ acrid smell is good for confusing pests or masking strawberries’ fragrance. French marigolds are thought to deter root knot nematodes, which damage plant roots.

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES

These varieties will be available at local nurseries in spring.

JUNE-BEARING:

EVERBEARING:

Freelance writer/photographer

Companion Planting: Strawberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb and Horseradish

Here in the Northeast, boxes of dry asparagus roots arrive at our local farm co-op and some hardware stores and garden supply houses in late March or April. Most mail-order seedsmen sell them as well. Price is $4.00 to $6.50 for bundles of 10 one-year-old roots, a buck more for two-year-olds, and maybe 80¢ more for threes. When bought by mail, you can’t specify arrival date, as they aren’t removed from cold storage till “time for planting in your area” late March, April, or May. Most seedsmen won’t mail live plants outside the continental U.S. and Canada. Plants are grown from sterilized seed in heavily fumigated land, and are certified to be free of asparagus rust and fusarium, two soil-borne diseases that seldom kill but can disfigure spears around the base, making them small, crooked, and tough, and that generally debilitate the plants. California prohibits their import altogether.

Asparagus roots resemble nothing so much as octopi too long out of water: a cluster of ugly gray-brown, foot long, pencil thin, rubbery single strand roots dangling limply from a central disk. They usually arrive in the mail packed in sawdust and are better stored dry in the heat of the kitchen than down in a dank cellar where they will absorb water and sprout a luxuriant blue-green mold. Indeed, if you order by mail, I recommend that you immediately remove the roots from the packing and dry them out. I’ll bet you a serving of asparagus with hollandaise sauce that they are already a little moldy. Don’t wash them. Just let them dry well and the mold will go dormant (and be eaten by soil organisms once roots are planted). If they must be kept for more than a few days before planting, untie the roots and put them loose in the main body (in dry air) of your refrigerator till planting time.

A bundle of 10 roots will fill about 20 feet of row and produce four to five pounds of spears per year over a month-to-six-week cutting period. That means that for each one pound of spears you will need a pair of mature roots, requiring three to four running feet of row (rows and roots in the row spaced 18″ to 24″ apart). To figure out how many roots to plant, buy enough store asparagus to provide side dishes for the family. A one-pound bundle will be ample for most. Decide how many times a year you want asparagus (including frozen meals). Multiply the pounds used per meal by two to determine number of roots needed and multiply that figure by 3.5 to 4 to determine feet of garden row required. (Example: 20 meal/yr x 1 1b/meal = 20 1b/yr x 3.5 row-feet for the pair of roots needed to produce a pound of spears = 70 row-feet, needing 35 roots.) If your garden is the typical 25 feet wide, that’s three rows taking up seven or eight feet at one end.

For years, Mary Washington (a reselected, open-pollinated variety) was the standard for home gardens. It is still sold (as is Waltham, the even earlier standard variety), but these days you can find a wider selection. A good choice for mild climates such as the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and Southeast is UC 157. The best-adapted for most of North America is the Jersey Giant/Knight hybrid developed by Rutgers University. It ignores asparagus root and crown rots, resists rusts, and produces mostly male plants which, being spared the chore of making berries and seed, live longer and produce more heavily than the ladies. If you do get a female plant that produces small red berries, don’t try planting its seed, which will be open-pollinated and of uncertain quality.

If you do want to try growing from seed, production will be delayed an extra year while you grow seedlings in a nursery row for conventional transplantation. Burpee sells Mary Washington seed (along with its roots and roots of Jersey Giant and UC 157). But so far, seed is the only way so far to obtain Viking KB3, a new hybrid widely adapted for heat and temperature extremes and recommended for both the Great White North and for the South. It was developed and is sold by the Canadian seed house, Stokes.

Strawberries

For luscious red fruit that begin to appear when the asparagus is almost gone by, set strawberry plants between the rows of asparagus roots. The berry plants do well if planted one foot apart, in rows two feet apart. Since asparagus is spaced two feet apart in rows the same distance apart, purchase twice as many strawberry plants as you have asparagus roots.

Like commercial asparagus roots, one-year-old strawberry plants are dug in the fall and stored bare-root over winter for sale in early spring. Traditional June-bearers turn out one large spring crop and come in the largest variety for the widest range of growing conditions. Everbearers produce a large crop in June and a single, smaller crop of smaller fruit in the fall. Ozark Beauty is a widely adapted everbearing variety. The new Day-Neutral varieties set and ripen berries year round, with a larger crop at one end of the season, or the other, or both.

I’ve tried them all and find that I get more seed than berry anytime but June. I keep experimenting with new varieties; but for guaranteed pies, jam, and pigging out on vine-ripe berries, eaten out of hand in the berry patch, I stay with June-bearers. Most are self-pollinating; but to be sure you get a good crop, plant at least two varieties. Buy plants locally or get Raynor’s and other strawberry growers’ catalogs advertised in MOTHER. Grow several varieties recommended for your area. If one proves to be far superior, transplant its runner-born plantlets out into your entire bed. Or (as is best every five years anyway) buy all new disease free parent stock and renew the bed. In gardens located from Central Pennsylvania to Northern Michigan to Coastal Maine, I’ve never found a more reliable strawberry variety than Sparkle.

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Rhubarb

A native of Turkey, and best adapted to cool climates, rhubarb is one of the few garden plants cultivated for its stems only. Leaves and roots contain oxalic acid among other poisons and are toxic. Don’t plant anywhere toddlers can get at it.

The best way to obtain plants is to convince a gardening neighbor that her plants are overgrown (which they probably are). At anytime of year, but best done when the plants are dormant, drive a sharp spade down through the middle of any rhubarb plant and grub out whichever half comes most easily. Put compost in the hole and the mother plant will be spurred into renewed vigor. Divide the reddish, knobby-topped root cluster into quart-jar-sized cuttings and pop into your garden. Or you can buy divisions at most garden supply houses in the spring. I don’t know of any mail-order sources, as the plant divisions are bulky and cannot be shipped bare-root and dry.

To harvest, pull the large, thick stems away from the plant base, big spade-shaped petiole, and the lower end and all. Snap off the leaf, wash the stem if needed, and cut into half-inch sections. For a crisp, tangy stewed fruit dish, cook slowly till juice is out and pieces are just soft….simmer with a pinch of salt and an equal amount of sugar in just enough water to cover the pan bottom. Don’t cook too long unless you like it broken up and slimy. Mix uncooked with equal amounts of halved strawberries and white granulated sugar for a tart pie filling.

From my great Aunts, I learned to cook early rhubarb with rehydrated dried fruit (home-dried apricots and cranberries, California prunes and raisins) or with home-canned sour cherries. We enjoyed it chilled in bowls as stewed fruit, as a filler for tarts, or spread on bread. This was how the old-timers “stretched” one of the first harvestable garden crops of the year.

Horseradish

This big coarse rooted member of the Mustard family is a hardy and vigorous plant with rough-looking leaves and a root resembling a coarse skinned parsnip some two to three inches across at top, tapering to an inch or less and breaking in the ground at a length of six to 12 inches. A South Eastern European native, it has been adding tang to meals on this continent since the early 1700s.

Maliner Kren is the standard Bavarian cultivated variety. You can buy cuttings by mail in lots of five or six for about $1.50 per root. Cheaper and easier is to get a few roots from a gardening neighbor (late fall is best, but you can dig them anytime of year) or buy roots from a fancy greengrocer. Slice each root into four to 12 four-inch-long pencil-sized slips. Be sure that each contains a section of outer hide and a portion of the button-like flat top (where leaves once grew and will sprout again). Let the cuttings dry till the cut sides cure. I like to plant them in late winter—flat top up—an inch or so deep in a 6″ pot filled with potting soil and keep them on a sunny windowsill till leaves come up. When soil is warm, I transplant them outdoors, mulch, and forget them till they are dug up in the fall and stored in the cellar with other root vegetables.

Horseradish is best if peeled, grated, and used fresh (a section of washed—but not peeled—horseradish root and a grater along with a cellar of coarse salt are traditional accompaniments for spit-roasted beef and Yorkshire pudding in our house). Or, mix gratings and their juice with salt and white vinegar and keep in the refrigerator.

If left in the soil for more than a season, the plants will expand aggressively and your garden will soon be choked with a solid block of woody and unusable horseradish that is so thickly matted and has roots down so deep that it is nigh impossible to grub out.

Practical choices are to: (1) Dig it all each fall and replant cuttings next spring or (2) Box it in with escape-proof edging. I do both—growing new cuttings each spring inside squares or rectangles of foot-wide scrap lumber buried in the ground so only the top inch or so protrudes. Inch thick pine lasts four years or so before it needs replacing. That green PT lumber that’s pressure-treated against rot would last longer, but I don’t want copper arsenate or whatever in the food garden. You could install roof shingles, flashing, or corrugated metal lawn edging around just so that the barrier sticks up above ground and extends six inches down.

Planting horseradish is more than easy; stick a chunk of root in the soil and it will grow. However, in our rocky, shallow New England soil, any root vegetable can be hard to dig. And when you get it out, the root will be bifurcated or worse from snaking around rocks. I want juicy roots that are thick enough to have something left after their rough rinds are peeled away, and that are uniform in shape and easy to grate. So I pick out rocks and when compost, rotted manure, or augmented peat moss goes in to enrich the bed, I also pitch in enough sharp sand plot that the soil is loose to a foot depth. A square yard will grow about fifteen roots and produce a quart or two of gratings plenty enough for most families for a year.

Preparing The Bed

Asparagus is what’s called a “deep, heavy feeder.” Its roots are a foot long when you get them and will grow down another foot and more. To produce an abundant harvest of thick, juicy spears (in excess of those it needs to regenerate) each spring for a generation, they must have a good stockpile of plant food down where the roots are. Which means that the best planting bed is a deep trench filled with rich soil packed with organic matter that will attract earthworms and continue to decay and produce nutrients for years. I’ve been known to dig an asparagus bed by hand with a spade and garden fork, but that was when my back had a few less miles on it. A perennial edibles bed is one of the best reasons I know for (lacking a farm tractor with a backhoe or digging bucket on the front) investing in a big rear-tined rotary tiller. A good reason for keeping a horse too.

Whatever your soil source, mix in a winter’s output of wood ash or a good sprinkling of ground limestone to add potassium and trace elements and to neutralize acids. Asparagus is not all that picky as to soil pH, but nearly all North American soils are more acidic than it likes, and it will benefit from some ash or lime to sweeten it. It is best to consult your local Cooperative Extension Service or other expert sources for proper lime-application rates for your soil.

However you get it done, dig your bed as deep as you can manage. A yard down is ideal. First, remove the upper layer of dark topsoil and lay it to one side of the trench. Remove the next foot or so of lighter colored semi-rich undersoil and put it on the other side. Then dig out as much clay, sand, rocky marl, or whatever pale, base subsoil you have compost or topsoil to replace. Discard the base soil. Now, refill the trench with alternating shovelfuls of top-soil, compost, and whatever additives you have. Fill in thin layers (stomping well between each layer) to within 18″ of the top.

Horseradish and rhubarb both grow taller than strawberries but not as high as asparagus ferns. They are dense and will shade the berry plants so I locate them on the ends or the north (shade) side of the bed. I prefer to locate the bed at the top (north) of the middle garden (with staked tomatoes, tall sunflowers, corn, and pole beans above it. I then set rhubarb plants all along the upper margin and put rhubarb in one or two boxed plots along the sides. I choose the lowest, coolest, and shadiest end of the bed for horseradish. It will grow practically anywhere; in shade, roots will just be smaller.

Planting

Lay out asparagus rows two feet apart. In each row, dig a trench a foot-and-a-half deep and wide, mounding soil in a 6″-high ridge down the center of each. Set a root alongside the ridge every foot and a half to two feet. Starting at the sunniest end of the row, scoop ridge into cones by each crown. Arrange the long roots evenly around the cone, cover with soil, and press firmly into the soil. The top of the first crowns should be a good foot below the surface. As you go down the row, make each mount a little higher, till the last one at the shadiest end of the row is about 6″ below ground level. Now, rake soil in until it is level and just covers each crown. Leave it loose. Over early spring, as the shoots appear, rake soil in to cover them until the trench is full. The small first-year fronds will nourish the roots all summer. Keep weeds down and mulch the soil against summer dryness and heat.

Once your asparagus has grown tall enough that you’ve filled the trenches level, plant strawberries a foot apart down the center of the open strips between asparagus plants. Cut the raffia holding plants in bundles, remove dead and discolored leaves, and put the plants in a bucket of warm water. In the garden, dig a fan-shaped slit in the ground. You’ll find that a new berry plant has a crown of leaves, a firm, grape-sized bud, and a bunch of small roots growing down from the bud. Spread plant’s roots out in a fan shape and insert them into the slit so that all roots are covered but just the bottom of the bud is underground. If planted too deep, the bud will suffocate. If planted so shallow the tops of roots are exposed, they will dry out and the plant will die. Press soil very firmly around roots. Make a small rain-holding saucer in the soil around each plant and water well with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer and tepid water. Mulch with straw, weed-free hay, or other loose organic material and keep soil moist till plants are bushy with new leaves.

The strawberry plants will try to fruit, but don’t let ’em. To force energy into root storage for a bumper crop next season, pinch off first-year flowers as soon as the little sprays of blossoms sprout. Each plant will also put out runners that will grow new plants at every node—resulting in a mat of new plants that will all fruit the next year. Left alone, in two years or three, a berry bed will become a thick mass of plants that produces few berries. In small plantings, you can be picky and guide and prune runners and thin plants. I find it easiest to let them go wild, but each fall I take out every other 2′-wide row (starting with the original parent plants the fall of their fruiting year; the next year taking out their offspring in the rows to each side of the originals and so on, alternating every year). Though it sounds wasteful, this is the best way to have good strawberry crops year after year. Rototill the soil in a good 18″-wide band even if a lot of berry plants are jerked on still-strong runners from the fruiting beds to each side. Plants remaining will have the bare ground to flower, fruit bountifully, and fill the bare strips with vital new plants next year.

Set rhubarb root divisions into the soil so that the tops of crowns are just visible. Place them two feet apart in all directions. Don’t cut any stalks the first year. Next year, pull (don’t cut, pull off from the base) only a few large, fat stalks. Thereafter, you can pull fully grown fat stalks till the June strawberries are gone by. The large leaves are mildly toxic, so snap them off and leave them to compost down around the parent plant. They go flat and make a good weed deterring mulch.

Once leaves are fully grown in spring, plants produce a large flowering stalk from the middle of the plant. It will develop an obscene looking fist-sized (and shaped) lump of a flower bud at the terminal end that will erupt into a great ugly conical mass of blossoms if you let it. Flowering is futile, wastes a great deal of plant energy, and the whole plant looks droopy stemmed and exhausted in its summer long afterglow. So, let the flowering stalk develop till the bud is up at about leaf-top level. (The plant will grow another if you pinch it out too early. May try anyway.) Cut it out at the base. The plant will grow lustily all summer, produce profusely next spring. Of course, it will get all pouty and try to flower again next summer and you’ll have to dampen its ardor again.

Harvest

The first growing year, don’t pick anything. Leave asparagus, strawberries, horseradish, and rhubarb to grow and accumulate strength in their roots. Pick blossoms from strawberry plants and flowering stalks from rhubarb.

The second year, strawberry plants come into full production, so harvest them all. You can cut a few fat, plump asparagus and rhubarb stalks, but just a few. Keep them, ends in water, in the refrigerator and they’ll last till all plants have contributed. Let the rest of the stalks go to leaf.

The third year, pick away. A fully grown asparagus plant produces perhaps 10 spears a year to reach its half-pound output…the first set of thick spears up to 2″ at base and 1/2″ at top, and a second set that is under 1″ at base, 3/8″ at top. You can safely harvest five or six spears per plant over four weeks. After that, the plant needs to make fronds to store. Spears should be harvested when they are 6 to 8 inches high, while buds on the ends are still tightly wrapped.

Pencil-thick, hard stalks should never be cut, as they indicate that the plant is reacting to stress and needs all the strength it can gather. This “pencil-grass” is too tough to eat anyway.

You can use a long handled V-blade dandelion weeder as an asparagus knife, and cut off spears several inches below ground. Problem is you are buying a lot of garbage; the end of each spear is bleached white, woody, and inedible and usually gets thrown out. Better to harvest only the edible portion, leaving the below ground ends to recycle naturally and return to the soil. Poke your fingers an inch or so down into the soil beside each spear and snap it off briskly with your thumb. Where the spear just naturally breaks is a comfortable 1/2 inch or so above where the woodiness begins.

Harvest rhubarb stalks so long as they keep growing out fat and juicy, or till the flower stalk appears and leaves begin turning red at the ends. Every few years is a good time to divide rhubarb. In early spring, cut off one or two quart jar size chunks of root from the larger specimens and plant them out or give them to friends. Any plants that have lost vigor and quit producing really fat spears each spring should be removed and new cuttings planted into fresh compost in their place.

In late fall (of the year you planted the cuttings, don’t let them grow a second year) after a good frost or two, is the time to harvest your horseradish. I dig up the entire bed with a garden fork, shake the roots free of soil, and lop off the leaves. Thick, well-proportioned roots are stored in the cold cellar for peeling and grating as needed. Any so gnarly as to be unusable roots or any with soft spots or other apparent rot are saved to be cut up for replanting. The soil in the bed is forked well and mixed with enough compost or top soil to replace plant material removed. I replant the saved cuttings and mulch with the leaves from parent roots just dug up. Horseradish gives a lot for very little care in return.

Disease and Pests

The best medicine against problems of all kinds is prevention. Weeds can choke out the bed and bugs will hibernate at the base of the plants, so in the spring of each year cultivate any bare ground shallowly to expose bug larvae and sprouted weed seeds. In summer of the first year, once the soil dries out, snug mulch around asparagus fronds, berry, rhubarb, and horseradish plants to keep weeds down. Hand pull large weeds that poke through.

You will see rust, malformed stalks with brown-tinged lesions around the base, on a few asparagus plants, but the stalks are still delicious and most varieties are resistant enough that it won’t do significant harm. In the heat of summer some years, the fronds will host a considerable gathering of asparagus beetles—colorful little red and black semi-hard-shelled bugs that are quick to flee and hard to catch in the heat of day. In my experience, the little stinkers sleep away from home (they dig into the mulch, I’m told) and don’t come looking for food till the sun is up. I’ve never noticed that they do much harm to fronds (that are old enough by the time the beetles arrive that they’ve about done their job of reinvigorating the roots for next year’s crop), so I’ve never worried about them. However, I do compost burn the top mulch and old fronds each fall.

If I ever do see the beetles threatening severe damage, rather than lose the planting I would compromise my organic principles and apply a USDA-approved, short-lived chemical insecticide advertised as effective against hard-bodied insects. Since the rhubarb and asparagus crops are already in and the new horseradish won’t be dug till fall, I wouldn’t worry about getting poison on anything edible.

If the leaves on your strawberry plants turn red well before frost, and/or if the berry plants pull out of the soil too easily and roots look wet, dead, or puny, and/or production falls off precipitously, you have a rust or rot problem. The only cure is to overhaul the bed. To be honest, relocating it to fresh soil for several years is best. Otherwise, after hard frost, uproot all the strawberry plants and burn them in a fire along with all old mulch and leaves. Plant the bed to a “green manure” crop such as winter wheat and till it in before the asparagus gets started in early spring.

Now, on the bare ground, let nature take its course and kill out the strawberry diseases by letting it go semifallow for a season. I grub out all burdock, grasses, and other persistent weeds, till shallowly between the asparagus several times during the year (before any weeds can go to seed), and finally burn the plot off in the fall. Burn again in spring just before tilling in fresh compost and lime and replanting a new lot of strawberry plants. I’m sure to purchase an especially disease-resistant strain from a different company than where I got the diseased stock.

Fall Care

After the tall greenery turns brown in the fall, pull mulch away from the borders and, if you’ve not edged the entire bed, dig out sod where it has encroached at the sides. Spread compost or rotted manure and till or hand cultivate shallowly.

Asparagus fronds are tough and don’t rototill in very well. Also, they can harbor bug eggs that will happily overwinter, tilled into the ground or not. I like to go down the rows and, using an old (but sharp) hook-bladed linoleum-cutting knife, grub out all the old fronds as far below ground as I can cut. I toss them at the base of a fresh compost pile along with any corn stalks and tough broccoli and sunflower stems still left in the garden. Or, I save them to be burned, and the ashes scattered back on the land. (If stacked up off the soil beside the outdoor fireplace where I boil off maple sap, these woody stems dry out under the snow and make great sugaring off fire kindling.)

Then, I go down the rows and lightly rake old mulch and dead berry plant leaves off of the alternate rows that contain the new-generation strawberry plants and mound it over the old plant rows. Then I till it in very well (old berry plants and all) or (better) burn it and then till. A good sprinkling of composted manure mixed with soiled stable bedding goes on the fruiting bed. Finally, over the whole plot, I scatter six inches of loose salt hay, a type of grass that is harvested from coastal salt marshes, so it lacks inland weed seeds. It is expensive inland but you can use wheat or rye straw. Don’t mulch with regular hay unless it is old and half rotten. New hay is full of weed seed and will turn your asparagus bed to what we call a “hay-mowing” here in New England. Lacking a natural mulch, the asparagus bed is one place I’d recommend spending the money for ground peanut shells, corncobs, shredded bark, or other organic mulch.

The asparagus and new berry crowns will push right up through your mulch in the spring, and it will keep the new berries away from soil-borne rots. Be sure to sprinkle on limestone some time during the year to neutralize the acid content of mulch as it rots down, bark especially. To spread out the harvest, you can pull mulch away from crowns of half the strawberry plants as soon in the spring as you can. Sun will warm the soil and those plants will fruit a few days earlier than the rest.

During the fall overhaul, I also pull out and compost old horseradish and rhubarb leaves and scatter any leftover compost or manure over the dormant crowns. But I’m sure to be careful of next year’s rhubarb buds that often break the soil in fall. Then it’s just a matter of waiting out the winter, confident that, in a carefully prepared bed, and after judicious harvest and good fall “putting to bed,” the asparagus, strawberry, rhubarb, and new horseradish roots are preparing to gift us with a bountiful harvest next year.

The sweetest, juiciest strawberries you’ll ever enjoy will come from a home garden. By growing strawberries at home, you’ll enjoy fully ripened, chemical-free berries. Like other homegrown produce, the strawberries you grow at home will be more flavorful than whatever you could buy at a supermarket.

Lance Cheung / USDA

One of the ways you can grow the best strawberries possible is through companion planting. Companion plants—plants that grow symbiotically near strawberries—can help you increase the yield, quality, and health of your strawberry crop. Here’s how to grow a sustainable bumper crop of strawberries by using companion planting.

The Best Strawberry Companion Plants

There are several plants that are beneficial to the growth of strawberry plants and the production of an abundant berry crop. Helpful companion plants include:

  • Bush Beans: Repels beetles and helps provide nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which can fertilize and increase the yield of strawberries.
  • Borage: Borage plants deter insect pests that can damage a strawberry patch. The herb also attracts bees, which can make pollination in the whole garden more robust and productive.
  • Caraway: Caraway draws insects that feed on pests harmful to strawberries.
  • Lupin: Like bush beans, repels beetles and helps with nitrogen fixing.
  • Asparagus: Asparagus and strawberries are natural companions. Both plants begin to grow immediately after the last frost. The two plants root on different levels and maximize nutrient return.

Other popular companion plants for strawberries are horseradish, rhubarb, lettuce, marigolds, onions, chives, sage, and spinach.

Strawberries can also serve as a companion plant. Many savvy gardeners plant them as a ground cover to control weeds around horseradish, rhubarb, and asparagus.

Plants That Harm Strawberries

Not all garden plants are good neighbors for strawberries. Any of the plants listed here can cause verticillium, a disease that is deadly to strawberries:

  • Okra
  • Mint
  • Bramble and berry plants
  • Roses
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Nightshades
  • Melons

Strawberries Can Damage These Plants

Strawberries don’t play nice with some plants. Any plant in the cabbage family will struggle if planted next to a strawberry. Major members of the cabbage family include:

  • Collard
  • Kale
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohlrabi
  • Broccoflower
  • Celery

Strawberries Are Easy To Grow

Strawberries are easy to cultivate in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3-10. Strawberry plants prosper when properly planted and tended in beds, rows, strawberry jars, or baskets.

Strawberries can even decorate your garden. Allow them to sprawl over a rock wall, or plant them as an edible edging along flower beds or walkways. Strawberries planted as ground cover will produce a thick, green foliage mat that will produce fruit, even if it’s not intensively tended.

Select The Right Site

To successfully grow strawberries, it is imperative that they receive full sun most of the day. Plants grown in limited sunlight yield excessive foliage growth and few berries. Strawberries do best in a loamy, nutrient-rich soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.3. Avoid planting in low areas subject to late spring frosts.

The ground where you plant should not have been used previously to cultivate potatoes, peppers, tomatoes or any type of berry. Such soil can cause root rot and tomato ringspot.

Types Of Strawberries

When selecting a strawberry variety, choose varieties adapted to your local region. Order strawberry plugs early—they’re very popular at all nurseries.

When shopping for strawberry plants at your local greenhouse or garden supply, accept only virus-free, healthy-looking plants. Most strawberries produce an abundant crop if only one variety is selected.

However, some varieties such as Apollo and Spring Giant do best if planted in proximity to each other for pollination. In most cases, it is a wise choice to plant multiple varieties: if one variety is damaged by disease or frost, you will not lose your entire planting.

Planting multiple varieties also extends the fruiting season, because different varieties ripen at different times.

Consult your nursery or garden store to figure out what varieties grow best in your area.

These are some of my favorite varieties. Plants marked with an asterisk are ever-bearing—they’ll yield fruit throughout the growing season.

  • Allstar
  • Albion*
  • Honeoye
  • Evie*
  • Ozark Beauty*
  • Jewel
  • Tristar*
  • Earliglow
  • Chandler
  • Tribute*
  • Monterey*
  • Portola*
  • San Andreas*
  • Seascape*
  • Quintalt*

Most varieties of strawberry produce fruit from early May through June. Ever-bearing strawberry plants produce berries mid-May through June, a few berries during the summer, and one more large crop in the fall.

When To Plant Strawberries

Strawberries cultivated in U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones six and northward do best if planted in the spring. Such plants become well-rooted by winter.

USDA Photo
Strawberries planted in pots, baskets or containers can be moved to a cool, protected shed or unheated garage during the cold months of winter.

Prepare The Soil

Strawberries flourish in loamy, nutrient-rich soil. Prepare the beds or potting mixture by thoroughly working in a generous portion of aged herbivore manure, aged garden compost, chopped straw, grass clippings, or dry leaves.

The soil should be kept moist, but not soggy. Strawberry plants detest wet feet and can easily develop root rot if the their patch does not drain adequately.

Planting And Propagation

Don’t let strawberries dry out when you plant them. Each bundle of plants should be placed in a container with enough water to thoroughly saturate the roots.

After planting, strawberries should be watered around the base of the plant. Strawberries that are watered on their foliage are more likely to develop diseases. Drip irrigation is the best method of keeping strawberry plants watered.

Lance Cheung / USDA

Expect to harvest a quart or more of berries per every five feet of row. Approximately 100-125 plants will provide more than enough fresh and preservable fruit for a family of four.

Strawberries should be planted on a cloudy day in the late afternoon.

Strawberry Life Cycle

Strawberries are a very hardy perennial. They will die back in winter and begin growing again in the spring.

After producing fruit, most varieties produce numerous runners with tiny baby plants at the tips. If untended, the runners root nearby. They can also be be trimmed off and replanted elsewhere for propagation.

Many varieties of strawberries will bear extra berries if you clip off the runners. Allow each plant to produce no more than three runners per season. Extra runners can be potted and sold.

The United States Department of Agriculture: Companion Planting (PDF)

Michigan State University Extension Service: Companion Planting (PDF)

Sustainable Gardening Australia: Companion Plants

The United States Department Of Agriculture: Strawberry Patch (PDF)

United States Department Of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service: Fragaria virginiana Duchesne – Virginia strawberry

North Carolina Cooperative Extension: New Ways to Think About Growing Strawberries & Blueberries

Strawberry Standards Consultancy: Trade Standards

University Of Illinois Extension Service: Growing Strawberries

When not working in her garden in Northwestern Montana, Marlene Affeld writes of her love of nature and all things natural.

Strawberries are the very epitome of summer, the taste, the look and nothing is as nice as picking a ripe strawberry from your own garden. Most of us have limited space, so companion planting is always going to be the best option. So let’s find out what grows well with strawberries.

What Are Strawberries?

The fruit of the strawberry plant is probably one of the most recognised fruits in the world. They are grown in most temperate zones and are used to flavour many sweets, ices and shakes.

Their name is a misnomer, they are not actually berries at all. The strawberry is really an “aggregate fruit” according to the Stanford University Alumni magazine. I’ll let them explain it in their own words.

Strawberries and raspberries aren’t really berries in the botanical sense. They are derived from a single flower with more than one ovary, making them an aggregate fruit. True berries are simple fruits stemming from one flower with one ovary and typically have several seeds.

Stanford Alumni magazine

This is just semantics however and for the purpose of this post irrelevant, a strawberry is a strawberry. A sweet, usually red fruit that grows through the summer time in the UK and are easily cultivated. They range in size from minute alpine strawberries (and if you can believe the advertisements on E-bay) up to the size of apples.

What Grows Well With Strawberries

Lets look at the plants that are beneficial to strawberries, either by protecting them from predatory insects or by attracting beneficial insects. In some cases companion plants can improve the health of the strawberry plants, and healthy plants mean better quality fruit.

Plants to grow with strawberries include:-

Borage And Strawberries

Borage will help to improve the health and pest resistance of your strawberry plants.

The herb borage is a great companion plant to grow with strawberries. It has long been known that borage improves the health of the plants growing in close proximity to it. It does this by increasing their resistance to pests and diseases.

Borage is one of a group of plants known as dynamic accumulator plants. Dynamic accumulators have deep roots that reach minerals and compounds in the soil that other plants cannot reach. These are shared with neighbouring plants which benefit from the extra nutrients.

Once borage flowers, it attracts many helpful pollinators including bees and hover flies. These pollinators will then be attracted to the strawberry plants flowers and assist in pollination. Borage will also repel many common butterflies and stop them from laying their eggs close by.

This will protect the strawberries from caterpillar damage.

Thyme And Strawberries

Thyme will repel white fly and attract good pollinators to your strawberries.

Thyme is another herb that once in flower is very attractive to bees. Grow thyme in close proximity to strawberries and attract hundreds of pollinators to your strawberry plants. Thyme also repels white flies, and these can cause devastation to your strawberry plants.

White flies are related to the family of insects that include aphids and they feed in the same way. White flies and Aphids suck the sap from the host plants and eventually kill the plant. Grow thyme to repel these harmful pests from your strawberries.

Onions And Strawberries

Onions will repel many pests from your strawberries and strengthen them from disease.

Onions and other members of the Allium family, due to their strong aroma repel harmful insects including, mealy aphids, aphids, root aphids and white flies. Protecting your strawberries from these pests is imperative and growing alliums in companion to strawberries will definitely help.

Onions will also help to strengthen the strawberries against disease.

Lettuce And Strawberries

Lettuce can be used as a sacrificial crop to keep slugs away from your strawberries.

Lettuce is a good companion to strawberries for a number of reasons. Firstly the large leaves will prevent weed growth saving on water, nutrients and not allowing hiding places for slugs. Also slugs will be more attracted to the lettuces than the strawberries and so their sacrifice will benefit your fruit.

Spinach And Strawberries

Spinach will inhibit weed growth from your strawberries.

Spinach is another broad leaf plant that will give good ground cover giving all the benefits of above. Plus both spinach and lettuce need a steady supply of water and whilst watering these plants you will be watering the strawberries as well. For fruit to become juicy it needs water so this is beneficial to all the companions.

Beans And Strawberries

Beans will allow your strawberries more nitrogen and give dappled shade and protection from birds.

Beans fix nitrogen in the air and so do not remove nitrogen from the soil giving your strawberry plants an added boost. They also provide dappled shade and as strawberries were originally a wood land crop this is beneficial to them. Never grow beans and alliums together as they are not good companions at all.

Caraway And Strawberries

Caraway will attract beneficial insects to your strawberry bed.

Beneficial insects like parasitic wasps are attracted to caraway so it is another good companion plant for strawberries. It is a hard plant to establish but once it is growing you should have a steady supply. Caraway is a biennial herb so it takes 2 years to set seed and then the self seeded plants should continue to grow.

Do not try to move caraway as it doesn’t like it’s roots disturbed so sow seeds on site. It will grow to about 2 feet(60 cms) high and is quite an attractive plant. So it adds another element to your strawberry patch.

Asparagus And Strawberries

Growing Asparagus and strawberries together will save you space in your garden.

Asparagus has deep seated roots and strawberry roots are much shallower, for this reason they make excellent companion plants. If you do decide to grow strawberries with your asparagus don’t add onions, because asparagus and onions don’t get on.

Rhubarb And Strawberries

The broad leaves of the Rhubarb plants will inhibit weed growth.

Another deep rooted plant, rhubarb and strawberries get on very well together. Rhubarb leaves protect the ripe strawberry fruit from birds, and also prevent weed growth, and both plants benefit from a mulch in late autumn.

What Grows Well With Strawberries Summary

Here’s a short video to summarise what grows well with strawberries.

Where Not To Grow Strawberries

Never grow strawberries in ground that has recently grown any of the following plants. Mint, Roses, Chrysanthemums, Melons, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Aubergines, Peppers, or chillies. All of the above plants can carry the fungi verticillium which can cause disease and death to strawberries.

What Not To Grow With Strawberries

Apart from raspberries which are susceptible to the same fungal diseases as strawberries, the only real problem here is brassicas, all brassicas including:-

  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Calabrese
  • Spring Greens
  • Turnips
  • Swede
  • Kohl Rabi

These plants will not affect the strawberry plants, but the strawberries will definitely affect the brassicas. They give off a chemical through their roots that is seriously harmful to members of the brassica family. Keep strawberries away from brassicas at all costs.

For an in depth guide on

Growing Strawberries

Cultivation

Soil & Site: Choose a well-drained location in full sun. Strawberries are shallow-rooted and grow best in sandy loam soils, which drain well, are well-supplied with humus and have a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.

Fresh picked strawberries.
Joey Williamson, ©2018 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Clay soils drain poorly and are harder to manage but can be improved by adding organic matter. Leaves, chopped straw, compost, rotted sawdust or grass clippings can be used to improve soil structure. Manure applied at 2 to 3 bushels/100 square feet is a good source of organic matter. Apply the organic matter in the fall. Dig, rototill or plow it into the soil then so the material will be well decomposed by planting time in early spring. In the year previous to planting, destroy all perennial weeds.

Take a soil test several months in advance. If nematodes are a likely problem, submit a soil sample for a nematode assay. If sting nematodes are present, do not plant strawberries in that area. Strawberries are resistant to the Southern root-knot nematode.

Fertilization: Before planting, follow the recommendations of a soil test. If no test is taken, broadcast about 4 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each 100 feet of row two to three weeks before planting. Till the soil and smooth the bed.

A topdress application of ammonium nitrate (33-0-0) at 1½ pounds per 100 feet of row should be made from mid-August to mid-September. Always apply fertilizer to the plants when the foliage is dry and sweep the plants with a broom or leaf rake immediately following the application.

In late winter of the second and subsequent years, broadcast 4 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer over the bed.

Planting: Because of diseases, two very different production systems are used in South Carolina. In the matted row system, the plants are set out one spring and fruited the next.

This system works best in the upper part of South Carolina, where production may continue for several years.

In the Sandhills and Coastal Plains, the annual hill system is preferred because anthracnose disease usually destroys the matted row plantings before they produce fruit. In this system, plants are set out in the fall and fruited the next spring. The planting is usually discarded after the crop is harvested. The matted row system can be used in the Sandhills and Coastal Plain providing one only plants anthracnose resistant varieties. ‘Sweet Charlie’ is resistant, while ‘Chandler’ is very susceptible to anthracnose.

Matted Row System (low input): The matted row system involves planting the mother plants 2 feet apart the first spring then letting runners fill the bed the first summer. The flowers are removed the first year, so no fruit is produced until the second year.

Annual Hill System (high input): In the central and coastal regions of South Carolina (and during normal winters in western South Carolina) strawberry plants can be set in the fall and harvested the next spring. This reduces the danger of diseases destroying the crop. The Chandler variety is by far the best for the hill system but other varieties will produce fair results. Plants are set 12 inches apart in the row and 12 inches apart between rows on beds that contain two rows.

The beds should be 6 inches high at the shoulder and 8 inches high in the center and 26 inches wide. An aisle 22 inches wide between beds should be provided as a place to walk.

Before making the beds, broadcast fertilizer over the plots. Spade or disk in 3 pounds of 10-10-10 premium grade fertilizer (contains micronutrients) per 100 square feet of bed. Best results are usually obtained by mulching the bed with black plastic. An optional drip irrigation tube can be placed under the plastic. Apply the plastic before planting. Be sure the bed is well- formed, firm, fertilized and very moist. Set plants from

September 15 to November 15 in the Coastal Plain (usually, October is the best month). Freshly dug plants are planted and watered intensively for the first week after planting. Potted plants can also be used and require less watering to establish.

If the planting is anthracnose disease-free, it may live for several years and be managed as a matted row system. Cut holes in the plastic to allow the runners to peg down.

When transplanting in the spring, the temperature should be 40 to 50 ºF; a spring frost generally will not harm new strawberry plants. If the plants arrive early and cannot be planted immediately, store them in a refrigerator.

When soil moisture conditions are ideal for planting, lay off two rows that are 4 feet apart. Each of the rows should be 2 feet from the edge of the bed. Set the plants 2 feet apart in the rows at the correct depth so the base of the crown is at soil level. Press the soil firmly around the roots and water them in.

If new plants appear light green and do not grow well, sidedress with nitrogen about one month after planting. Apply 1½ pounds of ammonium- or calcium-nitrate (33-0-0) or 0.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 100 linear feet of row.

A couple of weeks after the new plants begin to grow, flowers will appear. Remove these flowers in the spring of the first year. This improves establishment and channels food reserves into the production of vigorous runners. During the summer of establishment, allow the strawberry runners to develop to form the matted row.

Watering: Strawberries require moisture during the following “critical” times:

  • When plants are set and during dry periods following setting;
  • Just before harvest and during harvest when berry size appears to be suffering;
  • After renovation, as needed, to encourage new runner plant;
  • In late August, September and early October when fruit buds are forming for the next season’s crop. If rainfall is insufficient during these times, then water the plantings on a weekly basis to wet the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

Weeding & Mulching: During the growing season, control weeds by mulching and handpulling. Mulching, handpulling, hoeing and tilling are the best means of control in a small planting.

If the planting is vigorous, you will probably have to cut runners that grow into the aisle.

During the winter and spring months, periodically check the planting for the development of winter weeds that should be removed.

In late winter mulch the bed with a 1- to 2- inch layer of straw (wheat, oat, rye, pine). One bale will cover 100 square feet. Do not use grass clippings because they will smother the strawberry plants.

Remove the straw in the spring when there are signs of new growth. Rake most of the needles off the tops of the plants. The strawberry plants will grow up through the needles, which will help keep the berries from getting soiled. A good layer of mulch prevents bitter rot and hard rot and slows anthracnose spread in addition to keeping the berries clean.

Renovation or Renewing the Planting: Matted row strawberry plantings may bear fruit for more than one season, and may be kept for two or possibly three to four fruiting seasons if properly renovated. The main purpose of renovation is to keep plants from becoming too crowded in beds. Do not attempt to renew strawberry beds infested with weeds, diseases or insects; it is better to set a new planting.

To renew a planting follow these four steps:

  • Broadcast 3 to 4 pounds of a complete fertilizer (10-10-10) or about 1½ pounds of ammonium nitrate (33-0-0) per 100 feet of row.
  • Mow off the leaves, rake away from plants and dispose of them (take your rotary lawn mower and mow over top of bed, setting blade about 4 inches). Avoid damaging the crowns.
  • Cut back rows with a cultivator, rototiller or hoe to a strip 12 to 18 inches wide.
  • Thin the plants leaving only the most healthy and vigorous. Plants should be about 6 inches apart in all directions.

Care After Renovation: Be sure to keep the bed free of weeds and irrigate if rainfall is insufficient. Strawberries need 1 to 1½ inches of water per week.

Older beds should receive 1½ to 2 pounds of ammonium nitrate per 100 feet of row sometime between mid August and mid September. Remember to apply it when the foliage is dry, and sweep the leaves free of fertilizer. By late September the matted rows should again be 2 feet wide. Be sure to remove plants that grew into the aisles in late summer.

Harvest

Strawberry harvest begins in the latter part of April in the Sandhills and Coastal plains, early May in the Piedmont, and late May in the mountains. You should pick strawberries every other day or three times a week. Pick the fruit with about one-quarter of the stem attached. The best time to pick is in early morning when berries are still cool. Not all berries ripen at the same time; pick only those which are fully red.

Bird Control

Because there is not much food available for birds when strawberries ripen, birds can be a serious problem. The most effective method to keep them from getting most of the fruit is to cover the planting with bird netting. The net will have to be anchored all the way around the planting, otherwise the birds will walk under it. To anchor the net, place 6- to 8-inch stakes around the planting every 2 feet. Angle the stakes out away from the rows so that the net can be hooked over the stakes. This will keep the edge of the net close to the ground and keep the birds from getting under the net. It takes only a few minutes to remove the net for picking and to replace it after you are through.

Diseases

Strawberries are produced in South Carolina by home gardeners as a perennial crop. Anthracnose, root-knot nematode, Pythium, Rhizoctonia root and crown rot, Mycosphaerella and Diplocarpon leaf spots, and Botrytis fruit rot are threatening problems for homeowners.

Rhizoctonia Root & Crown Rot: The root rot phase of this disease is favored by cool weather while the crown rot is worse during hot weather. Plants typically collapse just as fruiting starts. Bottoms of leaves are purple and curl up. The original crown is killed, and numerous side crowns may develop. This disease can be prevented by crop rotation with grass crops. The disease may be introduced with plants obtained from friends or an unknown source. Therefore, it is important to purchase disease-free plants from a reputable nursery.

Red Stele Root Rot or Phytophthora Root Rot: The fungi Phytophthora fragariae and P. cactorum cause this major disease. Plants with severe root rot are often stunted and they may wilt in hot weather. Little or no fruit is produced and plants eventually may die. The most characteristic root symptom is a reddish discoloration of the stele (core). To minimize the risk of red stele, plant resistant cultivars or certified disease-free plants and avoid low, wet sites.

Phomopsis Leaf Blight: Phomopsis leaf spot has become increasingly important in South Carolina in recent years. The disease starts to develop in the fall or spring shortly after planting. It spreads rapidly and can kill much of the foliage. It remains active as long as there is green foliage on the plants. If plants become dormant in the winter, the disease will start again in the spring.

Early symptoms are one-six circular, red to purple spots on leaflets. Spots enlarge and develop grey centers. Older spots along veins develop into large V-shaped lesions. Fruit and calyx infection also occurs. The fungus survives in dead leaves attached to the plants.

Fungicides should be applied when new growth starts and continued in the spring where the disease is a problem. Fruit infection is prevented by controlling foliar infection.

Botrytis Fruit Rot: Botrytis fruit rot is the most common and important fruit disease in South Carolina. While rot can start on any part of the fruit, it usually starts on the calyx end or the side of fruits touching infected fruits. Affected fruit becomes light brown. The fungus can also invade all other plant parts. Survival of the fungus occurs in infected tissue and in small, oval, black sclerotia on the ground or plants. It germinates in the spring when bloom starts and infects bloom parts. From these it moves into the fruit and may rot it immediately, or be dormant until the fruit ripens. The disease is most severe in wet weather.

The key to control is preventing fall infection of winter leaves, removal of dying leaves in late winter before the addition of mulch and protection of the blooms with a fungicide. Several organic growers actually vacuum up dead leaves using shop vacuum cleaners. Using strict sanitation, organic growers have successfully produced berries without using fungicides.

Angular Leaf Spot: This leaf spot bacterium survives in dead plant tissue. The disease starts as small, angular, water-soaked spots on the bottom of the leaves. Spots enlarge but are limited by the veins. Spots are translucent when viewed with transmitted light but dark green when viewed with reflected light. Spots coalesce to cover large portions of the leaf and appear as irregular reddish brown spots on the top of the leaf. Heavily infected leaves usually die. The disease is favored by wet weather with day temperatures of 70 ºF and night temperatures near or below freezing. The disease usually stops as temperatures rise in the spring. There is no chemical control for this disease. If the bacteria are introduced, use crop rotation. One year is sufficient.

Leaf Spot & Leaf Scorch: Leaf spot and leaf scorch, caused by the fungi Mycosphaerella fragariae and Diplocarpon earliana, respectively, cause about the same type of damage and are spread in a similar manner. The spores of each fungus are usually brought into a field on new plants or spread to new areas by insects, birds or farm equipment. Both fungi survive the winter on infected plants.

Leaf spot shows up first on the upper leaf surface as a tiny, round purple spot about one-eighth inch in diameter. At first, the whole spot is purple. Later, the center of the spot becomes gray and then almost white. The border remains purple.

Leaf scorch forms small, dark purple spots on upper leaf surfaces. These spots remain dark purple. A white center is never formed as with leaf spot. The spots have an irregular outline. When numerous, the spots run together and leaves appear to be scorched.

The loss of foliage due to these two diseases can stunt the entire plant. Severely infected plants may die. During early spring rains, spores from just a few diseased plants can multiply and spread through an entire planting.

Anthracnose: The fungi causing anthracnose infect stolons, petioles, crowns, fruit and leaves. Small dark lesions appear on stolons and petioles in the summer and girdle them, killing the leaves and unrooted daughter plants. The fungus grows from the infected petioles and stolons into the crown of the plant, causing a reddish-brown firm rot and the plants wilt and die. The fungus causes round, brown, firm sunken spots on fruit. Normally, death of plants occurs the year after infection occurs. Buying disease-free plants is the best control measure. Once the disease is present, strict sanitation (removal of diseased plant material), mulching and spraying fungicides every five to seven days can result in a 50- to 70-percent harvest.

Sting Nematodes: The sting nematode is the most common nematode attacking strawberries in South Carolina. Injured plants appear stunted and produce little fruit. There is no chemical control available to homeowners to control nematodes. It is best not to plant in areas where the sting nematode is present.

Cultivars & Varieties

For a list of recommended strawberry varieties for South Carolina, refer to HGIC 1404, Strawberry Types.

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