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Anti-fungal Plant List/How to deal with Strawberry Blossom Black Rot

 
Travis Philp
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I've got a strawberry patch that has been hit with black rot in the flowers and immature fruit, in a big way. All my research for solutions only comes up with synthetic sprays. I forget the scientific name of the ailment but it is a fungus that is ever-present in the soil, and becomes active during extended rainy/cloudy periods, which is what the weather was like when the rot came on.

Do any of you know of organic/ecologically friendly ways to deal with such a problem?

My first thought was to plant anti-fungal plants between the strawberries, in the hopes that they combat the fungus. So I've started a list:

mint
thyme
garlic
chives
lavender
oregano

Any others that I'm missing? Keep in mind that my zone is 5, so the neem plants are out 

I had another idea to remove the existing hay mulch and replace with pine needles, since they have anti-fungal properties, and I've seen strawberries growing in our pine forest here. What do you think I should do?
 
Roy Houston
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Hi Travis,

Garlic is one of the better choices planted throughout the strawberry bed, but go somewhat heavy on the planting.

For quicker results, pumpkin rind has incredibly strong anti-fungal properties.  I cut into chunks, scoop off virtually all of the meat and then whiz in a food processor.  Steep in cool water overnight, strain and then spray liberally.  I've never measured amounts, but I would guess that I put about 2 cups of pureed pumpkin RIND in a gallon jar with water.  Also, keeping indoors (or below 80F) seems to work best.  Because you already have an outbreak you will have to hit it pretty hard; every 3 days for at least a couple of weeks intially.

Incidently, this is reportedly good also good on tomatoes and grapes (particularly in humid areas where Black rot is a problem).  I've just installed a muscadine vineyard this past spring (not very permaculture like... I know  )and this will be my first line of attack should I have problems with them.

Lastly, there is an Organic approved product called PlantShield HC available from lots of places that I have heard good things about for black rot on strawberries.

Good Luck!

Roy
 
Roy Houston
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Incidently, lest anyone cry FOUL!!!, yes I know black rot on strawberries and black rot on muscadines are two totally different fungal diseases; just similar names.  Experience tells me Pumpkin rind works on strawberries.  I'll be experimenting with it on the muscadines...

Roy
 
Travis Philp
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Thanks for the advice. Not sure I grew enough pumpkin this year to really make the spray slurry a viable option. I did plant garlic between many of my strawberry plants, and plan to plant the other anti-fungal plants in my list around them too.

Do you know if squash skin works the same as pumpkin?
 
Leila Rich
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I've never had a problem with damping off, which is a fungal disease, but the recommendation is generally to spray chamomile tea over the seedlings. I can't imagine it would be strong enough for something like black rot, but chucking a few bags/leaves in the mix might help.
 
Roy Houston
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Travis:

I couldn't say for sure. Probably acorn squash since it's from the same subfamily. I've only used regular pumpkin.

Roy
 
Travis Philp
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I've got a few patches of perennial chamomile growing randomly. If enough comes back next year, maybe I'll either transplant some into the strawberry bed or use it in a spray as you suggest. Thanks Leila.

Roy; I'm hoping to get a modest crop of sugar pumpkins in next year so I'll have a supply of skins after that, if my other methods don't pan out.
 
tel jetson
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I don't have any personal experience with strawberry fungus, but my usual tactic for dealing with unpleasant fungus is to make sure there is a lot of more pleasant fungus around. that generally amounts to trying to increase organic matter in the dirt.

another option, that you probably won't be thrilled about, is to grow Fragaria vesca and F. moschata instead of garden strawberries. they hold their berries up off the ground, so rot is rarely an issue. obviously not a solution for your current plants.
 
Travis Philp
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Right now the plants are mulched with a few inches of hay, as they have been all season. I half thought that the hay might be the problem, as it stayed pretty moist through the rainy/cloudy period just before the rot appeared.

The type of strawberry in question is an everbearing variety, and maybe I'm creating a false memory but I recall that the majority of the berries stayed off the ground. I'm growing them to sell at market and in our CSA, and though I know that the alpine types aren't as small as the more common wild strawberry, I don't see it as being cost-effective to harvest. Maybe I'm wrong?

 
tel jetson
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the hay could certainly be causing your problems, or at least be part of the problems. both hay and straw tend to get pretty slimy and gross in wet conditions. they can be great mulch if drying out is the problem, though.

have you had your dirt analyzed? some rots are caused, or at least exacerbated, by deficiencies or imbalances. the most obvious example that comes to mind is calcium and magnesium for blossom end rot in tomatoes.

alpines and musk strawberries are certainly smaller than garden strawberries, and they don't travel particularly well. picking while it's still cool in the morning on market day ought to get them there in decent condition, though. might be worth trying out a small patch of one or both for market research purposes. musks are June-bearing, though they'll sometimes give a late summer crop, too. and both species take two to three years to really get going.
 
Travis Philp
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I think I'm going to remove the hay mulch and replace with woodchips. The chips are from a municipal depot about 5 mins away, and are mostly cedar, pine, and spruce, with random hardwood mixed in. I know there's a risk of walnut and other detrimental wood but I've seen the fresh stuff and it's heavy on the conifers. My other option would be to take some duff layer from the acre of scotts pines and use that but I'd rather avoid 'robbing peter to pay paul' scenario.

I'll consider those other types of strawberries Tel. Thanks for your advice.
 
tel jetson
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Travis Philp wrote:I think I'm going to remove the hay mulch and replace with woodchips. The chips are from a municipal depot about 5 mins away, and are mostly cedar, pine, and spruce, with random hardwood mixed in. I know there's a risk of walnut and other detrimental wood but I've seen the fresh stuff and it's heavy on the conifers. My other option would be to take some duff layer from the acre of scotts pines and use that but I'd rather avoid 'robbing peter to pay paul' scenario.

I'll consider those other types of strawberries Tel. Thanks for your advice.


I've used pine sawdust under strawberries with good results. the woodchips sound promising. I would get as many of those on the place as you can, for strawberries and elsewhere. shooting for complete coverage with living plants in the long run beats periodic renewal of mulch, at least as far as I'm concerned.
 
Roy Houston
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Travis:

I just heard about another method of controlling powdery mildew and some types of black and grey mold, which is the use of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). There was one mention in the article for use on strawberries, and this control method is better as a prophylactic measure, so it may be worth exploring. Here is a link to a summary of group of scientific studies which you can read for background info.

Mold spray info

I've also heard of using milk instead of water for the carrier agent, but that was just for powdery mildew.

Regards,

Roy
 
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