The top reasons why strawberries will dry up before ripening include inconsistent watering, dry soil, poor pollination, insect attack or diseases such as botrytis. Strawberries can be grown with large, juicy fruit by planting them in a full sun position, watering them every 2-3 days in summer and mulching them with straw.
This article will explore all you need to know about why strawberries will dry up before ripening and how to prevent this problem.
Top 6 reasons why strawberries will dry up before ripening
Here are my top 6 reasons why strawberries will dry up before ripening on the bush.
1. Poor pollination
Pollination is key to a strawberry that will grow successfully. Poor pollination where the flower has not had enough pollen transferred from the male anthers to the female stigmas will not set fruit well. This can cause the fruit to form partially but dry up before it grows fully.
Strawberries are self pollinating as the flower contains both male and female parts. The flower will still need help moving the pollen one part of the flower to another. Strawberry plants outdoors will be reliant on insects or the wind to move the pollen from one flower to another and pollinate the plant.
This is usually done quite reliably outdoors but indoors the strawberry will be reliant on you to do the pollination. Move the pollen from one part of the flower to the other with a small cotton bud. If you have multiple flowers this can be done between flowers to increase the chance of pollination.
2. Dry soil
Strawberry plants that are allowed to dry out can cause the fruit to dry up before they ripen. Summer is the time that plants are more likely to dry up but this can also happen during cooler spring seasons with low rainfall.
Strawberry plants will start to form fruit in spring or summer so it is key to make sure that the plant does not dry out. Check the soil every 2 days and add water if it has become dry. Strawberries have shallow root systems (compared to large bushes or trees) so will need to be watered regularly in summer.
3. Inconsistent watering
Watering inconsistently can cause strawberries to dry up before they form fully. A plant that gets lots of water and then is left to dry out will withdraw water and nutrients from the outside of the plant including the fruit and can cause it to dry up.
4. Bugs attacking the strawberry stem
Damage to the stem that connects from the plant to the strawberry can stop water and nutrients flowing to the berry causing it to dry up. This can be a tiny amount of damage but can be enough to cause the berry to dry up.
Look closely at the stem and see if you can notice any marks, dents or damage. This could be caused by caterpillars, slaters or even grasshoppers.
This is a disease or rot affecting strawberries that can cause them to dry up before ripening. This is a fungus that causes the fruit to go dark, gray and to have fuzzy growth that will eventually cause the berry to dry up.
Trim off any affected fruit and leaves and throw them in the bin. If the infection is bad you may need to reach for a fungicide.
6. First year berries
The last reason why strawberries may not form properly or dry up before ripening is if they are grown on a first year bush. The first strawberries that grow on a new plant may not properly form. The plant can be too small or not established enough to support the plant and the fruit.
Many gardeners will actually remove the first flower stems to allow the plant to focus all of its energy on establishing a strong root system, leaf coverage and healthy crown.
The next year will give you large and delicious berries and a plant that will keep producing for 3-4 years.
How to stop strawberries from drying up before ripening
Here are my top tips to stop strawberries from drying up before they ripen and are ready to pick.
Mulch with straw, leaves or bark mulch
Mulch is essential to keep the soil moist, to keep the strawberry consistently moist and to help the strawberries to form. Surround the plant with mulch that is at least 2 inches thick. This will help to keep the fruit off the ground to avoid bug attack, keep moisture in the soil and keep weeds away.
Watering the plant regularly will help to prevent the fruit from drying up before it ripens fully. This is important when the fruit is forming in spring and then maturing into summer. I water my strawberries every 2-3 days in the heat of summer.
Plants grown in raised garden beds or pots will need more water than those grown in the ground. Pots and raised beds will dry out quicker than those planted in the ground so make sure you add mulch around them as well to hold water in for longer.
Water with natural fertilizers & soil conditioners
Watering strawberry plants with seaweed solution, worm castings and fish emulsion during spring will help to improve the soil, build up the organic matter, support soil bacterial growth and keep the plant’s root system healthy.
At the beginning of summer, stop adding nitrogen fertilizer and switch to a fruit promoting fertilizer that has higher potassium and phosphorus levels. This will help the plant to form and set fruit and grow the large and juicy.
Why are my strawberries drying up before ripening? | Summary
Strawberries will dry up if they are allowed to dry out, if pollination was not successful or if they have been attacked by bugs or mold. These problems can be prevented by watering, fertilizing and mulching them well as they grow. Keep an eye out for bugs in spring and summer and pick off any damaged leaves or fruit to avoid further problems.
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I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.