Saturdays in the Garden: Managing Leaf Scorch Organically in the Strawberry Patch
Our family takes pride in showing you the best picks of each gardening season, including the juicy strawberries we’ve been enjoying in May! Sometimes, we need to share with you the ugly side of organic gardening, to show you how we’ve been managing that, as well. This edition of Saturdays in the Garden reveals a common problem growers can run into with strawberry plants.
We’ve been picking plenty of berries and have been content with our harvest, with so many ripening that we can barely pick them fast enough. We’ve filled entire baskets full at one time.
However, we’ve also been managing some strange spots on a few leaves that appear to be leaf scorch.
This pattern of brown spots surrounded by red or yellowish color called leaf scorch is a fungus that can affect plants a little or a lot. Agriculture experts say it can weaken the plants and affect the harvest. It is caused by mainly damp, warm conditions and a lack of air circulation. I’ve shared with you before that my biggest challenge has been to keep the plants dry, so this makes sense. I also saw some of this at the end of last summer, and obviously did not do enough to clean it up, so some spores overwintered. You can see a hint of the spotting on this strawberry cap. But I have not seen it affect the fruit at all.
According to the ag experts like the University of Minnesota Extension, here’s what we can do to prevent or manage leaf scorch:
1) Remove and dispose of infected leaves away from the garden.
2) When the growing season ends, clean up dead leaves and other debris from the garden bed.
3) Make sure growing areas have enough air circulation.
4) Ideally, water only at the roots with a soaker hose. If you must water from above like I do, water in the morning so leaves have adequate time to dry in the sun.
***If you want to grow with organic methods to avoid toxic chemical applications, do NOT use fungicides in your garden, even though some sources of information will tell you to do so.
I hope you can see that even though we don’t have perfect gardening conditions, we are able to manage this mild bout of leaf scorch and still enjoy our strawberries. As with many issues in the garden, it’s more useful to use good management practices like bed cleanup and air circulation instead of relying on a toxic chemical product to be the answer to a problem.