Aren’t the strawberries delicious this year? Where I’m from, the warm spring has led to a delightful, juicy crop! And while the strawberries I’m growing taste incredible, I notice they look a little funny; although a beautiful bright red, they’re not the classic strawberry shape. What gives? Why are my strawberries so warped?
I’m growing Seascape Strawberries, which produce large, red berries throughout the spring, summer, and fall. These strawberries are prolific, heat-tolerant, and disease resistant, and you can grow them in the ground or containers.
I have mine in hanging baskets in my greenhouse. I’m getting a lot of fruit, but the berries seem to be misshapen, as I said.
I’m all for ugly produce, especially when it tastes good. But I’d like to know why my berries are warped and if there’s anything I can do to help them.
The Possible Causes
After a little bit of research, I found out there could be a few reasons behind deformed strawberries:
- Frost damage: Strawberries are often early, but they’re also prone to frost damage. Row covers and greenhouses can help keep the fruit from being damaged on chilly nights.
- Poor pollination: Again, because strawberries are early, there aren’t always many pollinators out to help them along. They also depend on wind and rain to get the job done, so if growing in a greenhouse, this could pose a problem.
- Nutrient deficiency: Like all plants, strawberries need to be fed. Plant them in compost-rich soil and offer them organic fertilizers throughout the growing season. They are especially prone to boron deficiencies.
- Insect infestations: Lygus bugs love strawberry plants and will cause deformed fruit; however, they only appear in the late summer. If it’s early in the season and you have misshapen berries, consider the problem to be one of the three issues above.
Process of Elimination
My strawberries are in the greenhouse, so I know frost damage isn’t what caused my deformed berries.
My growing season is still young, so Lygus bugs can’t be the issue, and I planted my berries in rich soil with some compost and lots of slow-release organic fertilizer.
After a process of elimination, and because the berries are in a greenhouse, I think poor pollination is behind the warped fruit.
The good news is that, like pumpkins and zucchinis, hand-pollination is possible with strawberries!
Grab a small paintbrush and swipe pollen from the outside of the open flower toward the center (pistils). Repeat the process every two to three days!
The National Gardening Association says some greenhouse growers even use an electric toothbrush to rattle the blooms to have a better chance at pollination.
Word to the Wise
Remember, misshapen fruit doesn’t mean the flavor will suffer and that your crop is destined for the compost heap!
You can still enjoy ugly produce, but following the above recommendations will help you achieve more consistent crops with better yields.