Why Are My Strawberries So Small?

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Why Are My Strawberries So Small?

When you’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into nurturing your strawberry plant, nothing can feel more disheartening than NOT receiving the fruits of your labor…

If your strawberries aren’t turning out as large, plump, and juicy as you expected, you may wonder, what did I do wrong? 

Well, don’t give up on your strawberry-growing venture just yet. This article will discover what makes strawberries so small and how you can fix it. 

Why Are My Strawberries So Small? 

Strawberries are supposed to be one of the easiest beginner fruits to grow… so, why are they small? There are a few reasons why your fruit may not have reached its full potential, including: 

A Lack Of Pruning

If you don’t prune your plant enough, the old foliage (sometimes called ‘runners’), can suck the energy away from the main plant, resulting in poor berry production.

Use shears or your fingers to remove unnecessary side shoots that may reduce berry production. 

Variety And Genetics

Some varieties are naturally small. Wild (formally called ‘heirloom’ strawberries’), will only reach around 3 or 4 inches in size.

If your strawberries are still tasty and smell good, their small size isn’t a problem. This isn’t a variety or genetics issue if they’re also poor quality. 

Heat Stress

Too much heat can dry the soil and put your strawberries under stress. If your strawberries live in the heat, ensure you’re watering them regularly, and don’t leave the soil dry for too long.

This will cause the roots to die and damage your fruit. 

Cold Stress

Heat isn’t the only problem. If your environment is too cold, your strawberry plant may start producing small berries.

This is particularly true in late spring, when frosts and cold snaps can deform the fruit’s shape and produce darker centers.

Insulate your strawberries to preserve them, but remember to uncover them during the day so they can be pollinated. 

Problems With Pollination

On that note, issues with pollination can also cause small strawberries.

If there aren’t many bees in your area (or there’s a lack of wind), the individual seeds in your berries won’t get pollinated, which can result in deformed strawberries and swollen tissue. 

Too Much Weed Growth 

Weeds are a big problem for plants, especially strawberries.

To avoid excessive weed growth near your strawberries, ensure the soil contains mulch and weed it regularly. This will give your strawberries the best chance to thrive. 

Too Much Nitrogen

Excessive exposure to nitrogen is another common cause of small strawberries. Although feeding your strawberries with plant food is essential, don’t overdo it.

The nitrogen in the food can be damaging if administered in large amounts. 

How To Grow Larger Strawberries 

How To Grow Larger Strawberries 

As mentioned above, there are many reasons why your strawberries may be a little on the small side. Thankfully, you can also do plenty of things to ensure you yield the best strawberries possible. 

Water Regularly

Ideally, you should water your strawberries when the top two inches of soil become dry or if there’s less than an inch of rainfall a week (to learn more about watering strawberries, read here).

Water your strawberries in the morning or early afternoon to allow them to dry before nightfall. Your soil should be consistently moist, but avoid making it boggy.

Fertilize

Ensure you’re fertilizing your strawberries, ideally with a slow-release fertilizer composed of phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium, like with Espoma Organic Berry-Tone 4-3-4 Natural & Organic Fertilizer.

*For our detailed and tested organic fertilizer recommendations, please see the article Best Organic Fertilizers for Strawberries: Boost Your Crop Yield Naturally.

Fertilize after any new growth appears, and apply no more than one tablespoon per square foot.

Weeding

Keeping on top of your weeding is imperative. Pull any visible weeds from the soil around your plants, reducing competition for resources and ensuring your plant gets as many nutrients as possible.

Ideally, you should also rake a layer of mulch around the plants to prevent more weed growth.

Mulch should be kept at least 3 inches away from the stems to ensure your plant is getting enough circulation.

Replace Old Plants

As your plants age, they’ll start to produce smaller strawberries. Ideally, you should replace your strawberry plant every 3-5 years to avoid spoiled fruit (see more about this here).

Watch Out For Pests And Disease

Pests and diseases are among the biggest causes of small strawberries and spoiled fruit.

If your disease is bacterial or fungal, you can find a treatment to help your plant, and plenty of pest control treatments are on the market to help you deal with unwanted visitors.

However, if your disease is viral, there is no cure, and you’ll have to discard the plant entirely. 

What If My Strawberry Plant Suddenly Collapses? 

If your strawberry plant collapses entirely, you have a bigger problem.

Unfortunately, sudden plant collapse is often a symptom of crown rot, a group of diseases that can attack otherwise healthy plants and kill them almost overnight. 

There are three primary types of crown rot: Macrophomina crown rot, Red stele crown rot, and Anthracnose crown rot. These all have pretty similar symptoms, which are: 

  • Dead or collapsed plants 
  • Drooping foliage, even if you’re watering your plant enough
  • Stunted growth 
  • Fruits, buds, or roots littered with lesions or black spots 
  • An orange or reddish core when the crown is opened up 
  • Dry or dying leaves

Unfortunately, once crown rot has set in, it’s almost impossible to reverse. To avoid it happening again in the future, you’ll need to keep rotating crops around your garden to reduce the risk of disease

Final Thoughts 

If your strawberries are coming up small, you’re not alone. But thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to help the problem.

Whether increasing pruning, watering more frequently, weeding, or something else, you can help your strawberries grow big, strong, and perfectly healthy every time!

Small strawberries will be a thing of the past with these tips and tricks.

Happy gardening! 

Further Recommendations:

Video: Unlimited Strawberries!

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