Tarnished plant bug is the main fruit-feeding nemesis of strawberries. Strawberry sap beetle can infest overripe fruit. Plant decline can also be caused by root-feeding white grubs (beetle larvae) and nematodes. Viruses, which can be spread by aphids, often affect plants that are weakened by unfavorable growing conditions.
Gray mold (botrytis) is disease enemy number 1 on strawberry fruit around the country. Anthracnose can devastate plantings in hot, humid areas. Leather rot, which causes an insipid berry taste you won't forget, is a sporadic problem on susceptible varieties when fruit comes in contact with damp soil. Red stele, a soilborne fungus, can be avoided by choosing resistant varieties.
Ripe berries appear about 30 days after bloom. Once the berry is fully red, let your taste buds be your final guide on when to harvest. Pick every two to three days, or daily in very hot weather. Keep green caps attached. To preserve flavor and shelf life, pick into a shallow, paper towel lined container, no more than three or four layers of berries deep. Refrigerate immediately after picking. Hull and wash just before serving.