If you're in a wetter climate like me, you've probably heard of the dreaded mummy berry disease. If this fungus infects your plant it can be detrimental to the bush (I've lost entire plants before). So how do we get rid of mummy berry disease and prevent it from coming back? Keep reading!
What Is Mummy Berry Disease
Mummy berry disease is a fungus that infects first the branch of the plant and then the blossoms. The berry starts to develop, but then stops about halfway through and instead of ripening, turns into a shriveled mauve-colored berry that resembles mummification (almost like a raisin or dehydrated blueberry).
The disease will continue to get worse year over year and can even infect nearby blueberry bushes if not treated.
If there are any berries that fall to the ground from an infected tree, it's important to clean these up in the fall or late winter. If any berries are left on the tree, pick those off as well and discard them far away from the plant.
Once your weather reaches about 50 degrees F, the mushroom spores will essentially bloom. The mushroom is very tiny and shaped like a trumpet (it's hard to see with the naked eye). When the rain falls on the mushroom, the spores splash up onto the branches of your blueberry bush and infect the entire plant.
If the infection goes untreated, you'll eventually end up with no berry harvest.
How to Get Rid of Mummy Berry Disease
Because the fungus that causes mummy berry disease actually comes from a tiny mushroom that grows during the first part of spring (and develops where the mummified berry falls), we need to prevent these mushrooms from growing at all.
In order to “smother” the mushroom spores, I'm going to start by amending my soil with compost and then adding a thick layer of mulch.
Doing this before the fungus has a chance to grow and spread will hopefully save your bushes.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, that's generally in March or as soon as I can see the soil after the snow melts and definitely before the soil reaches 50 degrees F°.
Curious what else is on my garden schedule in March? Then you will want to check out Gardening in March (Garden Tasks by Month).
Adding nutrients to your blueberry bushes won't necessarily help ward off mummy berry disease, but it will give your bushes a fighting chance at growing healthy and strong.
I like to add a nice thick layer of composted chicken manure at the base of my bushes all the way out to the drip line.
Read more about blueberry bush care, pruning, and maintenance in this blog post!
You can use a variety of things for mulch, but I find wood chips is the best, breaks down wonderfully, and lasts a bit longer than other organic matter (my wood chips had been sitting so long they were more like sawdust), but just be sure you're not using black walnut mulch because it has a compound that can inhibit the growth of other plants.
Apply a nice thick layer (3-4 inches) around the base of the plant. Think about anywhere a berry may have fallen and dropped the spores onto the ground (I go about 6 inches outside of the dripline). The goal is to smother those spores, so the thickness of the mulch is important here.
The beauty of this treatment method is that, even if you're not sure your plants were affected by mummy berry disease, you're not going to hurt your plants by taking the preventative measures of treating the plants.
More Resources for Growing Fruit:
- 5 Tips to Starting an Orchard & Growing Fruit
- How to Prune Apple Trees
- Planting Berry Bushes & Fruit Trees (How Many to Plant Per Person)
- When & How to Plant Fruit Trees
- Planting a Fruit Tree Guild
- Growing Fruit Trees in Pots
- How to Prune a Blueberry Bush for a Larger Harvest
- Planting Raspberries – Soil Prep, Growing & Caring for your Raspberry Plants
- How to Prune Raspberries
- How to Plant Strawberries- 5 Tips to Success
- How to Grow Elderberries