Fish Fertilizer Disaster

Asked February 20, 2020, 9:50 AM EST

Last summer, I mixed a small amount of fish fertilizer into 3 gallons of water in a watering can. I then forgot about it. A week or so later, I saw it. It smelled okay (for fish fertilizer) so I used it. Mistake. Wherever it had been applied, plants died. The strawberry patch was hit worst — the plants at the application site and, I believe, their daughters, died and over the winter turned into a black slimy mess. My question to you — of all the questions that may be asked about this debacle — is whether I should dig down and remove the soil that I watered with fish fertilizer and replace it with soil that no one has done anything idiotic to. Thank you for your help.

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

Thank you for your question to Ask an Expert.

It sounds like the fish fertilizer could have either burned your plants, which then turned black or created a plant pathogen that damaged the plants above ground.

Strawberries naturally die back in the winter and I imagine that the roots are still alive.

Are the strawberry crowns still in the soil? If yes, I would leave them and see what happens this spring. As a perennial, they might come back.

If not, it is likely that the abundant rain this season has washed away the fish fertilizer, which is soluble.

I would not remove the soil and replace it.

Good luck,

Weston