by sf gate contributor updated january 21, 2021
if birds and other pests are destroying your dreams of strawberry fields forever, take heart. many animals enjoy eating strawberries (fragaria spp.), but you can slow the path of destruction. in some cases, growing strawberries in a pot or patch close to the house is enough to discourage visitors. in other cases, you may need to build a chicken wire structure to send the message that trespassers aren’t welcome.
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squirrels, raccoons and deer are opportunistic marauders that will happily eat your strawberries. repellent sprays offer some protection, although they must be reapplied frequently, especially after rainfall or watering. these work best if you live in a dry climate and use drip irrigation so the plants stay dry. dogs sometimes sample strawberries and dig up the plants.
most small birds, including robins, crows and blue jays, consider strawberries, which grow in u.s. department of agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10, a special treat and seem to have a knack for knowing when the berries are just ripe. while you can hang metallic tape or pie tins near the berry patch to frighten birds away, these tactics generally offer only a temporary solution as the birds quickly become used to them.
the most effective solution is to use exclusion or barrier methods that make it impossible for birds and animals to reach the berries. spread chicken wire with 1-inch holes over the berries to keep birds away from them, although this method won’t work for raccoons and squirrels who can crawl right under the wire. another option is to make a wooden frame or pvc pipe hoop tunnel. staple or tie the chicken wire to the frame and secure the frame over the berries. to harvest the berries, simply lift the frame out of the way.
insects are smaller and less obvious than birds and mammals, but they can cause significant damage to your strawberries. slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids are all common pests. bury a shallow bowl of beer at ground level near the strawberries to attract and drown slugs and snails. place wet, rolled up sheets of newspaper in the strawberries to catch earwigs which like to shelter there, says cedar circle farm. gather and dunk the newspaper into soapy water each morning and then replace to catch more.
Read more: How to Edge a Garden
to dispatch aphids, spray strawberry leaves thoroughly with insecticidal soap. apply a ready-to-use insecticidal soap liberally, covering both the tops and bottoms of the leaves on a cool, overcast day. applying it on a sunny day can burn the strawberry plants. insecticidal soap is safer than most pesticides. similar to other soaps and detergents, it causes skin and eye irritation and vomiting or indigestion if ingested. carefully wash fruit that has been treated with insecticidal soap before eating it.