Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Who's been eating my strawberries?

I've been diligently working my way through the ten strawberry beds, weeding carefully around the fruiting plants. To recap, last year I foolishly mulched the beds with hay, which then grew. We were infested with weeds, particularly buttercups, which root in cheek-by-jowl with strawberries and even send out runners like strawberries. It's been an arduous task to weed out the buttercups without damaging the strawberries.

Because of the delicate work, it takes about three days to weed each bed... and there are ten beds. Needless to say, at this point I'm feeling proprietary about the strawberries. We've all been waiting patiently for the season's first candy-sweet fruit to ripen. So when I saw this, I was NOT pleased.

Who's been eating my strawberries?

The culprits, it turns out, are robins. I know this because I caught this fellow red-handed. Er, red-footed. Winged? Feathered? Whatever. He was gobbling my berries, the greedy thing.

See him watching me?

Here he's torn a piece of strawberry off and is eating it.

This is what it looked like when he was done.

Now robins are hands-down one of my all-time favorite birds, but I'm not about to sacrifice my strawberries to them. What to do? The answer was simple: bird netting.

I went around and put in eight screws at compass points around each tire.

Then Younger Daughter and I stretched out the batting of net, cut it to size, and anchored it down with the screws.

So far it's worked beautifully, and I can just imagine the neighborhood robins gnashing their beaks with frustration. So near and yet so far!

But look at all this incipient fruit. No way am I losing it to robins. Sorry boys.


  1. Good luck anything less than a scoped 22 is PITW!

  2. I live in southcentral (I know...but that's what we call it) Alaska, and the robins ate all our strawberries last year. They have competition from a newly arrived bird which I have been unable to identify so far. I ordered plastic owls on the advice of fellow bird-robbed gardeners. Good luck with your strawberries. I'll let you know how the faux owls do!

  3. Our cats would just LOVE for a Robin or six to try and eat the strawberries. Yes please Mr. Robin have all you like :)

    Actually what get's our Strawberries are the Pill Bugs. They will chew all of them up that touch the soil even a little bit.

  4. Not a strawberry issue, but I'm glad to see I haven't been the only person growing hay since I mulched my beds with straw last year.

  5. I covet thine strawberries.

    A. McSp

  6. Another inexpensive trick? You know those shiny/multicolored pinwheels you can find at the dollar store or during holidays? Get a handful of those and plop them in the strawberry beds. My oldest came up with that trick/idea a few years back after Grandma brought a glut of them, and we pretty much just have to fight off the occasional slug, despite the nest of robins, occasional grackle nest, and quail flitting about the yard. The netting became too heavy/annoying for the kids to maneuver.

    1. I can tell you from personal experience that shiny ribbon and spinny things only work with some robins. We hung shiny spinny ribbons over our solar panel box because the robins kept trying to nest there and we need to be able to access the box in an emergency......this spring the robins WOVE THE RIBBONS INTO THE NEST.

      We just bought plastic bird spikes for that spot....

    2. The pinwheels are *constantly* moving though, and we move them around the beds to keep the critters on their toes. Three to four years later, they still startle *me* when they shine through the homeschool room window.

      We also tried ribbon many years ago. Didn't do squat. Neither did CD's tied up to anything (back when AOL still sent out their free CD's!).

      Another fun thing the kids want to try at some point is painting a bunch of rocks like strawberries to put out in very early spring so the birds attack those, then get frustrated, leaving the actual berries alone come harvest time.

      Sorry the robins are extra persistent on your solar panel box, boo.

  7. Netting is probably the only thing that will work. must be high enough over the strawberries that if a bird lands on the netting it will not droop close enough for the bird to get to the strawberry. Learned this from experience.

  8. The robins love my strawberries too. The Quail, however, think the whole patch was planted for them! ;-)

  9. *blink*

    I was blaming the chipmunks, but dang if the damage doesn't look just like that and yup, there's been a Robin hanging around the strawberry tire.....guess I know what I'll be doing this morning!

  10. Yep, robins & baby quail. Another plug for elevating the netting some from your strawberries is that they will grow into it and through it and get tangled -- especially the strawberries themselves. Almost impossible to untangle them without damaging some berries.

  11. We have plenty of robins, but to the best of my knowledge, they haven't bothered our strawberries. Ours are raided by slugs, squirrels, and a groundhog (that also ate all our spinach) I haven't yet been able to trap.

    The birds (not just robins) go after our blueberries and cherries, and we have a large garden out of town where raccoons routinely help themselves to our sweet corn.

    Slugs had been getting our bean seedlings, and I did the beer in cat food cans thing. (Late at night I could hear tiny voices singing barroom songs.) :) The slugs wecaught were very young. I hope I don't get arrested for giving alcohol to minors.

    Ah, man against nature, the constant battle.

    Steve Herr

  12. If you can get second cutting of hay there shouldn't be as many weed/grass seeds. The first cutting is allowed to head out before being cut. Second cutting around here is nicer, horse hay.

  13. Another + for raising the net as high as you can... wife and I leave the crop cover hoops over our raised beds and when we pull the covers off we just replace with netting. And we have to regularly tighten it up on the hoops otherwise the birds have learned that if two or three land on it at the same time it will sag enough they can get to the broccoli and other goodies.

    Now, if someone would invent a pillbug net ;-)


  14. Be prepared to disengage dead strangled robin from net!