As we’ve discussed in the past, birds can do a lot of damage to a home strawberry garden. There’s no need to fear winged thieves though! How can you protect your precious plants?
One fail-safe way to protect strawberries from hungry birds is to cover them.
The simplest cover is a bird net thrown over some supports in your strawberry patch. The supports can be stakes driven into the soil, jute strung between trellises or from a fence to the ground, or upturned 5-gallon buckets. Just make sure the supports are tall enough to prevent the net from crushing your plants. You can get the net from amazon and just build the wooden frame.
This method isn’t pretty and you’ll need to move the net when you want to harvest. However, it is inexpensive, easy, and allows pollinators access to the flowers while keeping the birds out.
Another popular cover option is a berry cage. If you are the handy type, it isn’t difficult to build a frame with wood or PVC pipe cut to fit around your berry patch and attach bird net or chicken wire.
A berry cage can look decorative or utilitarian depending on your preference and budget. It will easily lift off or tilt away when it’s time to harvest and allow pollinators to reach the flowers.
You will need a place to store your berry cage when not in use and it takes up more space than a simple bird net. It can be used for other plants when strawberries are not in danger from birds though.
Some gardeners choose to use a cloche to protect each plant individually. This is a great option for small strawberry gardens.
You can get inexpensive plastic fly cloches made for protecting food outdoors, garden-specific chicken wire cloches, or make your own cloche from common household items. When choosing a cloche, remember to hand pollinate or allow access for pollinators if you cover your plants while they are flowering.
If you want easy access to your strawberry plants for pollinating and harvesting, a few scare tactics may work better than a cover. Anything that moves and shines can be an effective scare device.
Visual Scare Devices
Popular devices include mirrors, strips of aluminum foil, disposable pie pans hung on a string, streamers, or windsocks. If you choose to use a visual scare device, relocate it frequently or trade it out with another device in storage to keep birds on guard and away from your garden.
Audible Scare Devices
Noisemakers can also scare birds away very effectively. Wind chimes are a charming option in any price range. The most effective noisemaker is a recording of the distress call or warning call of the specific type of bird you are trying to scare away played at random throughout the day.
Trick the Birds
There are a few tricks we can use against birds to stop them from destroying a strawberry patch without hurting them. The benefit of tricking birds rather than scaring or blocking them is that they can still eat pests that could otherwise damage your crop.
Fake Strawberry Rocks
Strawberry rocks are very popular, pretty, and easy to make and use. Paint fruit-sized rocks strawberry-red then use a toothpick or fine brush to paint yellow or brown seeds. Finish the fake strawberries with a coat of craft varnish to protect them against the weather.
Place the fake strawberries around your plants early in the growing season to attract birds. The birds will get used to seeing strawberries but by the time the real fruit comes, they will have given up trying to eat them and leave the real strawberries alone too.
The Wrong Colored Fruit
Another trick is to plant another variety of strawberries of a different color. White strawberries confuse many birds because they are not used to seeing white fruit and don’t recognize them as a food source. This trick may eventually lose its effectiveness if your birds are adventurous and persistent.
Speaking of the color white, some research indicates many bird species see white as a warning color and will stay away. Try interplanting white flowers that bloom while the fruit ripens.
White Lupine is beneficial to the soil and attracts pollinators. Cilantro produces small white flowers at the same time strawberries typically set fruit and help repel pests. White poppies do well with light well-draining soil like strawberries and you can harvest the seeds to make delicious strawberry-poppy-seed salad dressing or other recipes.
One more trick is to push sticks, twigs, or plastic forks upright into the soil around plants. Put them close enough together that the birds have nowhere to land comfortably but far enough apart that you can reach between them easily when harvest time comes.
Have you tried any of these methods to keep birds away from your strawberries with success? Join our Strawberry Garden Facebook group and let us know!