Friday, May 12, 2017

Strawberries are Ready!

Berri Basket White, Fragaria ananassa
My strawberries are ready!  Finally! I have waited all winter for a fresh strawberry covered in cream and now they are ripening.  I chose to plant Berri Basket White, Fragaria ananassa because they are an everbearing variety.  They produce heavily in the spring, slow down in the heat of summer, then begin bearing again in the fall.  It is a pleasure harvesting them over a long period of time.  However, last year we did not have nearly enough for the family; so, I put a huge bed in the middle of my garden by dividing the older plants from my smaller strawberry beds.

Daily I have watched, waited for the berries to turn red, not regular red, but STRAWBERRY SWEET RED!  I waited and waited, looked and looked, and found this:  strawberries with pecks out of the middle.  Someone who arose earlier in the morning than I was munching on my strawberries.  I was "berry" unhappy.  It was stealing! To clarify word definitions:  if I take it from someone else's field, it is foraging; but if it is taken from my garden, it is stealing.  Just to be clear here.

To stop the thief from pilfering my berries, I brought out the dreaded bird netting.  Dreaded because it wraps around, tangles, knots and catches everything.  It is a nightmare to handle, but I was not willing to lose any more berries.  That was the last straw...berry!

I put the wire hoops (used in my winter garden) over the strawberries to hold the netting off the ground. Squirrels have hands, not paws, and do not fear the netting.  They will hop on top, reach through the holes and pull out a berry.  They seem able to untangle themselves if they get trapped.  

Birds will get tangled, avoid getting close and become wary of the area.   Eventually, they will no longer bother the berries and won't realize if the cover is removed.   If it is uncovered for a long while, they will figure out it is gone.

These are the two older strawberry beds built by Reese.  Originally he built one tall bed but we realized a tall, raised bed does not work well in this area.  During the summer, when the rain stops and the temperature rises, the plants suffer.  It requires constant watering to keep anything alive and often the plants go dormant attempting to survive the heat.

The old raised bed on the right side of the picture below was built around 2011. The wood was untreated 2x8x8 pine. When we were designing the beds, we were concerned the chemicals used in the treatment process would leach into the soil and be absorbed by the plants. To prevent this, we coated the untreated wood with 3 coats of Tung oil. This oil is from pressing the seed of the nut of the Tung tree (Vernicia fordii) (Wikipedia) which makes a good organic substitute. The only real downsides are the expense, having to coat the wood manually, and stinking up the basement for a week. Still, even though the wood is starting to rot, it has held up surprisingly well.

Reese placed the frame on the ground and marked the bed area.  With a shovel and pickaxe, he removed the top 3-4 inches of turf hoping there would be fewer weeds in the future.  This also meant the wood frame was below the surface by a couple of inches.  We thought this might prevent Bermuda grass from spreading… no such luck.  It is a fight year in and year out.  The bed was then filled with organic matter scraped from the top of rocks which are in the woods behind our house. This awesome soil was from leaves which dropped in the Fall and composted over the winter.  The second bed was made in the early spring a couple of years ago, we only gave it one coat of Tung oil because I was too impatient to plant my strawberries.  The soil in the second bed was created by the "lasagna" method.  We put newspaper on the ground, then added leaves, grass, and let it decompose over the winter.

Both beds are covered with bird netting which is draped over PVC pipes to keep the netting up high so the squirrels cannot reach through.  The PVC pipes are connected to the frame by pipe straps, two for each corner.  We discovered that using ¼” staples to hold the netting down, rips the plastic. The solution?  Take a scrap slab of wood and roll it around in the netting a couple of times, then screw it into the hinged frame on top. This is far more secure.

Everything is attached to the upper frame which is on hinges and can be lifted for easy harvesting.  I had Reese use thin wood to make it lighter weight.  He tried heavier wood but I could not lift it.  On each corner is a chain so the top will not fall back on the ground.

In the middle of each bed is a large flat rock used as a stepping stone so I can step inside and harvest the berries in the back.  It is hard to reach that far over.

After adding the netting and waiting a few days, I returned to my strawberry beds and was thrilled with the results.  This is better!


  1. Already? Not fair! It's going to be a while before we get any ripe ones, but eat a big one for me:)

    1. It got up to 87 degrees today so I will think of you at sunrise tomorrow morning while I am out harvesting. Wish you were here to help pick!

  2. Wonderful of you to share all this information. I read it to my husband (annoyingly because he was interested in something else) and made him look at all the pictures. Thanks!

  3. Your berries are beautiful! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

  4. Oh how lovely. We have about a month to wait for our strawberries.