How do I discourage critters from eating the strawberries I’ve grown in raised beds?
I am trying to grow strawberries in a raised bed. Everything worked well last year until the berries started to ripen – then critters ate every last berry. My question is – if I buy a screen to cover the raised beds – how will the flowers get pollinated? When I have grown strawberries in the past, the flowers usually come out for a couple of weeks. So, if feels like I would have a hard time getting the timing right on when to screen the plants.
If it is birds – crows or cedar wax wings – you might get away with just stringing a few reflective ribbons above your beds. If you have some old cassette tapes, pull the tape out and string a few lines over the bed. The shiny tape makes the birds more weary. You could suspend bird nets over the berries, do not lay them on the plants, the birds can reach the berries. Four stakes at the corners of your bed should be enough to hold the bird netting above the plants. Be sure to secure the edges at ground level so birds don’t go under. This Oregon Extension publication has a picture (Fig. 6) of a raised bed with a pvc pipe frame covered with bird netting that can be removed so the fruit can be easily harvested. The holes are large enough that pollinators can get through.
Here is a factsheet from UMass that has some interesting ideas for spraying grape flavored kool-aid or plain sugar to discourage birds. But if you think you have squirrels then bird netting is the way to go.
If a larger critter like a skunk is the culprit, you may need a stronger barrier. I would first try the bird netting to see if that takes care of your berry eating pest.