From the months of May through June, your garden brings juicy, fresh strawberries packed with vitamin C, iron, potassium, antioxidants, and of course, delicious flavor. Unfortunately, the wonderful bounty can also bring pests such as aphids, slugs, nematodes, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and even deer down upon your garden.
If you’re a home gardener who wants to ensure that you and your guests are the ones who enjoy your fresh strawberries, follow these tips.
1. Plants that Deter Pests
A simple defense against pests is to plant marigolds around the garden. Marigold roots release a chemical that kills nematodes.
Other plants, such as herbs, won’t kill pests, but are a good preventative measure.
In addition to the sweet taste, which is why pests crave strawberries, the thing that actually tips them off to its presence in your garden is scent. Try planting mint, basil, lemon geraniums, garlic, chives, or onions, as all of these will release scents of their own that will mask the sweet aroma of the strawberry plant.
Plant flowers to bring insects to your garden that prey on the pests such as ladybugs, spiders, lacewings, and tiny parasitic wasps. If you don’t mind the sight of these creepy crawlers, they’re a welcome addition in the spring as they’ll largely ignore your strawberries but act as a safeguard against pests that would go after your treats.
A scarecrow is a good way to keep birds away from your strawberries. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of erecting an entire figure, just try tying plastic grocery bags to the stakes around your garden. The rustling sound scares the birds. Another deterrent is to paint stones and rocks red and place them around the strawberry plants. The similar shapes and colors will confuse birds who can't visually distinguish one from the other and will eventually frustrate them to a point where they stop making attempts on your garden.
3. Organic Pest Control
Carefully select the healthiest strawberry plants and try to choose hardy varieties. If you do encounter a pest problem, use organic pest control instead of chemical pesticides.
Organic methods of pest control include: hot pepper spray, rotten eggs, blood meal, castor oil, orange peel, soap, and human hair. To keep deer away from your fresh strawberries put soap or human hair in mesh bag and hang it from a tree branch at deer height. Use blood meal mixed in a gallon of water or an Epsom salt spray to stop rabbits from eating young strawberry plants.
Get rid of insects by spraying the garden with 4 tablespoons of dish soap in 1 gallon of water. Slugs find beer irresistible. Dig a hole near your fresh strawberry plants, take a container and put it in the hole. The container rim should be level with the soil surface. Fill the container with beer. The slugs will fall into the container and drown in the beer. Empty the container and refill it every day until you no longer find slugs in the beer.
Slugs are a major problem in the garden. Copper strips placed around the perimeter of the garden stop slugs from entering. The copper should stand several inches high and 1 inch deep into the ground.
Diatomaceous earth is a gritty white powder that pierces the skin of soft bodied pests such as slugs, mites, and aphids. If aphids do manage to make it to the actual garden, they can easily be knocked off plants with a steady stream of water from the hose.
Floating row covers will also keep pests off your fresh strawberries. They are made of a lightweight fabric that is draped over the plants. Sunlight, rain, and fresh air can all penetrate the cover. Secure the floating cover to the ground with stakes, rocks or bricks to prevent flying insects from getting to your plants. You need to uncover your strawberry plants for at least two hours a day to allow the bees to pollinate them.
WARNING: Be careful with row covers. Leaving them on too long can have a greenhouse effect and create warmer microclimates around your plants which can be harmful depending on how warm the weather already is.