You might not think of strawberries in the dead of winter, and you might think even less of painting them! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing during these very cold January days, and I’m having a great time. Sounds absolutely nuts – perhaps… but there is a method to this madness if you’ll indulge me for a moment.
Last year we had a minor issue with birds happily eating away some of our strawberries before they were ripe enough to pick. I don’t mind sharing a bit with the native wildlife, although with birds the problem tends to grow exponentially each year as they learn where the tasty treats are and teach subsequent generations how to harvest them. Soon you’re just a wildlife food provider, which isn’t helpful if you’re making a living as a farmer (or just want to enjoy your own strawberries!).
So we put in some netting last spring to keep the birds off. Once a sweet little feathered friend got caught inside and I found him a short while later panicked and tired. He was a bit too bold and found a way to sneak underneath early in the morning before I got there. After lifting the net for him he flew away just fine, but I didn’t like that he was stressed and vulnerable to attack while stuck.
Enter a new plan (or at least an experiment)… this year we’re trying an age old strategy that if it works, will save time, resources, and keep birds from panicking under nets: painting strawberries.
It’s simple; find some strawberry-ish sized and shaped rocks, paint them to look like berries then place them in the garden while the real strawberries are still green. According to old wisdom the birds will peck at them, find that they’re – I’m so sorry/not sorry for the pun – rock hard, and give up trying to eat them altogether.
This is why I look a bit nutty sitting at my desk painting rocks to look like strawberries – and smiling the whole time. It’s fun, the rocks look pretty, and it might just fool the birds.