There’s been a lot of construction and heavy lifting on the allotment these past few weeks and the plot is really starting to look organised! At the weekend I focused on the strawberry patch. I have three beds of plants, one of which is entirely runners from last year’s plants so I’m not expecting much fruit from them in their first season. None the less, all the plants are in bloom and I’m expecting a bountiful harvest. As soon as the flowers drop and fruits begin to form, it’s time to protect them from hungry birds.
I learnt the hard way to not use netting. If you use it m on your allotment please take care not to make it a danger for other animals! Last year a fledgling robin got caught in my strawberry netting and it was an awful experience. I lazily covered the plants without too much thought and when I went to water the strawberry plants one evening when I noticed the bird fluttering on the ground. The plastic wire was completely tangled around its wing and I remember feeling so guilty and ashamed. I cupped my hands around him, cut him free from the net and moved into the polytunnel to carefully remove as much of the tangled plastic as possible from his wing. I managed to remove most of it, before the robin made a bid for freedom and flew away.
I learnt my lesson that day. So this year I’m doing things differently. I’ve decided to make a budget cage for my strawberry patch with taught chicken wire sides sunk into the ground and a hinged lid. This means nothing can fall into it, climb under it, land on it, or get tangled. So I bought some cheap timber, chicken wire, screws and staples and made the first of two cages. As my boyfriend made the frame and panels, as I weeded the strawberry patch and dug a trench for the sides and corners to sink into.
I’m SO pleased with out it worked out! The structure is sturdy, save for bird and the bees still fly freely through the wire to pollenate the flowers. We still have another one to make for the 2nd patch behind it but this one will be smaller, more square in shape.
If you are going to use netting on your allotment, and especially if your patch is close to bushes or hedges…please, please, please take care to not only protect your strawberries but the protect birds from harm too. Make sure the net is taught and firmly supported with no gaps or tears. Any excess netting should be removed or tucked inside the frame and pinned to the ground. It’s a good idea to check the frame regularly in case anything has got caught.