So, I decided to instead look for cages meant to keep rodents in! I figured anything strong enough to keep pet rodents from escaping would certainly be strong enough to keep critters (such as chipmunks, squirrels, birds, rabbits, groundhogs and deer) from eating my strawberries before I did.
My search led me to rat playpens. I found they were wonderful at keeping deer, groundhogs, rabbits and even birds, chipmunks and squirrels out! The playpens provided protection against fruit-eating birds but allowed insect pollinators to come and go. The photo below shows a raised bed of strawberries protected by a rat playpen.
|A cage of strawberries!|
Several years later, the strawberry beds in rat playpens are still going strong. The playpens remain pest-proof and sturdy, and not a single strawberry got away!
|Strawberries growing in the playpen.|
As an added bonus, the hinged roof on the playpen makes harvesting a cinch!
|The hinged roof folds upon itself, making a convenient shelf while harvesting.|
Last August, my family decided to set up some more raised beds surrounded with playpens.
For complete pest-proofing, place a piece of hardwire cloth underneath the raised bed. We skipped over this step and placed empty 3' x 3' raised beds right on top of the lawn. We did not weed or remove the grass; we just surrounded the empty raised bed with black weed-block fabric to eliminate the adjacent grass.
Then we placed corrugated cardboard on top of the grass inside the raised beds. The cardboard will serve as a weed/grass block for now, and over time will decompose and become part of the soil.
We added a few wheelbarrow's full of almost-finished compost to fill in the raised beds and topped them off with finished compost. (If we had more finished compost, we would have filled the whole raised bed with it.)
We surrounded the raised beds with 42” x 42” playpens. (We used the large size rat playpen from Martin’s cages).
Playpen-enclosed raised beds are ideal for low-growing edibles. We planted a mixture of lettuce, kale, beets and chard in this August planting for a fall harvest.
|Beets and chard seedlings in the cage.|
|Close-up view of the seedlings growing in the cage.|
|Beets and chard in the cage, a couple of months later...|
|A basketful of Red Russian kale and rainbow chard from our playpen-protected raised beds picked in November.|
We have found these playpens perfect for growing strawberries, lettuce, kale, chard, beets and spinach and keeping them safe from nibblers of all sorts. We are even considering growing lowbush blueberries in one in the future!
Anything that can keep a rat in can keep a chipmunk out!
This post is the second in a series about gardening with deer and other wildlife.
Read the other posts in this series:
Gardening with deer, groundhogs and other critters; Part 1: Location, location, location
(This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursdays and Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop.)