We live in an urban setting. It’s an older neighborhood with tree lined streets and mature landscaping. If you walk in the backyard, you would swear that you are in the country instead of a city of 140,000. We are surrounded by large, old trees and thick hedges. With all of the vegetation, our fence line neighbors are hidden from view. It is a lovely setting, but within those trees reside our nemesis. Squirrels!
It is safe to say that we have been at war with the squirrels since we unpacked our first box. They eat our seedlings, dig in our garden beds, take bites out of maturing fruit, poop on our clothes line, and go after my dearest summer fruit; strawberries.
Oh sure, we thought that we had outsmarted them when we draped netting over the strawberries. But those clever little rodents just reached through the netting (and in some cases, chewed through) in order to pluck ripe berries. So much for Plan A.
My engineer husband was not willing to lose the war. After much pondering, he decided the most effective way to keep the squirrels out of the strawberries was to build a cage that surrounded the bed. The cage had to be covered so the squirrels couldn’t get in, but the covering had to allow light and rain to pass through. It also had to be moveable and come apart in pieces so we could pull weeds, thin plants, and harvest berries. (And the whole system had to be packable since we did not want to leave the cage up year round.)
What my husband came up with was a simple solution that is not only effective, but attractive, and is made from mostly recycled materials. The frame itself is made up of a series of wooden frames. Each frame is covered individually with chicken wire. The perimeter wooden frames are connected together with wooden pegs and cotter pins so the whole cage can easily be taken apart after strawberry season.
As you can see in the adjacent photo, a central wooden support runs from one side of the cage to the other. It is also made from reclaimed wood. Each support has a series of short wooden arms engineered to hold lids placed on top of the perimeter cage. In the photo you can see the chicken wire covered frames that make up the perimeter and a central support without the lids, but the arms extended. NOTE: the frames along the perimeter are approximately 15″ high, making it easy to step into the strawberry bed after the lids have been removed.
The entire cage assembled is 8′ x 16′. Each frame is 4′ long so they are light enough that even I can easily pick them up and set them into place. But to keep assembly simple, each frame is marked with a pen by where it resides in the overall structure. Come May when the plants are setting flowers, we take the frames out of storage and line up the pieces marked by direction; north 1 and 2, east 1 – 4, south 1 and 2, and finally, west 1 – 4. All perimeter pieces are pinned together in a matter of minutes.
The final part of construction are the lids that set on top of the supports. Like the other pieces, they are wooden frames covered in chicken wire. In this photo you can see lids in place on top of the supports. From start to end, it takes approximately 15 minutes to put the whole cage together. We both consider that time well spent to protect our strawberries. To harvest, I simply remove one lid at a time and walk through that section picking ripe fruit.
This season has been our best harvest yet due to the fact we have not lost fruit to the little furry, rodents. Knock on wood, but I believe that with our Plan B, we have finally outsmarted the squirrels!