Okay, I’ll admit it; chipmunks are adorable. How could you not think these tiny rodents are the cutest little things ever? But, unfortunately, for strawberry gardeners, chipmunks are evil spawns who wreak absolute havoc all over your strawberry fields. Strawberries are delicious, and the rodents in your garden agree.
There’s nothing more disheartening when all your effort and hard work in the garden are snatched from you overnight by a preventable pest. In this article, we’ll be discussing why chipmunks attack your plants, methods on how to protect strawberries from chipmunks, pests similar to chipmunks, and more!
Will chipmunks eat my strawberries ?
The first and most obvious answer is that chipmunks love eating strawberries. Who can blame them? Freshly grown strawberries just out for the taking? You would probably help yourself, too, if you were in their shoes. But chipmunks have reasons that go deeper than just wanting some tasty strawberries.
Another answer is that eating juicy fruit and vegetables helps calm and hydrate chipmunks. During hot and dry weather, rodents such as chipmunks are more likely to take a bite out of your produce. When chipmunks can’t find water, they’ll go for the next best thing, eating your crops. Try putting out some water bowls around your garden and see if that has made any improvements.
Chipmunks don’t always take a bite out of your berries; they also burrow into the soil and dig into your strawberry plants. This is because squirrels spend most of their time collecting food and burying them in random areas to find for later (these are called squirrel stashes). On the other hand, Chipmunks tend to store food in one place. However, if they stumble across a squirrel stash that happens to be close to your strawberries, they’ll start digging in hopes they found the squirrel’s treasure trove of food.
Regardless of why chipmunks go after your strawberries, it is a nuisance nevertheless. So let’s look at different methods to deter chipmunks from ruining your garden.
How to Protect Strawberries From Chipmunks ?
Bird Netting is not just for birds – you can benefit from using bird netting to deter chipmunks from diving into your strawberry patch.
Birth netting is pretty straightforward; it is a nylon net meant to be placed over the strawberry patch to form a physical barrier between the chipmunks and the strawberry plants. Applying bird netting is as simple as laying down the net over your plants and securing the net with U-clips to prevent it from flying away on a windy day.
The downside to using bird netting is that as your strawberry plants grow, they get taller and start growing out of the holes in the net, bringing you back to square one. You can avoid this by creating a hoop house around your strawberry patch.
You can think of a hoop house as some small-scale greenhouse. You can make your own hoop house using simple hardware tools; some wire with bird netting stapled to it will work wonders at discouraging chipmunks from snooping around your strawberries. For gardeners who don’t fancy themselves as carpenters- don’t fret- hoop houses can also be purchased at many garden retailers.
Some of the best chipmunk repellents can be found at your local grocery store or even in your spice cupboard! For example, cayenne pepper isn’t just a spice you put on food, but it can be a natural repellent for pests such as chipmunks. For instance, simply sprinkling cayenne in your soil will deter chipmunks from digging up your plants or eating strawberries. Other common spices that prevent chipmunks include garlic and onion powder.
Another type of natural repellent that effectively drives out chipmunks is predator urine. Using the urine of predators such as wolves or bears creates the illusion that predators lurk nearby, scaring off chipmunks and other rodents from hanging around your garden.
You do have to reapply the cayenne every time it rains, or you water your plants. The downside of using these repellents is that chipmunks will eventually begin to get used to the smell and taste of repellent, causing them to build a tolerance and subsequently bring you back to square one. I suggest alternating with another repellent and double up with repellent plus bird netting.
Companion planting is a natural repellent solution that seems so simple, but it can make a huge difference in your garden. Companion planting is when you grow two different plants to benefit one or both of these plants. You can deter the presence of chipmunks by planting crops that they do not like.
For example, chipmunks despise the smell and taste of daffodil flowers. So, planting daffodils near your strawberry plants discourages chipmunks from hanging around your strawberry patch. Not only do daffodils keep chipmunks out, but they bring pollinators in, which is a great benefit for other crops in your garden, not just strawberries!
Cleaning Up Your Garden
This sounds less like a rodent deterrent and more like a chore, but cleaning up your yard is an effective method of driving out your chipmunks.
Chipmunks love to hang around places where living is convenient for them. Therefore, remove any other food sources from your backyard; this includes open pet bowls and bird seeds. In addition, try cleaning out any rock piles or fallen tree logs; chipmunks love to use these as a habitat. Doing simple things like this can prevent chipmunks from moving into your yard rent-free.
Try mowing the area around your garden. Chipmunks do not like being exposed; it opens them up to overhead predators such as hawks or owls. To avoid these predators, chipmunks like to hide in tall grass to travel from place to place. When you keep your lawn trimmed down, you take this crucial hiding spot away from chipmunks, leaving them exposed to the elements.
Tips on Growing the Best Strawberries Ever
In your first year of growing strawberry plants, prune any flower blossoms that develop. It might sound crazy, but your first year with strawberry plants should focus on creating a robust root system. Denying the plant to bear fruit in its first year will cause the plant to reserve its energy for growing a fortified root system. Then, you’ll be thanking me for the next year when you have a surplus of tasty strawberries.
Strawberries adore sunlight; make sure you give them at least 8 to 10 hours of it a day.
Strawberry plants are very forgiving of many different soil types, though their favorite kind is loamy, well-draining soil. Strawberry plants also prefer a slightly acidic pH level, around 5.5 and 7.0
Just like soil, strawberry plants do not have a discerning taste when it comes to fertilizer. However, you can use standard, all-purpose fertilizer granules to feed your strawberry plants.
Pulling weeds that surround your strawberries is very important. But be careful; strawberries are a shallow-root plant, and it can be easy to damage the roots when weeding. So make sure to pull out the weeds by hand. My unique trick is to weed when the soil is freshly watered; the water helps make the weeds slide right out without disrupting the strawberry plant.
Do your strawberries touch the soil as they’re ripening? Yuck! You can save yourself a lot of rotten-strawberry heartbreak by layering 2-3 inches of straw mulch to your plants. In addition to moisture retention, temperature regulation, and weed suppression, a layer of mulch will provide a barrier between the soil and your strawberries, which reduces the chance of premature rotting.
Strawberry plants have a naturally shallow root system, and therefore they tend dry out very quickly. As a result, you must be diligent with watering your patch regularly. It is recommended to give your strawberry plant 1 inch of water per week.
In areas with mild winters, strawberries are considered a perennial plant, meaning their lifecycle spans multiple years instead of annuals that only live for one growing season. Strawberries enter their “dormancy” phase during the winter. During this phase, gardeners should take steps to protect themselves during cold winters.
During dormancy (after the first couple of winter frosts), prune down your strawberry plant to one inch in length. Layer on at least 4 inches of organic mulch to protect the pruned plant from the freezing air. This mulch layer can be removed when the spring comes after all threats of frost have passed for your region.
We can all agree that chipmunks are cuter when they’re far away from our gardens. However, finding your strawberry plants entirely destroyed by these chubby-cheeked menaces can be devastating. Growing strawberries can be hard work, and when your plants are decimated, it can make you want to pull your hair out.
Luckily, you don’t have to live in fear of chipmunks ruining your harvest. With these simple methods, you can protect your strawberries from chipmunks year after year.
Boeckmann, Catherine. “Strawberries: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Strawberries.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. https://www.almanac.com/plant/strawberries
Geerts, Sheryl. “The Best Ways to Stop Chipmunks and Squirrels from Destroying Your Plants.” Better Homes & Gardens. https://www.bhg.com/gardening/pests/animal/stop-squirrels/
“How to Keep Chipmunks From a Strawberry Patch: Strawberry Gardening.” Youtube, uploaded by show garden. 22 December 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_9pc-U_duM
“Maybe They’re Just Thirsty! Tricks to Keep Chipmunks From Eating Your Strawberries.” VPR. https://www.vpr.org/show/all-things-gardening/2021-07-04/maybe-theyre-just-thirsty-tricks-to-keep-chipmunks-from-eating-your-strawberries
Quarters, Cindy. “How to Keep Chipmunks From a Strawberry Patch.” SF Gate. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/keep-chipmunks-strawberry-patch-41068.html