I have a new strawberry patch in a very tall 4’X4’x2’ raised bed. I didn’t mound them. They are covered with netting to keep birds out for the most part. Now, they are turning red but they are getting eaten by something. Does it matter that they rest on the soil? Should I add, for example, some straw around them? And how do I stop the pests from eating them?
Multnomah County Oregon
Strawberries produce very few berries during their first year. The plants need to put all their energy into growing roots and establishing themselves in their new environment. Next year you should get a good crop of tasty berries. Netting is a good idea so you don't share too many of your berries with the birds. Since you've planted them in a raised bed you shouldn't have to mound them - the drainage should be very good. The few berries you are getting might be getting eaten by slugs. Slugs are out when its cool and moist, usually at night, so you don't see them. The berries could also be eaten by mice or voles, but you should see entrance holes in your raised bed./ You can gently lift the berries up onto a straw mulch, just don't cover the plants. They need access to sunlight to photosynthesize. Mulch will retard soil surface evaporation, keeping the soil moist and cool. Mulch also covers the soil blocking sunlight from developing weeds, and adds organic matter to the soil as it is broken down.
Strawberries produce well for 3-4 years, then should be replaced, and put in a new location because problems can build up in the soil. The berries need full sun, well-drained soil with good organic matter. Fertilization with a well-balanced fertilizer (16-16-16) 12.5 ounces/10 foot row, divided into thirds give each third spaced out during the season for a total of 3 applications. Flower buds develop in late summer for next year's crop. This article is a good concise guide to growing strawberries, Growing Strawberries https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/12281/growingstrawberries.pdf.