Strawberry plant decoys

I’ve never had much luck growing strawberries.  Mainly I think it’s because I’ve never planted them.  I’m not saying I’ve never had strawberry plants in my possession but I’ve never actually planted them.  A couple of years ago I had some that a neighbour gave me but I just sort of sat them on top of the soil and thought about planting them until they died, at which point I felt a huge amount of relief because now I could just throw them into the compost bin which seemed way easier than planting them.

Last year I did plant some strawberries but it was late in the season so I didn’t get any fruit from them and any flowers that did form I pinched off to make stronger plants for this year.  The few berries that did form had curious looking holes in them.  Bite marks I suppose you’d call them.  So no go on eating those. For me anyway.

This year I have committed to actually growing strawberries, taking care of them and making them into jam which I will then smear on bread, crumpets, and my tongue.

P.S. and also my fingers.

P.S.S. I know you’re supposed to leave the P.S. until the end of whatever you’re saying because it’s an afterthought.  But this was an afterthought to my previous thought so as far as I’m concerned is perfectly acceptable.

If I was going to call this year THE YEAR OF THE EXPLOSIVE STRAWBERRY PATCH THAT ATE THE WORLD I was going to have to figure out how to a) grow them and b) keep them for myself.

So the first thing I did was put them in a HUGE container that keeps them off the ground and away from whatever is in my garden that has teeth.

This planter is from my pals at Lee Valley (who I write for). It’s meant for other things I think, but it works perfectly as a huge strawberry planter.





And look. I’m already successful.  I have strawberries.




Did I fool you?  I’m hoping I did.  If not then I’m hoping I can at least fool animals with brains the size of a grape seed.  Apparently, and I’ve never tried this before, but if you put out some decoy strawberries before your real strawberries ripen you can confuse all things with mouths.


All you have to do is paint some small rocks red and set them in with the strawberries. Now, I’ve seen people do this where they actually paint the rocks to look with strawberries, with little seeds and a bit of white near the top. I did not do that. It’s the sort of thing I’d love to do but I had to use my time wisely on rock painting day because I had a very important appointment with the last 5 episodes of Empire that night. Which I needed to be rested for of course otherwise I’d fall asleep during them.



What happens is the birds or moles or voles or passing neighbours mistake the red rocks for actual strawberries and break a tooth. Or a beak. At the very least they  get disturbed at the low quality of produce in this section of the garden, so they make a mental note to not waste their time coming back. When the REAL strawberries grow in, the offending bird, mole, vole or neighbour skips them thinking they are also not worth biting into.

And that my friends is how I’m going to make this THE YEAR OF THE EXPLOSIVE STRAWBERRY PATCH THAT ATE THE WORLD.

If my decoys work I may also be making this THE YEAR OF THE EXPLOSIVE DENTAL BILLS FOR MY NEIGHBOURS.

You’ve been warned.

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  1. Becky says:

    I did this. I did the seeds, and leaves at the top. They were so believable, that I totally fooled the UPS man, and he tried to pick one of my berries.
    The confused look on his face was priceless…. I never lost a berry to a critter. Only to the rolly polly bugs. bastards.

  2. Ardith says:

    You and Becky are priceless, and kindred spirits. Thank you for making my day, uh, rather evening.

  3. Robert says:

    This sounds like a very interesting year. I hope you get huge strawberries, export quality of course 😀

  4. barbee says:

    Just saw this same thing on fb. Wouldn’t have helped with our dog Jack, who was blind but could find every single berry

  5. Edith says:

    Hi Karen,

    I’m dealing with this very problem right now. It’s my first time growing strawberries here in Texas. I’ve got them off the ground in planters but each and every one of my juicy red strawberries has been poked, drilled, gnawed or otherwise mutilated. I guess it’s too late for this year, but I’ll remember this trick for next year.

  6. Tanya says:

    in year 3 of trying strawberries on my south facing apartment patio ( aka the burner)I finally have a couple berries that are looking like they might actually be edible! Might be too late for the decoys but what a great idea.

    Thank you again for making me laugh and giving me information I can use. I love your writing!

  7. Laura says:

    This isn’t really a comment. It’s just a rock painted to look like a comment. I hope you don’t break your tooth on it!!

  8. Barbie says:

    What a GREAT idea! Never heard of that before. I am going to do that this year!

  9. Mindy says:

    Really? Does it work? According to the internets, I mean. I had an almost ripe strawberry last week. First one of the season. Went to check on it for the three-year old today. I was going to be nice and give it to her. Instead, she learned how to say, Bastards, really loud. Slug, bird, or squirrel, whichever one stole it is a bastard.

  10. Debbie says:

    What I have used is black plastic on the ground with the plant sticking out. No slugs this way. Net on top to keep the birds and stupid people out.

  11. Stephanie Hobson says:

    When I was about the age of Mindy’s child my mother tried to grow strawberries. She couldn’t figure out what (who) was getting them before she could. It was me! I also ate the leaves off of her two rose bushes – they tasted like lemon. Unfortunately they didn’t survive.

  12. Marna says:

    LOL! Cleaver idea! I used to have a large strawberry patch in Arizona, only had to worry about my dogs digging in it, not eating anything. Here in Texas I don’t have much luck, I guess between the weather and creepy crawlies and critters, no luck. Same things happens to most of the garden areas. I have tried netting, which helps.

  13. Heather says:

    Love it, Laura!

  14. IRS says:

    Karen, while I would never question the wisdom of your matching wits with slugs, bugs, and other assorted vermin, I am rather surprised that this method works. The whole method relies entirely on said vermin’s ability to remember, but I am very skeptical that anything with a brain the size of a grape seed has a better memory than your average goldfish, whose memory has been estimated to last all of 4 seconds. Then again, I should shut up, since I have spent the last half hour looking for my keys. In any case, I will try this method, since I also have been unable to produce any “unsampled” berries. P.S. LOVE Lee Valley. Their catalogue is garden porn. I think I will pay them a visit today, and traumatize my credit card.

  15. Ann says:

    Love Lee Valley….

    We have the occasional bad berries, but our issue is with ants and I don’t think they give a flip about painted rocks. I am sure many bugs find their way to the berries by smell, which I think they do with their feet. My philosophy in general is to be able to grow enough of something that we can share with the birds, bugs and still have enough for us. It has worked so far for our strawberries, blueberries and Scarlet Goumi’s. Last year we had to net the goumi’s but this year the mockingbirds are leaving plenty for us, plus some.

  16. Jack Ledger says:

    What did one strawberry say to the other strawberry? If you weren’t so sweet, we wouldn’t be in this jam!

    What a sad response to such a brilliant blog but it is all I have this morning.

  17. Janet says:

    I tried growing strawberries one year (in pots so they’d be off the ground) and squirrels ate almost every one of the berries so I’ve never bothered again. I hope you have better luck!

  18. Tim says:

    I’m allergic to strawberries, to the point of anaphylaxis (yes your produce could KILL me dead!!!) so I’ll take the decoys! 😉

  19. Beckie says:

    When I tried strawberries, ants were my problem too.

  20. Mary W says:

    I have five strawberry plants that keep growing and having babies, even though I do nothing. No water, weeding, fertilizer, NEVER poison. They are for my granddaughter and she manages to get about 2 or 3 every day for about a month. Some have been eaten and she is learning to throw for T-ball with those. Mostly she just loves finding things to eat outside and always asks first. They are planted in my flower bed with some mint, sage, basil, a fig tree and hog plum tree. One year I got enough plums for jam but this year -too much rain (so sorry California!). I’ve shown her which to eat, which to smell, which to pick, and which to never touch. By 4 she was eating cherry tomatoes, chives, dill, stevia, mint, etc. and could tell the weeds to pull. The deer are in our yard but don’t eat as much as the squirrels do. I just try to have a little for everyone. What do squirrel do for us anyway? – there must be some good besides eating them. Learning acrobatic tricks? Cat food? Cute only goes so far. Strawberries are now almost done for this year here in Florida. I love to paint rocks and just let them lay in the garden for fun. All kinds – stripes, stars, circles, words, faces. Sadie helps paint those also. You can see my garden is just for fun.

  21. jaine gayer says:

    Karen, you crack me up and I wish you luck with the strawberries. As for me and mine, I’m just going to go to a farm and pick their strawberries but of course I will use your strawberry jam recipe that I just know you will be posting.

  22. Jody says:

    Let me get this straight. Duck decoys bring in ducks. Strawberry decoys scare off vermin. Who knew? What does a man decoy do?

  23. Karol says:

    I recently visited a u-pick blueberry field with a friend and for the first time ever saw a “propane cannon”. This field had six of them scattered about, and they go off alternately about every 45 seconds with a shotgun blast noise to scare of predators. Ha! Good one… the birds didn’t even flinch, but we did. My ears are still ringing, although we were able to pick 16 pounds of berries in an hour.
    I hope your red rocks work better! Good luck, Karen.

  24. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    I’ll be very curious to see how things turn out for you. I bought two strawberry plants last year (which morphed into many more). They have all been planted into pots. I have some strawberries this year but they are all very small and deformed. I need to find out what that’s all about (any ideas?). I’ve picked the few that were ripe, and though not real pretty, tasty. I hope you have tremendous success and share all your tips with us, the little people.

  25. ~JackieVB says:

    We’re at the height of strawberry season here in Virginia – I’ve had pretty good luck with them this year, only lost a few to ants and slugs so far. I’ve never tried pinching the flowers off for more vigorous growth, I guess I’m just too impatient to lose a season for that!

  26. Karin says:

    I just had to comment – I just lost my Jack, the blind dog. He could find anything, anywhere if it was edible.

  27. Shanelle says:

    Haha, I enjoyed that one Jack! 🙂

  28. Olivia says:

    More importantly…. I love those pots! What are they called? I can’t find them on the Lee Valley site.

  29. Shanelle says:

    The same thing a regular man does…nothing!

    Just kidding Jody 😉

  30. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I saw those pots at an Amish greenhouse recently..I was thinking about getting one for an herb garden..they look perfect for strawberry plants..I never had any luck with strawberries..maybe if it works for you I will try again next Spring..Good luck!

  31. Patty says:

    We use the same pots to grow our strawberries. We stack them on poles and have liquid fertilizer fed to them twice a day. We plant them in coconut fiber which helps cut down on the bugs. We also have a tier strawberry bed in which the plants are in a sandy soil. Due to its location we usually cover that one with netting. We run into the problem of ants but a couple of ant traps seem to fix it.

  32. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    I’m with Olivia, where can we find info on the pots!!!

    Cute post!!!

  33. judy says:

    traumatize my credit card.!!!!!!This is going to be my Mantra from now on. I will no longer go forth and wreck each months budget. I will think of my Credit Cards as dear little helpers being severely traumatized by my overuse of their talent for raising me to the heights of Acquisition fever and the depths of despair that what gets charged must then be YIKES!!!paid back. Reality-ain’t it a Bi**ch!

  34. Karen says:

    You’re welcome Tanya! ~ karen

  35. Karen says:

    ha! hahah! ~ karen

  36. Karen says:

    LOL! Dunno if it’s going to work. The Internet says it does but the Internet is a big fat liar, so that’s why I’m trying it out. I know just a jumble of bird netting over the plants will help but it’s also stupid ugly, so I wanted to try this method. ~ karen!

  37. Karen says:

    I’m kind of surprised you did! ~ karen

  38. Karen says:

    Oh, animals have a fantastic ability to memorize and remember things. Especially related to food or things that hurt/bother them. Just look at squirrels. They bury their walnuts etc., all over the place and then can go right back to wherever it was in the late winter or spring to find them. They stand up on their haunches to look around and get their bearings and can then zero right in on where they buried something months ago. Slugs? Not so much. ~ karen!

  39. Karen says:

    That was actually one of my favourites, lol. Got a genuine snort. ~ karen

  40. Karen says:

    I always wonder about planting stevia. Do you use it kind of like a sweet thing on top of cakes? Or … how do you use it? I’m not a huge fan of it as a sugar replacement because even though it’s sweet it tastes like licorice. Which I love. Just not in my peanut butter cookies. So. Is the plant just grown for fun for you? Or do you actually use it somehow? ~ karen!

  41. Karen says:

    It’s already up Jaine. 🙂 Strawberry Jam recipe. ~ karen!

  42. Karen says:

    Same thing a regular man does. Nothing. ~ karen!

  43. Mary W says:

    It is SO sweet that just a nibble is enough. I don’t even eat the leaves, just sort of mush it around in my mouth then spit it out. If you bite down, it is just overwhelming. So maybe if it were steeped then used as a sweetener? I just love having something different to nibble when in the tiny garden with Sadie. It freezes and doesn’t come back – or at least if it did, I didn’t recognize it and pulled it out. End of my stevia journey. The best way to eat it in the garden is in a mint leaf sandwich (tiny bit of stevia) to a whole lot of mint and that was a very fun treat. Extent of my stevia knowledge.

  44. Karen says:

    Here you go Olivia … I got the medium pots … ~ karen!

  45. Karen says:

    Ha! We both said the same thing. Only I didn’t add in the Just Kidding. 🙂 ~ karen!

  46. Melissa says:

    Great idea for birds, but my issue are the damn rolly pollys. Smash them all to hell.
    I’ve also heard that putting rock/ceramic eggs in the nesting box is a good way to break the egg eating habit, because the hens hurt their beak when trying to peck one open, and then give up on the rest of them. Supposivly.

  47. Cred says:


  48. Cred says:

    For those that do use it as a sugar sub, you can harvest and dry it and grind into a powder. Or just a leaf added to a pot of tisane or tea. If you grow in pots, it can be brought in for winter. Very poor germinator so I bought a plant from a CSA who did the hard part.
    I don’t like it much as a substitute for the aftertaste, too. But it’s not bad in tea. Mostly I grow it for fun.

  49. Cred says:

    I’m going to give these decoys a go. I only have a couple of potted strawberries but it’s chipmunks not slugs that get mine, so I’m hopeful this will work.
    Btw, I saw similar stacking pots in dollarama for $3 each. They are exactly like ones I’d seen online, for at least double that price, designed for growing strawberries but the shipping was prohibitive.
    When I saw your pots in a previous post I was waiting patiently to see what you did wih them. Now, I have to see if they still have them. Yours are a much nicer colour- dollarama’s are a lovely plastic terra cotta but better suited to my budget.

  50. Nancee says:

    I’ll be honest, I didn’t go through all of the comments on this piece. But I hope someone told you that those darling little roly polys, aka pill bugs, the ones that roll into cute little balls when you touch them lightly, eat strawberries to the stem.
    Yes, thousands of pill bugs will swarm a strawberry patch, mate and reproduce, and all of the family will feast on your strawberries.
    I had about 50 strawberry plants at one time. The previous years I had a steady supply of organic strawberries picked the morning I ate them.
    The next season, all of my berries were eaten by this horde of pill bugs, roly polys, doodle bugs.
    I’ve never looked at the the same since.
    Oh, P.S. There aren’t any organic methods to control pill bugs except to stand there early in the morning and pick them out and throw them in the compost bin, where they will live happily everafter. Little buggers.

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