After threatening to rip out my strawberry patch last year due to lackluster production, I think I've finally figured out the key to getting a good crop. Despite having 60+ strawberry plants, I never seemed to get more than a handful or two at a time, barely enough for a nice dessert, let alone extra for freezing or strawberry jam.
This spring, the plants were absolutely covered in blossoms, and I made a point of giving them a dose of fish fertilizer early on to give them a little extra "oomph". Things were looking good, and I had my eye on a large berry that was promising to be the first ripe one of the season, but when I excitedly went out to pick it one morning, it was nowhere to be seen! This continued for a week or so before I realized that I had a blatant act of thievery on my hands. Being a veteran chicky mama, I'm wise to the ways of my feathered friends, and can spot an avian bandit when I see one. Why hadn't I noticed that the robins were looking fat and slow as they hopped (lumbered) so innocently around my yard? They'd been gorging themselves for weeks, and were becoming so spoiled by the abundance that they would take a single bite out of multiple berries, the wasteful little punks.
Thankfully the solution was pretty simple. I covered the row (fairly loosely, so the bees can still get underneath at the ends) with floating row cover, and just remove it every couple of days to harvest what's ripe, leaving it off for several hours so the bees can access them more easily. Now I'm harvesting 1 - 1 1/2 pounds every couple of days; I've even started freezing some!
I really I shouldn't be so pleased about outsmarting these crooks, but I am.