Slugs are the bane of Northwest gardeners, especially in the strawberry patch. We solved that this year though discovered a few other issues with raising our strawberry bed six feet of the ground.
Our rabbit hutch happens to be next to a squirrel highway.
This idea from last year’s Garden Show, though at the time Pops joining us was still a hazy, unformed plan. Pops is a big rabbit with the important job of providing high-quality manure and looking cute. There’s no way a standard hutch would work for him nor withstand the demanding cute factor we have here at Gardnovsky Gardens.
With a bit of salvage, a hand from a pal, and a rough plan, I started working on his hutch. It took until the late Spring to add the strawberries, as I was very concerned with membranes and soil type. In the end, the revelation was this: plastic garbage bags are as much as a membrane one probably needs on a building you only expect to last 5-10 years.
Here’s what I did:
1. The roof is constructed on 1 inch plywood
2. It has 1 x 4 decking cedar as the tray, which leaves about 3 1/4 planting depth.
3. I lined the whole thing with heavy gauge black plastic.
4. The roof slopes both from back to front and left to right, so that the bottom right corner is the lowest point and has a drain hole cut in it.
5. I filled it with a mix of light cactus soil and potting soil
6. Planted strawberries
7. Covered with red mulch which is supposed keep soil moist while promoting strawberry growth
8 Netted and waited.
But not so successful.
First, the toughest thing is not letting the plants dry out. Thinking I needed to worry about lightness, I went with a mix of potting and cactus soil, so it dried out too quickly. I finally replaced most of this with regular top soil, though being shallow, they need water every day on hot days.
Second, the drainage system does not work despite my efforts in putting in a “french drain” at the bottom, adding a strainer etc. The water just cascades over the mulch and gives Pops quite the show if I am not careful watering.
Finally, it is tough to harvest the berries in the back and to care for the plants. We need a step ladder to get the plants in the back.
This year’s harvest? Definitely the best strawberries I’ve every grown. This bed gets plenty of sun, is warm and has no pest problems. Next year, I’ll replace the red mulch with the more traditional straw which I hope will keep the bed moister, allow the runners to root, while of course, making Pops Rabbit Palace look like an English picture book. Unless we loose some in winter, the strawberries are heading into fall in great shape.
We’re going to add chickens to our urban homestead next Spring and they too will definitely have an edible roof, though we’ll see what we plant there as they might have more afternoon shade. Maybe it would be fun to try a bed of mixed salad greens.
June 2, 2010: Here’s an updated shot with straw on the roof and the strawberries growing quite happily!