This project is now CLOSED for 2019.
We should have results for you shortly, and are planning for 2020!
Strawberries are a very popular plant, with delicious fruit, a long cropping season and strong association with lazy summer days. Unfortunately, we are not the only garden visitor with a taste for strawberries, and some people find themselves in a race for tasty fruit against burglarising birds!
A few projects from Sussex University in previous years have used strawberries as part of the protocol. Buzzing Balconies has some results out now, and feedback from participants suggested that for some gardens, bird damage can be such a problem to put off growing strawberries altogether. Birds are fantastic garden visitors and we don't want to do anything that might hurt them, so we need safe deterrants against this avian avarice.
Netting plants is a common anti-bird strategy (but can be expensive and tricky to put up), but some of our volunteers have also suggested a crafty home remedy using painted stones to trick birds. Birds have excellent colour vision and learn quickly, so it might be possible to train them to leave your strawberries alone.
Join in with the Buzz Club to investigate!
We want to test if coloured stones can deter birds away from eating strawberry crops. The idea is that red strawberry-like stones placed in the patch before there are red strawberries will attract birds, but after a couple of pecks they will realise the 'red things here' are not food. Hopefully when the actual strawberries emerge they will leave them alone.
Taking part in the project
To be a part of 'Strawberries rock!' you will need:
At least one strawberry plant *.
Enough strawberry-sized rocks to have at least
three per plant.
Acrylic paint (either red or green); easily be found in
large supermarkets, online or in craft shops.
Small paint brushes (unless you use spray paint).
Craft varnish / clear nail varnish
* This can be an existing plant, a new plant, or one that we sent you last year if you took part in ‘super strawberries’).
You can use more than one strawberry plant if you are able to but you need to number them to keep track!
Participants will be split randomly into two groups. One group will paint their stones red, and place them around their plant(s). One group will paint their stones green and place them around their plant (this is the 'control group', and it is very important to have this to compare to, or we can't work out if the red stones work or not!)
We would then like you to count the strawberries on your plants (ripe and unripe) once a week, and record the numbers on your data sheet.
That's it! The project is open from May (so, now!), and will continue to run until autumn - although you will only need to count strawberries until your plants finish fruiting.
Can we use coloured stones to trick birds into thinking that 'red things' in a strawberry patch are not edible?
Red stones around strawberry plants. The stones must be in place before there are any red strawberries, so birds can be 'trained' before there is fruit.
Green stones around strawberry plants. The stones must be in place before there are any red strawberries, so they can act as a control.
It is really important to have a control in any experiment, so we can get a good answer to the question.