It’s that time of the year: Strawberry time.

This year’s crop appears to be a very good one. My own strawberry plants have produced well and the commercial fields seem to also have a good crop.

I like all fruit, but there’s an old train of thought that sticks in my mind and which, to an extent, I heed. It runs something like this. “People living in the south should eat fruits of the south — oranges, grapefruits and similar citrus fruits. People in the north should eat northern fruits such as grapes, raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears and strawberries.”

It seems people whose roots are firmly established in the north are predisposed to thrive on northern-grown fruits. I am unsure whether any of this is true or not, and can see doctors and nutritionists shaking their heads. Of course, there is nothing wrong with eating southern fruits, since they are chock-full of vitamins. Any fruit, no matter where it is from, is healthful and good.

Still, I tend to consume more northern-grown fruits than anything else, a genetic predisposition, perhaps. And strawberries rank among my favorites. That’s why last year, I established a small raised bed for strawberries. The bed sits next to the south-facing side of my house and receives full sun, a good thing because it lessens the chance of the berries damping off.

Mystery pest

My strawberries put out lots of blooms in May and by June, formed many berries. These are the ever-bearing type and they continue putting out fruit over a long period of time.

This allows me to monitor each berry’s progress as it slowly ripens. Just picture me salivating over a big, fat berry, nearly, but not quite ripe. “Tomorrow, I’ll pick it,” I tell myself. But when tomorrow comes, some pest has eaten all of the ripe part.

This ties in with last year’s problem with my shelling peas. Something would eat the seed before it got a chance to sprout. Then, this year, a varmint dug up my already-sprouted corn, ate the seed and left the sprout. What was this mystery crop destroyer. In order to thwart my nemesis, I set a small live trap in with the second planting of corn. The next day I had a very irritated chipmunk.

The critter had returned to the scene of the crime and was captured, after which it received a fair trial and was sentenced to transportation to the colonies. The problem is, this was just the tip of the iceberg. My place has more chipmunks than Carter has liver pills. I don’t have an answer as to how to deter chipmunks from ruining my crops. The only thing I can conceive of is to place the crops out of reach of the chipmunks. That is impossible for corn and peas, but with strawberries, perhaps.

There are many commercially available units designed especially for growing strawberries in a vertical situation. First, a handy person could build one out of wood. For the not-so-handy, choices include tiered planter kits, going as high as five tiers — guaranteed to give chipmunks vertigo — strawberry grow-bags, vertical hanging wall planters made of individual bags to attach to a fence or side of a building and hanging strawberry planters, made similar to hanging baskets.

Temporary solution

Finally, I have a temporary solution if pests are eating your strawberries. Pick them as soon as they attain a useable size, but don’t let them begin to ripen. Just place them in a basket in some shady nook in your kitchen and they will ripen on their own. This gives you time to choose a permanent solution. Good luck.

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist, and book author.