Mulching strawberries without any pesticides = hopeless?

Here in southern California, heavy mulching has been essential to protecting plant roots from getting scorched. It seems to work for every fruit I grow except one. Strawberries. Woodlice (aka sow bugs aka roly polies aka pill bugs) generally eat dead mulch, but the ones that roll up also eat seedlings, and they love to eat strawberries.

Does anyone have any permaculture type solutions that work? I want to put the system in motion and then be lazy and not have to constantly intervene. Permaculture has only let me down on ants and woodlice. Is a ring of sluggo plus the only way to harvest strawberries in mulch?

If you could grow them without mulch would that help? Well use shade cloth. It comes in various thicknesses depending on how much sun you wish to filter. Look into shade cloth. That way you could reduce the intensity of the sun. You could add dichotomous earth with a large particle size. Such as what is sold as
Optisorb oil absorbent. 100% DE nothing else. DE holds 120% of it weight in water. It lasts decades or maybe even longer? It keeps the soil aerated. Disney uses it in all of it’s gardens. The dust is dangerous so it’s best to wet before use or wear a mask. It contains silicon which is essential in plant cell wall formation and other vital cell functions. Studies show the silicon is available in DE. It will reduce watering frequency. Plants love DE.
Here is a study using Strawberries and DE

You could also use something that the pill bugs don’t like or want as mulch. I’m thinking cocoa shells, or pine straw. I love using pine straw but I rarely get any anymore.
Just throwing some ideas out there to consider. Might not work in your situation?


Good idea, thanks. Maybe I can try filtered shade instead of mulch.

What about growing them in rain gutters? You can search it here

Update: now I scrape the mulch off when the short day cultivars are fruiting. This works great!

I did this a few days ago and the bug damage to fruit just immediately stopped. It seems like the pill bugs will march through the debris and eat everything, but they wont forage for food. They stay in the debris.

The other solution is alpine cultivars, because they are better at suspending the fruit in the air.