Last year I planted my strawberries in a small bed, 3 plants wide by 6 plants long. I lost the first few berries, so I arched a piece of hardware cloth over the bed and covered the ends with row cover. I had great harvests, and no slugs. THe only problem was that I occasionally got scratched by the hardware cloth when harvesting, and toward the end of the season a volunteer squash started growing over the top, so it was harder to get in.
This year I wanted to try something different. So I planted some strawberries in a rectangular planter box (planted closely, on 5-inch centers), where they could overhang the edges, and the rest in a strawberry tower. I already had a cylindrical tuteur made out of metal tubing, so I used that as a framework. Inside it I put a cylinder of 2-inch mesh wire fencing. I began building from the bottom up, putting lots of pine-needle mulch against the fencing and lots of compost around the roots of each plant, and filling the center with a combination of mulch, compost, and soil. I spaced the plants perhaps 8 inches apart. The idea was that the fruits would hang down, away from the structure, and that I could cover the whole thing with bird netting.
As it turned out, birds were not a problem, but slugs were. Nearly every berry has had either slime trails or a small hole in it. The berries are about half the size they were last year -- attributable to the older plants or to the culture. For one thing, the cylinder dries out faster than the bed, because so much more surface area is exposed to the elements, even though it is well mulched. Having mulch on a vertical face is also a disadvantage, because it falls out through the spaces between the wire mesh.
The advantages of the tower (and the planter box) are that it is easier to see when berries are ripe, and the berries are easier to pick. In addition, they both take up less space than the strawberry bed, with more plants.
I plan to continue my strawberry trials with a tiered tower next year, combining the advantages of both the tower and the planter box. Instead of a cylinder, my current plan is to build 3 or maybe 4 tiers, and to contain the soil and compost rather than trying to use mulch on a vertical surface.
Has anyone else tried different ways of growing strawberries?