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Fruit fly nets, and nets to exclude birds and other animals can be key to your success with fruit growing.

Wherever you live, you’re trying to grow fruit in the same habitat as something that wants to eat your fruit. It might be fruit fly, birds, possums, rats, or bigger animals like kangaroos or deer.

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If you don’t net, there’s a pretty good chance something else will beat you to the fruit. 

If you want to grow fruit, it’s best to plan to net your fruit trees. You’ve no doubt heard us say it before, and we’ll inevitably say it again!

Looking after fruit fly and bird nets

So, you’ve followed our advice and put nets over your trees in spring or early summer. You’ve picked your wildly successful fruit crop, and now it’s time to put the nets away.

Taking the nets off the trees after they've been picked
Taking the nets off the trees after they’ve been picked

Nets are expensive, so it’s important to make them last as long as possible. There are lots of different types of nets available. Most nets are intended to last at least 10 years. It’s possible to extend that time considerably by looking after your nets properly.

So without further ado, here are the 6 steps to proper net care.

1. Mend the nets each year

By the end of the fruit season, nets have often been damaged by weather, branches, kangaroos, birds, or other misadventures. Mending them is often the easiest to do while they’re still on the trees. This makes it easier to see the holes clearly and access them for easy mending.

We use polypropylene fishing net mending twine and special needles. But as is often the case, there’s no need to buy specialist gear. Anything will do – baling twine, clips, cable ties, even twist ties can be useful.

2. Remove nets from the trees

If you’re removing drape netting and are a little height-challenged you may need to borrow a tall friend or two. Alternatively, find a nice long pole (or a broom). This can be used to help you to push the nets up and over the tree.

We highly recommend removing the nets while the tree still has leaves. The net tends to slide off much more easily. You may be able to remove the net by pulling from one side and hoping it slides off the tree. Removing nets from a frame is even easier, as the net will usually just slide over the frame.

Be as careful as possible to try not to break any limbs or laterals. Be particularly careful of the more delicate growing tips of the branches.

3. Remove debris from the net

Any twigs or branches that have become entangled, or any fruit that has become caught in the net, must be removed. The former is because it makes putting the net out next year a nightmare if there are snags in it. The latter is because the fruit must be disposed of correctly so it doesn’t harbour pests or diseases. 

4. Label the net

If you’re netting multiple trees, labeling the nets will make next year’s job much easier. A label can make it simple to figure out which net goes with which tree!

5. Pack into rodent-proof covers

Rats and mice LOVE to live in nets in the winter. Putting out a net that rodents have lived in is a most unpleasant and smelly job.(And yes, that’s definitely the voice of experience.)

Ideally, find sealable bags or boxes that are large enough to accommodate your nets.

6. Store out of the weather

The whole point of taking your nets in each year is to prolong their life. It just makes sense to store them out of the weather.

Sunlight is actually the most destructive element for nets (after physical damage). If you’ve managed to do step 5 successfully and completely package the nets you probably could safely store them outside. But be aware they may be more prone to invasion by rodents or insects. 

black bags full of fruit tree net stored in the shed
Fruit fly nets stored in rodent-proof bags in the shed

Nets are a big investment

Using nets over your fruit is a big investment. Firstly, there’s the capital expense of buying the nets. There’s also quite a bit of time involved in putting the nets out and taking them in again each season.

Building a permanent structure to hold them takes more time and money.

But a good netting system can revolutionise your fruit-growing life. Nets can make the difference between being very disappointed every season or harvesting a successful crop.

If you don’t have nets yet but have been meaning to do it, maybe this is the year! It’s worth spending a little time researching different systems to decide which one will suit you best.

Apricot trees covered in nets
Caring for your drape nets can help you keep them in good condition for many years

It takes a bit of time to put your nets away properly, but it’s time well spent. We can guarantee that you will thank yourself next season when you go to put them out again.

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