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

If you’re trying to grow fruit in the same habitat as fruit fly, birds, possums, rats, and other animals who like to eat fruit like kangaroos, then 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, you’ll probably have 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 its 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, but it’s possible to extend that time considerably by looking after your nets properly.

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

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 when you can see the holes clearly and access them for easy mending.

We use polypropylene fishing net mending twine and special needles, but anything will do – baling twine, clips, cable ties, even twist-ties can be useful.

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) to help you to push the nets up and over the tree.

If you’re removing the nets while the tree still has leaves on it (which we highly recommend as it’s much easier), you may be able to remove the net by pulling from one side and hoping it slides off the tree. Of course, if you’re removing nets from a frame it’s much 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, and be particularly careful of the more delicate growing tips of the branches.

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 because it makes putting the net out next year a nightmare if there are snags in it. The latter because the fruit must be disposed of correctly so it doesn’t harbour pests or diseases. 

Label the net

If you’re netting multiple trees, this step makes it SO much easier next year to figure out which net goes with which tree!

Pack into rodent-proof covers

Rats and mice LOVE to live in nets in the winter. Take it from us that putting out net that has been lived in by rodents is a most unpleasant and smelly job.

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

Store out of the weather

The whole point of taking our nets in each year is to prolong their life, so 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 could store them outside, but 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

Though it takes a bit of time to put your nets away properly, you will definitely thank yourself next season when you go to put them out again.

If you don’t have nets yet but have been meaning to do it, the Protect Your Crop From Birds short course can help with deciding which netting system will suit you best.

Nets are a big investment in capital (buying the nets) and your time (putting the nets out and taking them in again each season, or else building a permanent structure to hold them). But they can also revolutionise your fruit growing life, and make the difference between very disappointed (again), or harvesting a successful crop.

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