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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.
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.
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.
The fruit fly story: everything you need to know
The story of how Queensland Fruit Flies meet, mate, and reproduce. Everything you need to know to learn how to beat these pests.
Why you should pick up fruit from the ground
Picking up your fruit from the ground is the first principle of organic orchard hygiene, and one of your best lines of defence against pests.
Slugs on fruit tree leaves
The damage that pear and cherry slug causes on your fruit tree can look terrible. However it may only need minimal control.
We’ve found netting trees to be extremely hard work! Putting on and off.
I’m hoping that my reducing the height of our fruit trees, netting will be a lot smoother.
Is this the case?
Hi Silvana, yes it is the case for sure. Having a frame over the tree makes a huge difference, as does taking the nets off. It’s really worth persisting to find a system that works for you, and keep improving it all the time, because the easier it is, the more likely you are to do it!
Any ideas on protecting passion fruit from bats and rats. I am on the Gold Coast and have a bumper crop of the yellow passion fruit ripening.
Hi Kerry, rats are the worst! So persistent, and often won’t be deterred by ordinary netting, so you may need to consider a more heavy duty option that involves wire and a permanent structure.
Thanks, these are great tips. our ‘new’ nets got held up from China (!) so next year we hope we can net more …with fruit fly nets! If you know of anywhere we can get them in Australia, please let us know…
Have you tried Net Pro Canopies at Stanthorpe? http://www.netprocanopies.com.au. I got mine fr5omn there but it was a few years ago.
Hi Liz, we’re currently working on researching domestic-scale fruit fly net suppliers..
I got mine from Aussie Gardner online, seemed like a good price, they have both fruit tree and vege garden nets.
2MM Woven Insect Fitted Tree Net 2.4M Diam. X 2.8M High
Our nets came from China and we used them this year. We harvested and sold our fruit for the first time ever. These nets tied around the trunk and any fruit rolls into the gathered net and does not touch the ground. The net had a long zip you can use to check your fruit and pick as you go. A real game changer!
Congratulations Liz, that’s a fantastic outcome! Nets really do make all the difference between getting a harvest or not.
Hi, do you have the link to where you got your nets from please?
Good morning. I had some mould on my apples and plums this year. Would you recommend I decontaminate the nets prior to storage?
Hi Merryn, if you can see visible mould on the nets it’s worth hosing any debris off, but it’s very unusual for the nets themselves to be the source of contamination for next year’s fruit.
After removing debris, I washed my nets in the washing machine until all signs of mould had gone then hug them on the clothes line until they were dry
And for people who have more net than they can fit in the washing machine, a rinse with the hose would probably do the same job. Good idea Deborah! (Though just to be clear, most nets don’t need washing most years…thank goodness!)