Many decisions in farming and gardening involve weighing up the pros and cons, and this even applies to netting. You’d think it would be a no-brainer—put on a net and save the fruit, right?

Well, this photo demonstrates one of the downsides, which becomes obvious when you take the drape nets off.

All the growing tips (or “leaders”) at the top of each limb have grown bent over. If they’ve been held down by the net for too long while they’re flexible and growing strongly, they may have permanently taken on that bent shape and won’t spring back to the vertical when the nets are removed.

It’s a great lesson in why it’s best to remove the nets as soon as you’ve picked the fruit, and while the trees still have leaves on them. Ant has taken this message on board, and usually manages to gets the nets off the trees in good time.

Ant and Hugh taking nets off the pear trees this year
Ant and Hugh taking nets off the pear trees this year

The poor bent tree is a 4 year old peach tree, which grew very and yielded a lovely crop of peaches the year this photo was taken. It was netted it in plenty of time to save the fruit from the birds, and what should have happened next was the removal of the nets.

But, things got busy, it never quite got to the top of the ‘to do’ list, and you can see the consequences.

Abi and Hugh removing nets - in winter!
Abi and Hugh removing nets – in winter!

However, all is not lost, and in fact the benefits definitely outweigh the cons. It’s actually not difficult to correct—a bit of careful pruning at the top of the limbs will usually remove most of the bend and this will help the limbs continue their growth in a mostly straight line next year.

It can also help to slow the growth of a vigorous tree, which will help it to settle down and produce fruit, rather than put all its energy into growth.

It’s also really interesting to note how easy it is to influence the way a tree grows, which can be particularly useful if you’re aiming for a particular shape of tree like an espalier, for example. It’s not difficult to encourage the tree to grow the way you want it to. Find out more about how to create espaliers, vases, and other fruit tree forms in Pruning by Numbers: A Guide to Pruning Deciduous Fruit Trees.

That’s the silver lining in this particular cloud!