Many decisions in gardening involve weighing up the pros and cons. This even applies to netting your fruit trees. You’d think it would be a no-brainer—put on a net and save the fruit, right?
Well, this photo (above) demonstrates one of the downsides. It usually becomes obvious as soon as 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.
Avoiding the problem by taking nets off sooner
It’s a great lesson in why it’s best to remove the nets as soon as you’ve picked the fruit. It’s also much easier to remove netting while the fruit trees still have leaves on them.
The poor bent tree is a 4-year-old peach tree. It grew very and yielded a lovely crop of peaches the year this photo was taken. It was netted in plenty of time to save the fruit from the birds.
What should have happened next was the removal of the nets. But, things got busy, and it never quite got to the top of the ‘to do’ list.
It’s all too common, and you can see the consequences.
How to fix bent limbs
However, all is not lost, and in fact the benefits of netting your fruit trees definitely outweigh the cons.
Luckily, the bent limbs are not that difficult to correct. A bit of careful pruning at the top of the limbs will usually remove most of the bend. The limbs will then continue their growth in a mostly straight line next year. You just need to understand the consequences of the pruning cuts you make to correct the problem, which is explained in this blog.
Apart from the obvious benefit of saving your fruit from being eaten by pests, there’s also another benefit.
Drape netting your fruit trees can help to slow the growth of a vigorous tree. This will often help a tree to settle down and produce fruit, rather than putting all its energy into growth.
It’s also really interesting to note how easy it is to influence the way a tree grows. This can be particularly useful if you’re aiming for a particular shape of tree such as an espalier, for example. Find out more about how to grow different-shaped trees here.