Fruit damage from birds, bats and possums is high on the list of complaints from home fruit growers. This week we look at various netting options, and how they can protect your crop from most of these problems.

The birds left us the stems!
The birds left us the stems!

The cherry trees we planted after the 2011 floods are now producing fruit (hooray), and even though Ant has been drape netting them, it wasn’t completely successful.

Partly because he was a bit late getting some of the nets on, and partly because the type of birds that were giving him a hard time (parrots) are also particularly clever at getting under drape nets!

A bird pecked cherry

So, successful netting is not just about doing it in a timely fashion, it’s also about having the right system for your situation.

Another big advantage of netting your trees is providing some protection against hail, and if you’ve experienced hail before, you’ll know what we’re talking about! Hail storms are a pretty common occurrence on the farm and we lose at least some fruit to hail most seasons.

This is what hail damage on apricots looks like:

Hail damage on young apricots
Hail damage on young apricots

Birds not only damage the fruit, but can help spread brown rot as well. There are lots of different ways to try to scare birds away, such as CDs hanging in the tree, fake predators and the like, but the only real solution is to net your trees – the sooner we all resign ourselves to this necessity, the happier we’ll all be!

This simple net below is made with a frame of star pickets and pipe, and is the easiest and most effective solution we’ve seen (and used).

Netting over cherry trees at Kalangadoo orchards
Netting over cherry trees at Kalangadoo orchards

It’s easy to put up (and take down again if you choose), and easy to peg down around the perimeter to stop persistent smaller birds getting in under the net, which can happen with drape netting (as we saw this year!). This particular set up also has wire netting around the base, which can be useful for stopping larger animals from getting into the enclosure.

Drape netting is easier if you are doing a lot more trees, and is very effective against big birds, and can also deter fruit bats, both of which descend on the tree from above and don’t like to get in under net.

Unless you are really diligent about tying off the net around the trunk, it won’t stop smaller birds like parrots, which are happy to nip under the edges of the net and help themselves. Having said that, it does keep the damage to minimum and is definitely worthwhile.

A well netted quince tree
A well netted quince tree

There are many different netting systems, and choosing the right one will depend on the number of trees you’re trying to protect, what materials you have available, your capacity to build it, the size of the trees and what other animals and plants you have around your trees.

If you’d like some help to decide which netting system will work best for you, have a look at Protect Your Crop from Birds (which includes a video on building the hoop netting system).