Depending on what you grow, four-legged wildlife may not be your only problem. If you find birds to be ruining a fruit or vegetable crop, I highly recommend using a polypropylene netting as the first line of defense against birds. Netting is a great flexible, and lightweight way to keep your crop plants out of the reach of would-be invaders, providing a “green” barrier that’s easy to maintain and use. I use netting where necessary to protect my Strawberries, in a way that doesn’t involve adding sprays and powders to them that will effect the harvest, or need to be scrubbed off.
Local garden stores will generally stock a black polypropylene netting material through several season of the year, that are specifically designed to keep birds off your fruit. I recommend a netting openings under 1 inch to keep out even the smallest birds. Recommended netting sizes come in 1/2 inch square, 5/8 inch square, and 3/4 inches square, but a general rule of thumb is that the smaller the netting opening, the better the protection is. My favorite sizes are the 5/8ths inch sizes and the 1/2 inch size. The benefit of black polypropylene mesh is that it is UV protected, and will not deteriorate out under the sun, or varying temperatures. This type of netting can be brought back out for several years as needed, while taking up less storage space than chicken wire, or other metal products. And, since it is flexible, it is easy to re-purpose for other garden duties, such as covering compost bins to keep rodents out, and protecting ponds from fall leaves.
The way I recommend using bird mesh around low growing shrubs like Strawberries, is in tandem with “lawn staples,” which are also called “landscape fabric pins.” The types that I use are large and rounded, creating gentle arching support over my plants, keeping birds out, and giving the plant room to continue growing a spreading without getting tangled in the mesh. Ideally a mesh should protect your plants from your “early harvesters,” while still providing you with easy access to the plants themselves. I personally don’t use this netting on trees, although some people do, because it is often difficult to remove after one season’s growth, and I find that leaves and branches find ways of growing right through it. For those of you who want to try using netting on fruiting trees, make sure to secure the fabric that covers your tree at the trunk of the tree, to prevent birds, and other wildlife from scampering up the trunk to get to your fruit from underneath your netting.
How To Use Staples and Netting:
- Measure the approximate length, width and height of your plants. Trim your netting to an approximate size for your needs, with a little extra all around for tucking and tenting.
- When working with low growing shrubs, run the first few staples down the center of a row of plants, and tap them in, to create a tenting effect with the fabric when you add it.
- Place a few staples at what will be the top of your row, and lay the fabric over it.
- Work your way down and around your plants, placing staples under the fabric around the perimeter of your plants, approximately 3-5 inches out from the leave, and up to 12 inches apart from each other. Tuck the mesh under the staples, and tap the staples down through the holes in the mesh, to anchor the mesh into the ground.
Make sure that when you use polypropylene mesh, that you check the netting regularly in case birds become entangled in it in their efforts to reach the food. Generally speaking, if you have your bird mesh securely fastened to the ground, you should not have a problem with this. Also, make it a point to check the plant regularly for any parasites that may not be immediately noticeable under the mesh. The black color of the mesh (which I recommend the most) is wonderful in part to the fact that it is barely noticeable from a short distance, however, the patterning to the mesh can fool the eye into easily overlooking irregularities in the plant below. Regular observations are a must.
Your Thoughts: Have you used any netting material to protect your fruits and veggies? Has Polypropylene netting worked for you, or have you found another trick or product that has worked better?