Hi everyone! It’s another lovely warm day in Las Vegas, Nevada and with a shade hat in tow, it’s been a wonderful time to get out into the garden and orchard to harvest the fruits of my labor. Speaking of fruit, I want to talk to you today about protecting your fruit harvest from birds. To be even more specific… to discuss bird netting pros and cons and to show you how hubby and I use it in our orchard with a high level of success. Before digging into our topic, I’ll give you a quick update on our recent fruit harvest.
In addition to our spring desert heat, hubby and I have been swimming in Flavor Delight Aprium fruit. Here’s our harvest scoop.
Flavor Delight Aprium ~ 2014 Harvest Details
Harvest (start): May 12th
Harvest (end): May 24th
Quality: The fruit was awesome this year! Our Brix testing came in consistently at 16. Whoo hoo!
Total # of Fruit: 794
Total Weight: 64 lbs 12.25 ounces
Fruit Loss: 232 (mostly birds and a few squirrels)
What did we do with all that fruit? Well, we’ve eaten a lot, gave some as gifts, sold some, dehydrated several pounds, canned 7 Quarts of aprium halves and still have about 3 lbs left in the refrigerator that we’re eating from daily.
A few weeks ago, Hubby and I decided it was time to start protecting our fruit from our winged friends so we set up our bird netting frame on our Aprium (about a week before we started harvesting). When is the right time to set up? Well, this is a huge clue…
Believe me, before you even start thinking about your fruit, the birds will be checking in on them for you. Peck here. A peck there. Next thing you know, 10 of your best and largest pieces of fruit are dumpster bait. Sure, my fruit tree’s produce more than enough fruit for my family and I really enjoy sharing my fruit with others, but birds can be like glutenous food hoarders who set up camp in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet plowing through each food trough like there’s no tomorrow. Trust me when I say, “Birds just do not know when to say, when!”. They also show no restraint when honing in on your finest produce. So what’s the remedy? Bird netting.
I’ve tried the bird scare tape, halo bird scare tape (looks pretty and glittery), a fake hawk and twirling things. Even my pup-pup, Pinny, goes out and chases them on a daily basis ~ nothing keeps the birds from feasting.
Now there’s a few pros and cons to bird netting, but no one can argue it’s effectiveness at keeping “most” of the birds out. I’ll get back to that thought in a minute. What are some of the pros and cons to bird netting. Let’s see, first the pros…
1) Saves your fruit! This, of course, is the all important BIG ONE! Bird netting can help to protect all your hard work and, if you sell your fruit, protect your profits. This year we had a 29% fruit loss on our aprium. 99% of that loss was directly due to bird damage. Though the loss number is still too high for my liking, trust me when I say the number would have been significantly higher without the added protection of bird netting. If you’re wondering why we had any bird damage at all, remember I mentioned that it keeps out “most” of the birds (see cons).
2) Economical protection. Bird netting is relatively inexpensive to purchase and lasts for several harvest seasons. It’s even less expensive if you buy it in bulk rolls. This is my second season using it and it’s still in good condition.
3) Easy to install. With the metal bird netting frame hubby and I constructed, it’s a cinch.
4) Easy removal and storage. Using bird netting the traditional way (draping over a tree) is not easy to remove in my opinion. It always gets tangled up in the tree ripping out branches and such. Our process makes it super easy. At the end of the season, just pull it off, roll it up and tuck it away in the garage until next harvest season.
1) Adds more work to your already busy orchard task list. Our setup is relatively easy to put together, but it does take a few minutes out of our day to complete the task.
2) Can cause injury. I’m sad to say, we recently had our first fatality. A young mockingbird somehow got caught in the netting near the base of our setup and died 😥 Not sure how the bird did that, but we had to dispose of it all the same.
Bird netting can be dangerous for playful and energetic dogs, too ~ especially if the netting goes to the ground like our setup does. Last year, Pinny bolted out the back door to chase a bird and ran right into the netting. She hit it with such force (a.k.a. border collie speed) that she ripped through the netting. The result… a small cut on her little nosie and a couple on her front leg. We felt soooo bad and no longer let her bolt out the door when the netting is up, plus she has an excellent memory and is very cautious around the netting now.
3) Doesn’t keep everyone out. The bird netting holes are about 3/4″ in size, plenty small enough to keep out medium-sized and larger birds like mockingbirds, cowbirds, purple finch and goldfinches. But, where it falls short is with the teeny tiny birds.
Lately, we’ve been having frequent visits from a flock of very small light grey birds (about 4″ in size) ~ they’re actually very sweet looking. These birds make a distinctive repetitive high-pitch chirp sound as they move about. They’re pretty figgity little things and tend to move around a lot within the trees (except when they’re dining on my fruit!). These little guys make a mockery of the bird netting even when they’re panicked by Pinny’s incessant barking and pacing back and forth on the other side of the netting ~ it just takes them a couple extra minutes to escape in all the confusion.
To potentially eliminate this problem, we may need to purchase 1/2″ bird netting. It’s harder to find than the standard 3/4″ bird netting. I’ll keep you posted if we decide to try this.
Alright, here’s what we do…
Bird Netting Frame
Supplies Needed: (makes one 8′ high x 10′ wide bird netting frame)
- 12 pieces of 1″ x 10′ EMT pipe
- cut four pieces of EMT down to 8′ ~ these will be the sides
- leave the other eight pieces 10′ ~ four will make up the top of your frame and the other four will help to support the frame as you assemble it ~ this is super handy when the frame is being assembled by one person ~ it makes the assembling process easier, quicker and a lot less wobbly and unstable
- 8 metal corner fittings
- four fittings will connect the top of the bird netting frame, the other four fittings will connect the base support
- 4 metal foot pads
- 4 ~ 6″ to 12″ long metal stakes
- 20 ~ 1-3/4″ Nylon Spring Clamps ~ Harbor Freight has a great deal on these
- 50 feet of 1/8″ paracord
- Metal pipe cutter or hacksaw
- Old cotton t-shirts cut into eight 4″x6″ squares
- Sturdy ladder
- 14′ x 100′ ~ 3/4″ Bird netting (this can be cut in half and used to make two bird netting frames or the excess can be used to protect your berries, veggie garden, etc.)
These instructions work well for us and can be easily assembled by one person
Begin by assembling a 10′ x 10′ square (on the ground) using four pieces of 1″x10′ EMT pipe and four metal corner fittings. When complete, you will have a 10′ square that will help to support the actual bird netting frame as you assemble it.
Attach a metal corner fitting to one end of an 8 foot long piece of EMT pipe. Once the corner is attached, slip the bare end of the pipe into one of the metal corner fittings on the 10′ square on the ground and tighten. Repeat this step with the remaining three 8′ long EMT pipe. These pipes make up your sides and you’re now ready to assemble the top frame. At this point, the frame will look like it’s upside down (see above photo).
Now, slip each end of a 10′ long EMT pipe into a top metal corner fitting and tighten. You now have one side assembled. Repeat this step for the remaining three pieces of 10′ long EMT pipe until you have the top square completed.
Remove the 10′ square frame on the ground working one corner at a time by first detaching the corner fitting then replacing it with a base piece. Repeat this step for the remaining three corners. Your frame is now complete.
Note: if you have the space, you can leave the 10′ square ground frame in place. When you need to move it to another tree, simply remove one of the 10′ sections then drag/slide the frame away from the tree and into position over another tree.
This step is optional, but we find it very helpful to keep the bird netting from sagging too much on top ~ especially when the mockingbirds decide to walk on top of the bird netting. Simply cut two 11 foot long pieces of nylon rope and tie the ends to the top of the frame from one end across to the other.
Assemble the bird netting over the frame using clamps to fasten it to the EMT pipe as you go. Now, this part can be a bit tricky and an extra pair of hands comes in handy at this point. It can be done in one of two ways…
1) Assemble the bird netting using five separate pieces ~ one for the top and one for each of the four sides,
- sides = 14′ wide x 10′ high
- top = 14′ x 14′
2) Assemble the bird netting using three separate pieces ~ one long piece that will fit over the front, top and back side and one piece each for the remaining two sides
- sides = 14′ wide x 10′ high
- front/top/back = 14′ wide x 38′ long
Hubby and I currently use option 2 and use eight clamps (two on either side of each top corner) to firmly hold the netting to the frame. The remaining clamps are used to hold the sides in place.
Now, gather two side sections of netting and secure it to an EMT corner/side using three clamps… one at the top, one at the middle and one at the base. The middle and base clamps are where we use the old t-shirt squares. The clamps have a tendency to get a little tangled in the netting. Using a piece of old t-shirt between the netting and the clamp really helps to make entry and exit from the frame during harvesting much easier and hassle-free.
To help secure the frame in place, especially if you live in an area with high winds, simply drive a stake into each metal foot pad (which have pre-drilled holes for convenience). To date, our bird netting frame has stayed in place even through 50+ mph winds.
Now roll up the excess netting on the each side of the bird netting frame and secure with rocks, a board, etc. to keep the wind from blowing the netting up.
When you’re ready to harvest, simply kick the rocks aside, remove the bottom and middle clamps, roll up the netting and secure overhead with the clamps and you’re in business!
Hope this all makes sense to you. Questions? Just leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to get back with you.
Thanks for letting me “visually” bombard you with photos! Until we chat again…
Sharing at An Oregon Cottage