To net or not to net? That is the question. Every fruit season we have the same quandary: the netting is awkward to use but the crop is vulnerable.
And there is the scale of the exercise. We have about 40 fruit and nut trees in our medium sized garden: 11 apples and two crab apples, three apricots, a fig, pomegranate, persimmon, two plums, one cherry, three peach, two nectarines ... and so on.
Last year the nets came out but we lost heart after we’d done the peach trees, as we watched the immature fruit falling on impact.
Netting trees that have got too tall and spread too wide is not recommended unless you have thought ahead and built net supporting frames around your trees.
Even if we protected only the most bird-attracting fruit, we would have to build about 15 frames in our yard.
Thirty per cent blockout shade cloth can be used as an alternative, according to state government agricultural notes. This should be tossed on top of the tree and pegged with clothes pegs or tied somehow. Despite the cover up the fruit continues to ripen and it is much more bird-friendly, they reckon.
It’s the “tossing” bit that I’m not confident about.
Of course, there is the individual paper bag around each ripening fruit method. But when it rains?
CDs, plastic bags, fake owls and plastic snakes get a four out of ten on the effectiveness scale.
Netting is just fine if you keep your trees under control. That is no higher than your extended arm.
Urban food gardener John Ditchburn, who has a useful website for the backyard fruit grower (urbanfoodgarden.org), suggests some light summer pruning before netting to cut away any whippy, unruly growth that is not bearing fruit.
He wraps only the fruit-bearing branches of too-tall trees, securing the flapping edges with clothes pegs to keep birds out and netting in place.
So it’s a toss-up, a cut-back, a wrap-around and fingers-crossed approach this season at our place. But please let me, and the reader, know if you have a more sensible, effective method. And could you make it soon: the cockies are circling.