Garden birds, squirrels and fruit crops

by Adam Pasco

Sometimes wildlife crosses the line between welcome resident and unwanted nuisance.

Bird eating fruit from a treeSometimes wildlife crosses the line between welcome resident and unwanted nuisance. Perhaps it's my own fault for providing temptation, but when you grow your own fruit there's always something tempting on offer.

Blackbirds certainly have an instinct for detecting fruit almost before it's fully ripe. Strawberries are a favourite, possibly because they're at ground level and easy to find, but even when grown in pots and 'hidden' in the greenhouse they soon discovered, and prove irresistible to birds unless protected.

Of course there's an answer, and that's what fruit cages were invented for, but when you integrate soft fruits around the garden to make best use of space these aren't a viable solution. Large pieces of netting play a part, thrown over fruit to provide a bird barrier, but even these take time to put in place. They also make picking ripe fruit quite a challenge too.

But it's not just birds that love my fruit. For the past two years I've grown quite a promising crop of peaches. Blossom looked perfect, carefully pollinated by hand using a brush to ensure good fruit set. Once early frosts were over I'd inspect my peach tree to count the developing fruits, looking forward to summer harvests.

And then the mystery begins. One day the fruit is there, but the next it's gone. Towards the end of June something takes a fancy to my peaches, and steals the lot, breaking a few shoots in the process. Now I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I think they were stolen by squirrels. Has anyone else experienced 'The Case of the Disappearing Fruit'?

My gardening resolution for 2012 is to actually eat one of my own peaches, so I need to think of a way to build some sort of netting screen around my small peach tree. This is easier said than done, as previous efforts trying to protect cherries from birds on an even larger tree proved.

I could just be philosophical, and accept that my home-grown fruit went to a good cause, but there are limits to my generosity.

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Gardeners' World Web User 11/07/2011 at 15:06

There are eleven figs on my small fig tree in the conservatory, Adam ,and I know from experience to keep the door to the garden shut from now on, else the squirrels will have them. I suspected foxes the first year it happened as I have had a fox come in the house and go out with a satsuma in each cheek, but I heard a pot fall one day and saw the squirrel with a fig in his mouth go out the door. My Bramley apples feed many families now the tree is so huge but this morning something wild has dug a big hole beneath it. There are lots more places in my garden for a fox or badger to live too without jeopardising the Bramley. Still, we would be in a sorry state without our wildlife.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/07/2011 at 16:56

I have picked a large crop of blackcurrants and the vine weevils love them. At least 30 on the leaves and in the bowls of fruit. I found them in the house as well having climbed out of the fruit bowls. Just pulled apart the branches of the currant bushes and there they were sitting on the leaves. I don't think they eat the fruit just the leaves, but I have never seen so many all at once.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/07/2011 at 20:37

I have a small red berry and blueberry tree and just when I went to pick the fruit I saw the previous day they were gone. Its as if the wildlife knew I was coming. Being the first year I doubt I will get much fruit anyway but all going well next year I will be prepared for the invasion :)The strawberries I picked asap and ate straight away. At least there was some reward.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/07/2011 at 13:07

My wild life will have a feast on blackberries, top half of my garden which I have neglected has been taken over by brambles. I had a lovely show of flowers,I will pick some to eat and the wild life can have the rest.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/07/2011 at 22:51

Oh yes, do leave some for the wildlife. My big problem is when they take it all!

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