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We have raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries (we think!) growing at a rate of knots in a large patch measuring about 8x13 feet in our garden. We have been warned that birds are likely to eat the lot if we don't get them covered before they start to ripen. Looking at the ready-made fruit cages they all seem very expensive, especially for the size of plot we have. Can anyone give advice on making our own? Is it cheaper overall do you think? What sort of netting is best? And are canes, or metal poles better? Having looked online there seem to be so many options!
For the netting, you want insects to get through to pollinate the fruit but not birds so holes need to be about 20mm (=2cm, 3/4"), which will let bumble bees through. As far as the supporting structure goes, it's all a matter of how long it will last. Canes will be only be good for a couple of years or so before the section in the ground rots. Making fruit cages can be tricky as you need to secure the netting to the frame and make a door or other way of entering but if you're good at DIY then you can certainly save some money. You could use something like cheap PVC overflow pipe (about 50p per metre) for which you can buy various connectors (eg 90 degree bends, T-pieces) to form a frame and perhaps wire ties (or a hot glue gun?) to secure the netting to it. Some folk use this stuff to make polytunnel frames, too.
Thanks Bob, thats really useful. Great idea re the pvc pipes too! Looks like we are gonna be busy!
We had one in our garden in Harrow. The back was the rear fence and one side was the fence between us and the neighbours. we erected fence posts to make the 3rd and 4th sides and stapled black plastic netting along it and over it. The roof sagged a bit after the first winter snowed on it so we put slats across to help support it but piping would be sturdier and less likely to snap in strong winds. For access, we simply left the short side hooked on its corner post so we could undo the flap and get in to weed, feed, prune and pick.
Ours was cheap, easy to make and worked a treat
Yours sounds industrial strength obelixx! Good ideas though, it shows there are many ways to make a cage
I got a metal and net one from mainframe direct, they had a great service and didn't cost the earth, plus the metal looks like it will last years. Though the netting on all cages has to be removed/replaced eventually.
Just a word, what ever you decide on, once the fruit is gone remove the netting for the winter. My neighbour didn't at his allotment, and even with 2 cm netting, the heavy snowfall in one night built up and ripped his cages to bits!!! If you are planning on fruit for the longterm, getting a decent metal setup is the way, if you aren't so sure, using wooden posts and 2x1 inch batton is fine while you decide.
Bob-you always have such great advice on everything to do with fruit and veg
Just wanted to say thanks for all the helpful ideas. Here is what we created last weekend. I am VERY proud of it!
how much netting would I need to cover a 12 foot by 12 foot cage 2 meters high for the sides and top?
That looks brilliant, Finch. I'm sure it was effective
The netting (just the roof will do) needs to come off as soon as the last of the fruit has been harvested. This is not only to prevent snow damage during the winter but also to let the birds in to eat the caterpillars, aphids etc. Put it on again early next summer, of course, when the fruit forms but before it ripens.
Some interesting ideas here.
When I was a kid my dad had a big fruit cage with plastic netting (in London) and I remember the roof of it fell in when it snowed it one winter.
These days his fruit cages are much more elaborate, I think the smallest timbers are 2x2 fence posts! Instead of plastic netting he uses steel mesh 'aviary' wire - it is designed to keep small birds in so works just as well keeping them out. My sister decided to keep budgies a while back which is where the discovery of aviary wire came from.
The only problems with my dads approach to fruit cages are:
a) it's a permanent structure
b) it looks kind of a like a POW camp
So far I've used plastic netting to make small temporary cages over my strawberries and raspberries but it's a pain getting in to harvest, next year I will need to make something a decent height with a door.....
Anyway, birds are the least of my problems!
I opted to try plastic 'mulch' (it seems to wrong to call it that) for the strawberries this year so in order to be able to water effectively I installed a dripper system first. Finally got round to taking the net and plastic sheeting off the strawberriy bed and within a couple of days some moggy had found a bare space between the plants and started digging, scattering my dripper system at the same time. On with the chicken wire frame again then - I thought I wouldn't need that now the plants are mature and cover the bed pretty well.
But far more destructive to the fruit this year has been the wind. Last year I actually thought to pick the elderberries off my tree and got quite a nice crop, this year the wind has pretty much stripped it bare before they even ripened. It wasn't birds, no purple signatures, and the branches in deep cover that don't move as much in the wind still have some.
My Husband made me a fruit cage from planks of shiplap and 1x2batons for the allotment last year = cost about £80 including a 2.5ltr pot of wood paint. We bought the netting from a local garden centre as it was a lot cheaper by the metre, stood up to the rubbish winter storms we had.
I made a 6 by 2 mtr fruit cage from bamboo poles and after its first season it looked a right mess. I then replaced the bamboo with treated and painted 1 by 2, only for two of the uprights and one cross member to snap off in high winds (the net meshing acts like sails! and my plot is at the top of a rise - not ideal) I have re-enforced the uprights and done away with the cross members but the netting is coming off for the winter, just to make sure it survives.
The good thing is that I have not lost single berry or currant this year and the bees can pop in and out at will.
I have a peach tree and the squirrels are taking the fruit in the first year of it fruiting.I was so upset after caring for it and overjoyed when it fruited. What sort of cover can I get to stop them taking fruit? No good putting netting as they will chew through it.
I though of getting some poles and putting wire mesh all round and over!! Can I buy anything for a cover??
Ametal netting cage they can't chew or slip through. See boater's post on aviary wire.
An air rifle is good for squirrels.
We have had some vicious winds of late which have shreaded my poly tunnel and left my fruitcage uprights listing, so I have taken it down. I shall place posts around the plants (fortunately all in one line) then cover them with netting once they start fruiting. I have purchased a new cover for the poly tunnel at a good price (Charles Direct), one of those green nylon things which never last, so it will do for this year whilst I organise something more robust.