Enjoying home grown soft fruits from your garden is one of the Summer’s pleasures. Soft fruit is easy to grow, is cheaper than in the shops and, as it’s fresher, tastes better. But there is one big Achilles heal; birds and other wildlife will beat you to the feast if you don’t take action to protect your crops. We all like to see birds in our garden, but its wise to feed them rather than let them enjoy our treats. It’s wise to install protection before the fruit if already planted gets growing.
Not the cheapest, but the most effective answer, is to invest in a fruit cage. These are framed structures covered in pest proof netting usually with a door for access. DIY frames can be constructed in wood, or kits are available from companies such as Harrods Horticulture. Kits come with steel or aluminium frames in a range of sizes and styles, some semi-decorative. Installation is fairly straight forward, I recommend buying sockets for the frame uprights to drop into it, these are normally optional. These are hammered into the ground using a cap to protect the top edge. On hard ground digging holes and setting them in concrete may be necessary.
The weight of snow can wreck the cage, or at least the roof netting, so it’s wise to remove the latter after harvesting. If squirrels are an issue chicken wire, rather than plastic or textile netting may be required.
If you only have a small area to protect, simple hoops using plastic drain pipe can be effective. Push canes into the ground around the area to protect, with about 12 inches protruding above ground. Then carefully place the hooped pipe over them. Netting can then be hung over the pipes and weighted down with bricks around the base.
Ultrasonic devices placed in beds claim to detect pests, but don’t seem to get glowing reviews as to their effectiveness.