Enjoying fresh picked ripe fruit is one of a home gardener's great summer pleasures. Unfortunately birds or small animals often get to the fruit first, eating it whole or making holes in it. Conventional bird netting is not easily seen and can harm birds that fly into it or animals that climb into it and become entangled.
Caging fruit trees requires a lot of labor and material, especially if you have quite a few trees. Make netting from garden shade cloth readily available at gardening stores as an alternative form of pest control. White shade netting is easily seen and avoided by birds and small animals. The close weave keeps the pests out and prevents them from being damaged in the meshes.
Estimate and Purchase Yardage
Use the height of your tree as an indicator of how much shade cloth to purchase. For a 12 foot tree you would need at least a 24-by-24-foot square. The finished net will not have to reach the ground, but will have to be long enough to be gathered around the trunk of your tree.
Purchase shade cloth from a local hardware store or online gardening outlet. Sold by the lineal foot, shade cloth comes in various widths, colors and densities. White shade cloth is least expensive and the reflective quality is more of a deterrent to birds.
Check the amount of sun allowed in by the shade netting. Buy 22 percent or 40 percent shade cloth to allow the sun to penetrate and ripen your fruit.
Cut and Sew Shade Netting
Cut 48 lineal feet of 12-foot-wide 22 percent shade netting into two 24-foot-long pieces.
Lay the pieces on top of each other and clip the long edges together. Insert ½ inch stay tape between the pieces of the long edges if you need more stability when sewing.
Sew the pieces together along the long sides using a ½ inch seam allowance. You should have a 24-by-24 foot square, less your ½ inch seam.
Install the Net on the Tree
Spread your net on the ground outside and place the PVC tubing on one end of it. Roll the netting up around it till you reach the middle. There will be a 4-foot overhang on each side.
Set your ladders up on opposite sides of the tree making sure that they are level and firmly braced. Follow ladder safety tips like those found in the OSHA Office of Construction Engineering publication "Ladder Safety".
Have your helper pass up one end of the PVC tubing. When your helper has climbed the other ladder raise the PVC tubing so he or she can grasp it. Position the netting so that it drapes toward the ground on the unrolled side with your PVC tubing held in the middle of the tree's width.
Take hold of the netting next to the PVC tubing so that it will not be dragged off the tree top. Begin unrolling the netting toward the undraped side of the tree. Roll it out as far as you can, and if you can reach the edge of the tree let go of the PVC tubing and it will unroll taking the netting with it.
Rest the PVC tubing on the tree when the tree width is too wide for you to reach the edge. Move your ladders toward the undraped side of the tree and repeat the unrolling process. If the netting catches on the branches while unrolling free it. Gather the bottom edges of the netting against the tree trunk and tie it tightly together with garden twine.