If you read my recent post about how we work with nature on the farm you may recall that we have had problems with birds eating our blueberries. Birds have an unfair advantage over us as they can seemingly sit perched on the nearest tree branch or fence post and wait until the berry reaches the perfect degree of ripeness then swoop in and gobble it up. We on the other hand schedule blueberry picking in between all of the other chores that need to be done in a day and it seems if we leave a partially green berry to ripen for one more day the birds get it before we get back.
For the last few years we have used netting over the bushes to keep the birds from eating the fruits of our labor. Our methods have worked to some degree but for various reasons have been less than ideal.
For a couple years we just wrapped each bush with the netting. The problem with this is that every time we went to pick berries we had to unwrap each bush then rewrap it after we were finished. As you can imagine this was not very efficient.
Last year we used a different approach. My husband put wooden stakes around the outside of the blueberry patch and covered the whole patch with netting.
This was also largely effective, but again less than ideal as in order to pick blueberries we crawled under the net on our hands and knees. With both of these method an occasional bird might get in and steal a few berries, but we were able to harvest most of the berries for our own sustenance and enjoyment.
The netting that we have been using for these projects came in a large roll, maybe 150 feet long by 20 feet wide, (it’s hard to tell because it is stretchy) and was something that my husband found sitting along the roadside at a neighbors house waiting for the trash men to carry it away. He picked it up and brought it home thinking we would probably find some use for it. We have used it over and over for project like this.
This year we decided it was time to give the blueberry patch an upgrade. We needed a screened, fenced or netted structure to keep birds out but allow us in to pick berries (standing up).
We first thought that we would need to use chicken wire as fencing to get the grid small enough to keep the birds out, but when my husband went to the farm store he discovered a plastic fence that he thought would work well. This fence had a small grid, was light weight, and more affordable than chicken wire. He also bought 12 – 7 1/2 foot t-posts. He set the t-posts around the perimeter of the patch with each side having two corner posts and one post midway along the side. On one side he set an additional two posts about three feet apart where we wanted our entrance to be.
The plastic fence was light weight and easy for my husband to manage by himself. He started at the t-post to the left of our entrance he attached the fence to the t-post using zip ties. (They are so very handy.) He then rolled the fence to the left and attached it to the corner post again using zip ties. He continued rolling the fence and attaching it to each t-post until he arrived back at the starting point. The plastic fence fit snuggly and looked very nice. When he was back at the final t-post he cut the fence leaving just a small amount to over lap. Instead of using zip ties to secure it at this point he clipped the fence to itself using clothes pins (also handy to have around). We can now enter the blueberry patch (standing up 🙂 🙂 ) by unclipping the clothes pins and opening up just a three foot section of fence.
To keep birds from flying in through the top we used the same netting we have been using all along. Before draping the netting over the top my husband placed one taller t-post in the middle of the blueberry patch to keep the net from sagging too much. He also wrapped the tops of the t-posts with duck tape, or maybe it was gorilla tape, I’m not sure, but it was to keep the metal t-post from snagging and ripping the netting.
Once he had the netting draped over the t-posts and fencing, with at least a few inches of overlap on each side, he tied the netting to the fencing with string. He placed ties wherever he noticed there might be a gap.
While I won’t be surprised to see a determined bird finds it’s way in now and then, at least we should be able to efficiently and comfortably harvest most of the crop. We will keep this fence up year round and hope that it will last for many years – at least until the blueberry bushes out grow it. 🙂